Yes, you can have both French AND expat friends in France

Some who move to France for a new life suggest French friends are the only ones worth making, while others depend on their mates in their expat bubble, but author Janine Marsh says you can and should have the best of both worlds.

Yes, you can have both French AND expat friends in France
Illustration photo: AFP

Entente Cordiale

“When I move to France I only want to have French friends”. This is a quote from an email I received from a couple of Brits who wanted advice on where to move to in France.

They also wanted to be near a town that has a market, vineyards and plenty of restaurants and bars.

A tall order for any estate agent – which I am not, but I’m always happy to share my experience of France and to give advice where I can.

Little Britain or Robinson Crusoe

It’s a not uncommon thing, expats wanting only friends born in their newly adopted country.

Perhaps they feel it makes them belong more, or that they are making more of an effort than those who have expat friends. Some expats cut themselves off completely from having dealings with other expats.

I know of one who runs a bar, he refuses to speak English even to British customers who can’t speak French.

I didn’t even know he was an expat for the six years I went to his bar until his mum who was visiting told me. When I spoke to him in English the next time I saw him, he was upset and angry that she’d “betrayed” him and gave me such bad service thereafter that I had to go to a different bar.

There are also expats who only have expat friends even though generally, I don’t think that they wilfully set out to not have French friends, but they struggle with the language and the culture and give up.

They fail to realise that though not all French people will persevere with having mates who can’t speak French, there are plenty that do go the extra mile to befriend les étrangers.


How to make friends with your French neighbours in rural France

You can have both

The thing is, you can have both.

It might be tricky having an in-depth conversation with your new French friends, but a glass of red wine helps and so does finding common ground.

For instance, asking where the best boulangerie is, or market, fromagerie or bar.

I’ve never met a French person who didn’t have an opinion, and, they love to share their knowledge. “I don’t know” is not something you will hear often from a Frenchie. Take them up on their advice, go back and tell them you enjoyed it, perhaps invite them to join you for an apéro (aperitif) as a thank you.

This means you both understand that it’s only for about an hour and will involve a couple of drinks (Champagne is always popular) and nibbles.

Etiquette dictates that they invite you back, at some point, and I’ve found they’ll often invite some of their French friends too and British friends if they have them, so you start to widen your circle of potential amis. Having French friends will help you feel part of the community and you’ll get to know more about the place you live – its history, culture and people plus where to buy the best baguettes or who can help if you have a plumbing emergency.

And, if you’re lucky enough to find another expat you get on with then why not?

Expats share a common background and heritage which can help to quickly create a bond. Being able to have a chat in English can give you a break from learning French and sharing your experiences will help you to realise you’re not alone at being confused by French bureaucracy or their love of raw mincemeat.

A friend is a friend is a friend – regardless of where you are born and what language you speak.  

And what did I reply to that email? I wished them luck of course and suggested they consider moving to Champagne-Ardenne in north east France which reputedly has the lowest number of resident Brits of any mainland department in France.

Janine Marsh lives in northern France and is the author of The Good Life France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream and editor of





How to ensure your French property is insured for storm damage

Storm Ciaran’s property-wrecking passage through France - with another storm forecast for the weekend - may have many people wondering how comprehensive their insurance cover is. 

How to ensure your French property is insured for storm damage

In the wake of Storm Ciaran, thousands of property owners in France are preparing insurance claims – with initial estimates of the bill for damage between €370 million and €480 million.

Home insurance is compulsory in France, whether you own the property you live in or you rent – and it must include some level of storm damage cover. 

Check also to see if your insurance provides cover in case of a declaration of a catastrophe naturelle.

The garantie tempête (storm guarantee) covers damage caused by violent winds. What constitutes a ‘violent wind’ varies from contract to contract, but there appears to be a widespread consensus of agreement on wind speeds over 100km/h.

In most insurance contracts, this covers damage caused by the storm and within the following 48 hours – so you’re covered if, for example, a tree weakened by the storm comes down within that period and damages your property.

Be aware that, while the storm guarantee automatically covers the main property, it generally only covers any secondary buildings and light constructions – such as a veranda, shed, solar panels, swimming pool or fence – if they are specifically mentioned in the contract. 

The same is true of any cars damaged by debris. A basic insurance contract might not include storm damage, so it is always worth checking.

Damage must be reported to your insurer as quickly as possible. The deadline for making declarations is usually five days after any damage is noticed. This is especially important for second home owners, who may not be at the property when the damage occurs. 

In some cases – such as in the aftermath of Storm Ciaran – insurers may extend the reporting period. But under normal circumstances, it’s five days after the damage has been discovered.

What happens next

To make a claim, the first thing to do is contact your insurer by phone or email. Your insurer will take you through the next steps, but usually you have to send in a declaration – which should include an estimate of any losses and for any repairs, with evidence where possible, such as photographs and any receipts for purchases. 

Your insurer may also request proof of wind intensity, which can be provided for example by a nearby weather station.

The insurance company may appoint an expert to come and assess the damage, so make sure to keep damaged property safe until they arrive, as well as all invoices for any urgent repair work. 

What if you’re a tenant?

If you rent your property, you must report any damage inside the accommodation to your insurer and also notify your landlord so that they can file their own claim. 

In the case of a co-propriete, you must declare damage inside the accommodation to your insurer, while the trustee sends his own declaration to the collective insurance (which sometimes covers the private areas) .

How long does it take for claims to be settled?

Payment of the compensation provided for by the “storm guarantee” depends your home insurance contract. After the insurer has estimated the amount of damage, compensation is generally paid between 10 and 30 days following receipt of the insured’s agreement.

What if we got flooded?

In the case of flooding, you may have to wait for a natural disaster order to be issued. 

Catastrophe naturelle

The ‘state of natural disaster’ is a special procedure that was set up in 1982 so victims of exceptional natural events, such as storms, heavy rain, mudslides and flooding, as well as drought, can be adequately compensated for damage to property.

The government evaluates each area and deems whether it qualifies for the status of catastrophe naturelle (natural disaster). 

Essentially once a zone is declared a natural disaster, victims can claim from a pot of funds created by all insurers. If the zone is not declared a disaster, insurance companies are under no obligation to pay out. 

Under a “state of natural disaster” residents are covered for all those goods and property that are directly damaged by the phenomenon, in this case storms.

It applies to residential or commercial buildings, furniture, vehicles and work equipment that are already covered by insurance policies.

Homes must be already covered by a multi-risk insurance policy for the status of natural disaster to count.