Let’s be honest. You will be moving to a new country, and if you have been to France before, it’s very likely that you will be moving to a new city, instead of the one in which you lived before (if you’ve studied abroad or anything like that before. If you were so lucky to get placed in the city in which you studied, congratulations. You’re one of the few lucky ones). Moving to a new place that you don’t know much about is already difficult, adding the prospect of having to meet all new people makes it even harder and scarier.
However, meeting new people doesn’t have to be scary! It can actually be really exciting and eye-opening. You might end up being friends with people that you would’ve never imagined you would be and learning so much more about life, culture, and yourself because of the friends you end up making.
So focus on that excitement instead of the scariness of it all! Because you aren’t alone, and you aren’t the first teaching assistant to do it. Nor will you be the last.
Perhaps you aren’t the type to really put yourself out there. I say you are going on an adventure anyways, so try something new!
So, I have compiled a list of 5 ways in which you make new friends in your new home while you go on adventures, learn about the French culture, improve your French language skills, and eat amazing cuisine.
1. Meet other language assistants in your city before you even leave your home country
Technology is a really beautiful and amazing tool! I was able to get in touch with other language assistants not only in France, not only in the Academy that I was placed in, but also in the exact city I was placed in through none other than Facebook. If you don’t have a Facebook account, it’s worth opening one just to connect to other assistants. I was able to do so by discovering different groups other language assistants had made for all language assistants for the year that I participated in the program, for the Academy that I was in, and for the city in which I was placed. That gave me three separate groups on Facebook to connect with other assistants!
I also was able to connect with other assistants by another Facebook group that was related to assistants whose common interest was traveling. This group page was an amazing way to not only connect with other assistants but to find traveling companions if you plan on doing some traveling before you start your contract. For example, I ended up traveling through Iceland for a day with another assistant that I met through that group, and we remain friends to this day. We also ended up traveling together on our first two weeks of vacation time.
Does that make you uncomfortable? The possibility of traveling with someone you don’t know very well at all? Facebook message them. Get to know them. What are your common interests? Where will they be teaching? What’s their background like? Be adventurous! Take a risk! If you don’t end up working well together as travel buddies or even friends, you never have to travel with or talk to that person again. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
I do not regret connecting with other assistants before I got to France. It allowed me to connect with people before I started my contract, and it gave me a sense of security knowing that I had already started making friends and that I would have moral support while I was trying to figure out how to live and work in France, because I wasn’t the only one doing it.
2. Choose to live in either a Foyer des Jeunes Travailleurs or in an apartment complex with other young people around
Not only did I choose to live in a foyer de jeunes travailleurs because of logistical reasons, all of which you can read about here, but I also chose to live there because I knew that there were other people living there that were not only my age but had a similar life situation.
I had the amazing opportunity to meet other language assistants, other expatriates not working as language assistants, and locals my age because I chose to live in that residence. Many of us became really good friends, allowing us to enjoy our time abroad even more and to even learn more about each others’ languages and cultures.
By living in an apartment complex that has a lot of young people, you will have people around you that you are more likely to relate to because of your age, and if you meet more locals, they might show you around and introduce you to their friends. Again, put yourself out there. Take a few risks. Let this time in France be a time to try new things.
3. Go out!
France loves a good Irish Pub. Especially in bigger cities, there are Irish Pubs everywhere. I’m not sure why they enjoy them so much, but they do. You are probably asking how this relates. Well, a lot of Irish Pubs either have a weekly trivia night, or they have a weekly English night! Some even have both. This provides an amazing opportunity to meet locals by conversing with them regarding trivia or in your native language (if you are English-speaking or in a second language if you are not). Either way, it will give you a platform in which to converse with locals. That way you don’t have to awkwardly put yourself out there and confuse the locals as to why this expatriate is just randomly talking to people they don’t know (which is not something people do in France. They don’t just start chatting up a stranger unless they have a reason to).
Irish Pubs might not be the only bars that do trivia. Ask around and see if there are any other places that do.
Another way to go out to meet new people is through MeetUp. MeetUp is an amazing website that allows you to meet up with people that share your interests. You can search any city in any country with any interest you might have. If there isn’t a meetup already available for that interest in that city, you can search for a different one or create one yourself and see what happens. I never personally used this website during my time abroad, but I have heard numerous wonderful things about it.
Going out doesn’t necessarily mean going to a bar or a restaurant though. You can also research clubs, groups, or organizations that might exist in your city that you can be a part of. A fellow assistant in my city found a dance organization in which to take dance classes. Not only was her time living abroad more enriched by doing so, but she was also able to meet more locals that way.
4. If you practice a religion, try to find a place to do so in your city
As a Christian, it was important for me to find a church in the city in which I’d be living. Not only did finding a church allow me the opportunity to practice my spirituality abroad, but it also provided me other ways in which I was fulfilled. I had the amazing opportunity to learn about how Christianity is practiced in France and more about the relationship that the Church has with France. Additionally, I was able to meet friends through the church that I went to, many of whom I’m still in contact with today. My experience abroad was much more enriched because of this.
I’m sure this might be true as well for those whom practice other religions. It’s such a fantastic experience to do so while abroad.
5. Getting to know the teachers with whom you will be working
You already have such a great resource for meeting new people and making friends in place for you: the fellow teachers in your schools. It’s very possible that many of the teachers with whom you work will be much older than you, but there will also be teachers or other assistants in the school that are your age.
Hang out in the teachers lounge. Get to know your colleagues. There is so much you can learn from them, and you might even make a friend or two.
Moving to another country and living in another country can be very scary and very intimidating. The same applies when meeting new people in a completely new environment. As scary as it is though, it can also be immensely rewarding. So, take a risk! Put yourself out there! I promise you that it will be worth it and that you will have friendships that will open your eyes to even more of the world than what you would expect.
Good luck my fellow expats and bisous!