Making friends in France isn’t difficult I’ve found. They don’t care if my French is not great or I get my grammar all wrong. They don’t even care that much that I am “Flop chef not Top Chef” and can barely grill a bit of French bread without spoiling it. But there are some things you must never ever do…
Being late really is fashionable in France
Never turn up to a party or dinner on time. You will find your host half-dressed and irritated. Be at least 15 minutes late and don’t apologise. 30 minutes late is better.
I once turned up on time for dinner with my neighbours and they were very surprised. Dinner didn’t arrive until more than two hours after we did as they weren’t remotely prepared for us and had to stop preparation to talk to us and have a drink. One or the other of them kept sneaking away to carry on the preparation in a piece meal fashion.
Quite why French people don’t make the invite for the time they actually want you to arrive is not yet known.
Quality – not quantity
Never ever tell your French neighbours that you moved to France because it is cheaper than living in your home country. It will be considered deeply insulting. The fact is there is most likely always somewhere else you can buy an even cheaper property so it’s unlikely to be just about money. If you tell a French person you moved there because you love the way of life – they will be much more accepting of you.
I made the mistake of telling my neighbour that I could never have afforded the house and land I have in France if I was still in the UK. He has never forgiven me.
I now talk about how I appreciate the French love of their traditions and culture, their patriotism and love of good food and wine, how I can go to a different market ever day of the week and buy seasonal goods – and that’s the truth of it.
This is what happens when you do it wrong. The person you told will narrow their eyes and nod slowly but say nothing. They will rush to tell everyone else in the village, the news that a ‘salop’ (asshole) has moved into town.
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Never say no to a post office calendar. Postmen and post ladies in France will offer to sell you a rather unattractive post office calendar at Christmas. It’s up to you how much you offer, when I asked my post lady she said, ‘as you wish’.
Take my advice and give at least five Euros or your post might be delayed. The first year I received the offer for the most disgusting calendar I said no thank you. My post was consistently late, very late or very very late. I learned my lesson.
If, like me, you offer a 20 Euro note and expect change, don’t. Your friendly postie will simply hot foot it down the path but you will get a great service for the rest of the year.
Get more tips and find out what real life is like in France in my book: My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream