How to Be a Good Neighbour in France
What makes a good neighbour depends on what area of France you move to start your new life.There are very different expectations of good behaviour in relation to whether you move to a village, town or city.
VillageOver two thirds of British expats starting a new life in France choose to move to French villages. They fulfil the dream of living in France - strolling around the weekly market with your basket, stocking up on fresh bread and local cheeses.If you and your family decide to start your new life in a French village, you will need to be aware that your neighbours are likely to know far more about you than you know about them. If you are moving to a village with mainly French residents, there will be a variety of possible reasons to your arrival. Some villages are keen to have expat residents as it often means their houses will increase in value if other expats are tempted by the location. You may have or bring children that will help to keep village schools and amenities operational and the assumption is that you will have plenty of guests that will spend money in local shops and restaurants.
If your chosen location has this positive impression of you moving there, to be a good neighbour you ought to introduce yourselves as soon as possible and join in with whatever local activities there are. If there is a village raffle or collection, get involved. If there is a weekly pizza van or delivery, do as the locals do and sit with a glass of something while your order is prepared. By showing that you want to adopt their customs, you are being respectful and more likely to integrate.
If you are not so fortunate and you get the distinct impression that your new neighbours are less than keen that expats have moved into their village, essentially, you still need to behave as above, it will just be a rockier journey. Still get involved with local activities, try to do as much shopping in the local shops as possible, utilise the amenities. Your new neighbours will get used to you being around and see that you are not trying to make a little England in their corner of France.
TownThere are pros and cons for whatever type of location you choose. Many expats have said that their choice of a particular village or town was the best or worst aspect of their move. The majority say that it balances out over time, but the first few months can be made easier or more difficult depending on the support you find from your new neighbours.
In a town, you are less likely to make friends quickly with your new neighbours. You will not stand out quite so much and there are likely to be other expats that got there before you. There is no reason to arrange a welcome drink as you may in a village, although if you have moved to a particularly friendly place you may have an invitation.
The best way to be a good neighbour in a French town is to act in a respectful manner - no crazy parties, no loud building work on Sundays or in the evenings and do not let your children run riot. It is also good to nod a polite 'bonjour' or 'bon soir' when you see your new neighbours, but do not think they are being rude if they do not smile back. French people often think that English or American people are a little fake with their habit of smiling at people whenever you make eye contact.