The other day, I was out hiking with a French friend I’ve known for years, when she dropped a pretty shocking comment…“I don’t really have any expat friends,” she was saying, as we traipsed through the Foret de Rambouillet in the suburbs of Paris. “What about ME!” I cried aloud. “Pfff, you’re already so integrated. You don’t count at all!” she responded immediately.This was sort of disappointing, as I hadn’t planned on just blending in with the general population, but I suppose it’s sort of a compliment to any newcomer to this beautiful country.
Later, thinking about it, I realised, in a way, she’s right. Somehow, without trying too hard, within a rather short time, I blended in (even if it meant giving up my salwars…).
In case you have similar goals (and would like to achieve a similar level of comfort and closeness with the Frenchies around you), here are 5 quick tips to integrate in France and kickstart your new French life…
1. Learn French.
Not the textbook version (which I also learnt), but the way people actually speak. How to follow verlan (the slang adjectives used frequently by millenials), the references to public figures (e.g., lauding Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo), and mentioning important events in European history (like who killed Franz Ferdinand) and the Bible (basically, quoting Jesus a lot). This will win you points and make you sound like just another French person who was studied English at school but really learnt it via YouTube and now uses a mix of both in daily vocabulary.I loved learning French with Coffee Break French, which offers free podcasts and premium lesson guides and downloadable PDFs.
2. Invest in your favourite form of pop culture.
Years ago, I was at a French wedding and did not know A SINGLE SONG. Meanwhile, everyone around me was dancing for hours and singing their hearts out. Very weird and isolating experience, but a good pointer that there is more out there than Shakira and Coldplay.
The French dedicate a fair chunk of public funds to film, art, theatre, and music. Pick one, and really learn about it. If you love movies, get to know the big names of New Wave cinema. If you’re a music lover, get familiar with the beloved crooners, the indie bestsellers, the rap stars. Here in Paris, you might even get to meet some of them.
3. Try (at least a little) to look French.
Many of the lovely South Asians I see and meet in Paris and in other cities across Europe still have Bollywood-inspired haircuts and dress styles that work well in an often hot, mostly conservative tropical country, but look out-of-place in the often cold, mostly conservative northern cities where we now live. Trust me, I’ve been there, too (see above reference to my beloved kurtas).
When in France, switch to a neutral wardrobe, just like the saying, “When in Rome…”. This helps you blend in, will make the locals understand that you are serious about integrating into French life and culture, and conforms to the all-important French value of solidarity.
I’ve learnt a lot about men’s style from LA-based Cassandra Sethi. She is married to an Indian-American, and has first-hand experience styling and dressing a self-professed former “skinny Indian guy”. Her Instagram account features accessible, effortless looks for men and women, and she has also worked with Indian body types. She shares easy-to-implement recommendations on brands that will last, outfit combinations, and “core colour” coordination, especially for the Indian body type and brown skin tones.
4. Learn a little about wine.
In many parts of India, appreciating wine is considered overly bourgeois. In France, it’s an important and essential topic of conversation, particularly for those who want to integrate in France, even if you’re not a big drinker. You can take a course, or simply go to a Monoprix supermarket and browse the aisles when you have some free time. It’s a great way to learn about the “good years” and which regions produce what kind of wine. Plus, it’s a FABULOUS way to impress a French lady 😉
5. Begin all your sentences with “Bah…”
No, this is not a joke. It’s the easiest to sound properly, authentically Parisian 😉
Still struggling with how to fit in with French culture while being proud of and staying true to your roots?
You can sign up for a Complimentary Dating Breakthrough Call here. We’ll discuss the key reasons you might be struggling to date and integrate no matter how long you’ve been living in France, and draft a three-step approach you can implement (starting today) to portray yourself as a sophisticated, well-travelled world citizen who is interested in learning more about France, while remaining true to and deeply proud of your own heritage, culture, family background, and roots.