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




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What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer


But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.