April 14, 2014, by Guest blog

My weird and wonderful French social life

Before arriving in France one of my main worries about moving abroad was making friends. I knew it would be hard in a small French town with few foreigners but this managed my expectations and allowed me to throw myself out there when I arrived.

One of the first things I had to do when I arrived was meet my ‘responsable’. She was my mentor in France and my only point of contact in the process as well as 6 other English primary school assistants. On meeting her, I met 2 other assistants and we decided to start the house hunting process together. I ended up living with 2 assistants with one other American coming for 3 days a week as she lived too far away in a tiny village lycee dorm. Furnishing a house with these girls and going through all the French bureaucratic processes together helped us get to know each other very quickly. There is a good group of assistants out here from all over the world with all different cultures yet all doing the same thing so easy to get along with and I’m sure lots of whom I will stay in touch with in the future.

Within our first few days the primary assistants were introduced to the ‘France Grande-Bretagne’ association. The association wanted to get English speaking assistants involved in the society to benefit everyone’s language. Like most of the demographic in Bourges the members all tended to be much older and most are retired. In order to integrate us into the society they arranged a trip to the local hotspot – The Sorcery Museum on our first Sunday morning. It was a 50 minute drive away so the 15 tired assistants split off into the various members’ cars. My housemate Becky and I were placed with Marie-Claire a 75 year old woman who turned out to be practically our neighbour and who since we have gone for tea many times with and she has been very welcoming and even lent us 4 chairs for our unfurnished, bare apartment. Since the bizarre day out to the sorcery museum we have got involved in more weird things with the association including starring in an English extremely amateur pantomime – Pinnochio, biographic presentations and swimming trips.

Other strange societies I have got involved in include the centre of France’s famous – scherzo gospel choir. This like most things was unintentional after mentioning to one of the members from the association I like singing I headed off with my housemate to a rehearsal and from that day found it very difficult to leave. The choir became very dependent on us as members were minimal to begin with as well as the help with pronunciation of the English words that made up all of the songs – although not much difference could be heard. Eventually after performing in multiple concerts we managed to have a clean break as our half term was coming up.

My schools have also been very welcoming and invited me along on trips to the 6 nations and the local nationally famous woman’s basketball team interviews and matches. They have also organised smaller tutoring jobs and babysitting which has enabled me to get to know French families on a more personal basis and has given me a closer insight into French daily life and culture.

In general when I explain my French life to friends and family at home they can’t get over how random it all sounds but as my time here is coming to an end I think I’ve learnt a lot and probably much more about French life and society than I would if I were in a bigger city with more choice of activities. I’ve learnt to not say no to anything and that’s taken me to some weird places but all places that I have gained something from even in most cases if it is just strange memories.

Posted in Making connections