Lonely expat problem: Making friends is harder than it looks

Written by Diane on. Posted in on life in France

Lonely in France colorful Not every day is a good day. Loneliness is one of the biggest challenges expats face. Truth: It’s hard to make friends as an adult! Especially when you’re new to an area. From a different culture. In a different language. In fact, a survey conducted by Barclays International Banking concluded that 44% of expats in France say loneliness is the biggest hurdle to overcome.

What do I think about the lonely expat problem? Read on!

I don’t have any friends here. There. I said it.

It’s true. I don’t have a single friend aside from my husband and his parents in France. No, I didn’t just arrive last month. And no, I’m not a hermit. There are neighbors I make small talk with in the elevator and fellow dog owners that I talk to at Dagny’s dog school (and that cooking class, and the gym I joined… the list goes on) — and people find me humorous and outgoing. For small talk anyway. But there’s no one I could call up and vent to (French or otherwise) or invite out shopping or over for coffee.

If you haven’t figured it out, this is a very honest post.

I think it’s very easy to focus on creating that perfect expat facade, but the truth is, once that honeymoon period of a new place wears off, the reality not so gently becomes painfully obvious and real life issues tend to creep on in. Living away from your friends and family is hard sometimes. Plain and simple. Anyone who tells you otherwise is living a lie or hasn’t gotten out of that honeymoon period yet.

Do I feel like a lonely expat?

No. Well, not really. Not usually. But as someone who had a lot of friends back home, sometimes I reflect on life in France and miss that part of my old life. That’s not to say that I don’t love it here. I do, most of the time. But nowhere is perfect. And I take full responsibility for the good and the bad. It was my choice to come here.

Why do I have no friends, you ask? No, this lonely expat problem is not because I don’t speak French. I do speak French. Here are my excuses reasons. It’s a few things: 1) I work from home so I don’t have a job social life 2) I live in a small town in the suburbs that isn’t very young and that doesn’t have much going on (and is far from Paris, where it seems like a lot of expats live!) 3) I don’t find the French very open to making new friends. 4) I don’t try hard enough.

#4 is the real truth. I think it’s easy to get caught up in your day-to-day routine and to just go on with your life. Our lives are what we make of them. I’m a firm believer in that and tend not to wallow for long, so I think I need to try harder. A girl needs friends, right?

What’s life without real, in-the-flesh friends??

Normally I’d be up for the challenge like in other areas of my life and would have fun in my attempts to overcome these obstacles. But it’s not so easy. I’ll try, not succeed, and then get discouraged not wanting to try again. The lonely expat cycle repeats. But this shouldn’t be impossible, right? I live in France — not some semi-deserted island in the middle of nowhere…

Lonely expat

To get my friend fix, I’ll call someone from home, look at Facebook pictures and get caught up on others’ lives via technology. You can’t help but yearn for what you’re missing back home, though. Lately, I think I’m longing for a real friend. Maybe someone with a dog so again I don’t have to force Tom to go on excursions he’d rather pass on. So what have I done? I’ve been pursuing work opportunities in France. Stay tuned for updates on that…

What’s my plan? I’m going to put myself out there and go for it. What’s the worst that can happen? 2013 is the year for me to make friends. And dammit, I’m going to DO THIS!

Can any expats out there relate? Are you a lonely expat?

UPDATE on the lonely expat problem published January 2015. Read it here!

Photo credit: khalid almasoud / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: hey.pictrues / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
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Comments (120)

  • Riayn

    |

    This is so very true and thanks for being so honest about it. It is really hard to meet people. Whilst I’m in Germany, not France, I’m having the same issue. I have expat friends, but no German friends. My German is at the immediate level but I can make conversation. Still I find it hard to make friends with the ‘natives’ and that is something I would very much like to do.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Riayn, thanks for commenting. There are so many parts of expat life that I love, but making friends is so hard. I can’t say I’m glad you can relate, but at least I know I’m not alone. And if I ever find myself in Germany, let’s grab lunch!

      Reply

  • Jay

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    This is a very relatable post and something I wrote about a few months ago.

    I currently have 1 friend that I’ll meet with regularly and few others that I’m sure I’d be closer with if I made more of an effort. It is so much work to make friends and it gets so much harder the older we get.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Jay, I think this is an issue that many expats don’t want to talk about or try to hide because on one hand, it’s great to have the opportunity to do something new in life, but at the same time, it’s very real and there are struggles (especially once the honeymoon period in the new land fades and real life takes hold). So thank you for sharing your experience. Heading to your blog now…

      Reply

  • Joy @ My Turkish Joys

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    A very honest post! As an expat in Istanbul for almost 3 years, it’s hard to remember those initial lonely months. At first, I signed up for every social group, cooking class, book club, etc. Within a few months, I’d met friends I could connect with. Luckily, a few of them had like-minded husbands and later we did couple outings together. You really do have to put yourself out there. It’s not always easy, but u can do it. 🙂

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Joy, thanks for your encouragement. The sad truth is that I’ve been here a year and still haven’t made friends. I think it would be easier if I was in a bigger city and there was more going on, but I can’t make excuses for myself. It won’t be easy, but I have faith! Thx again!

      Reply

  • Sarahf

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    I live in Japan, and the same is true here. I have some good friends, but it took a long time, plus the fact I’m single so don’t have a partner to talk to either. Hope someone fabulous comes along with a dog to at least give you one person to call a friend.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thanks for commenting, Sarah. Japan must be quite the culture shock, but glad you found some people to call your friends. It’s not easy, is it?

      Reply

  • Lindsey

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    Diane, I can totally relate! Reminds me of a Facebook post I wrote last week after meeting a woman from Iran…so I copied it below. Think you might find her “expat” story very interesting! The good news is we can always go home again to visit or live, unlike some other people. And PS – I wish you were in Paris so we could gab over wine! 🙂
    >>>>
    It’s not easy to give up friends & family to move to another country. While JK and I have had ups and downs over the last year+, we CHOSE to make a change, take a chance, and live abroad. It’s been an incredible journey and we are so lucky to have the freedom to make these kind of choices in our lives.

    Today I met an Iranian woman who put things into perspective for me: She had no choice but to leave her country. She didn’t see France as a dream come true…she saw France as the only way to save her life. She will never be allowed return to her home country. Never…

    Several years ago, she opened a business specifically to provide eye care and glasses to Iranians that follow a certain faith called Bahá’í. These people’s basic human and legal rights have been completely taken away from them.

    When the Iranian government found out this woman was helping the Bahá’í, they 1) took away ALL of her money, 2) closed the doors to her business, and 3) kicked her out of the country. She can never return.

    This happened two years ago. She came to France with her 15 yo daughter and nothing else. Today she’s an artist and sculptor (even with having only one arm–that’s a whole other story!) and is expected to have her very own art exhibition in Paris this year.

    She remarkably holds no grudges against her country and has no regrets for helping the Bahai’s while she could.

    It’s been a cold, grey winter in Paris and I terribly miss my family, friends, and the Colorado sunshine… But meeting Farahnaz today has given me a huge dose of inspiration and gratitude!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Wow, what a story! I think when you have no choice, you just make it work and this woman is really an inspiration. I count my blessings every day. Wish we could down some wine together too!!

      Reply

  • Gwan

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    Hi, I saw your post via Twitter – can definitely relate. I’m lucky enough to have some good friends now, but it fluctuates owing to the nature of expat life with people coming and going, so I’ve had my fair share of loneliness too. One big thing for me is being single – a lot of French women I know seem to settle down pretty early, and a lot of the expats either move here for a partner or meet one and stay, so sometimes it feels like there are people I can go grab a coffee with, but on a Saturday night sometimes they’re all at home on the couch with their partners and I feel doubly lonely!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Gwan, I know what you mean about French women settling down early. And women in general. And having BABIES. Ugh. It’s interesting to see how life plays out sometimes and gosh, right now, I would LOVE to go grab a coffee with you!

      Reply

  • Mathilde

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    I like your post, and I can totally relate to it, as a French expat in the States. I also find it pretty hard to make friends. I’ve tried (and I’m still trying) in different places… from work (mine and my husband’s), yoga (that was really efficient, people are always “intrigue” by the “French girl”), other French expats, and I even posted an add at the French cultural center to meet American who were learning French!
    After one year though, I can’t say that I have find real good close friends, but at least I know a lot of people…
    Friendship is probably the thing I miss the most from my life in France, but I’ll try harder ;P

    Reply

  • Diane

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    Hello! Americans LOVE accents and I feel are pretty welcoming in general. Maybe not in big cities with complete strangers, but through yoga or work, I find that Americans do give newcomers a chance. That said, it’s still not easy and there’s no magic formula. I commend you for trying and keeping at it. You’re in Boston, right? I will be your friend! 😉

    Reply

  • Dena Barrie

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    Oh you brought tears to my eyes. I am an Expat in Germany and am feeling so lonely. I have lived here for almost 2 years and have seen people come and go and I so long for a glass of wine and an open, honest chat with my friends from home. Thank you so much for making me realize that I am not alone!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Aw, I’m so sorry Dena. I know how it feels and sometimes Skype or a phone call just won’t do. All I can say is just take it one day at a time and keep trying. You’re def not alone!

      Reply

  • Arielle

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    I went through the same thing living in Perth in Western Australia- it took me months to finally make real friends. After a while I concluded that it was just the region and that living in the city actually made it more difficult because the whole city was like a mass exodus as the work day ended. I even went to a bar by myself at happy hour which ended up being the worst experience ever (although I know it has worked for others). I actually finally made friends when I went to buy a local cell phone and spent about an hour going over my living/working/phone need situations and the guy who was helping me invited me out. I almost didn’t go because I was feeling lazy, but you’re right- laziness is a major hindrance so I didn’t let it take over. Thanks for sharing your story- I know a lot of people will appreciate being able to relate and I hope things take a turn for the better!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thanks for sharing your experience, Arielle. I think it’s something we all go through and I feel better knowing that no one is really making friends right away. That’s great that something as normal as getting a cell phone actually turned to friends! I’ll keep my eyes open!

      Reply

  • Thuy Phelps

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    Making new friends after a move is tough! When I lived in Germany for 4 years I joined the IWC (International Women’s Club), where we all met once a month or more with English speakers. Made some good friends that way. I’m a military wife, who has moved many times and will be possibly moving again this summer to San Diego. Once again, having to deal with making new friends in a new location. After all of my travels, I have friends all over the world. FB is a great way to keep in touch, along with phone calls, but its also important to be able to have a good girlfriend to have coffee or lunch with. It will always be something to work on. The friends I have now are the ones I met through waiting for my daughter at volleyball practices. She no longer plays, but I’ve still kept in touch with the ladies. I’m 43 yrs old and will still be working on finding good friends for the rest of my life.
    ~Thuy (Twee)

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Thuy, I totally agree that making friends is a lifelong journey — and if you move a lot, even more so. So glad you’ve made a bunch along the way!

      Reply

  • Camille

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    I remember thinking about how I was going to be the best new friend maker in Santa Marta, Colombia when I arrived. But the reality is exactly as you described it, lonely. Here it´s difficult to find connections with people and they often seem too scared to speak to me in Spanish, even though it´s not that terrible. That said, I also haven´t tried hard enough and I really need to pick up my game too. Here´s hoping this year brings us and all the other commenters a new best friend. A friend can mean the world to a person.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      I’ll drink to that! There’s strength in numbers, so if you’re trying in Colombia and I’m trying in France, maybe we’ll make it happen!

      Reply

  • Carolina

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    I think making friends depends more on your personality than the fact that you are an expatriate.
    Sure you have to expose yourself and realize activities that allow you to share one or two hours with unknown persons .
    In France there is a very pleasant custom of offering an appetizer before lunch, whether it’s a weekend, or dinner during the working days.That’s a great way to bond with these people, you probably greet every day but can not find the way of becoming closer with them. Believe it or not the French are shy people, with exceptions of course.One way to get close to them is through the art of living…Invite them to your home for coffe or aperitif; Be simple and friendly with them.
    Almost everyone I know, foreigners living in France, obtained his first friends making French language courses. Well.I am South American ( of Venezuela ) and is almost natural for us to make friends easily :-)…By the way, the next time you come to Nice, on the French Riviera … know that you have a friend here….enchanté!! : -)

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi, thanks for the invitation! I’ll take you up on that

      Reply

  • Hanlie

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    I can TOTALLY relate! I live in Bangkok, a city of 12 million – and I have never felt lonelier and more isolated than I do here…

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Aww, I’m sorry to hear that. I hope 2013 brings good things your way and this loneliness lifts.

      Reply

  • Steve

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    Although I hardly consider myself to be an expat, I am a long-term traveller and can relate to the difficult of making friends on the road. I lived in South Korea for a year and made a few friends, and some of them I still keep in touch with. I’ve found I’m a little more discerning with whom I spend time with because so many people just pass through my life. Maybe it’s one of those things where either change your definition of friendship or get used to how the current definition is treating you.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Steve, it’s hard, isn’t it. Glad we’re all not alone

      Reply

  • Cosette

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    Yes, I can relate. I’ve been in Melbourne, Australia almost a year. I’ve joined some Meetups and other social groups, but no luck. When you’re an adult and you don’t go to work or go to school, it’s just generally harder to meet people. And I acknowledge that I’m selective. I don’t necessarily want to be friends with everyone I meet and there’s a difference between an acquaintance and a friend. For me, it’s about quality not quantity. It does get lonely, but I rather be alone than surrounded by the wrong people. Hang in there, Diane.

    Reply

  • Kerry Dwyer

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    I can relate to that. Cosette has a good point. I have a lot of acquaintances but few friends. I am very lucky that my parents live nearby so I have them. I have my husband and daughter. I work but don’t socialise with my colleagues as we mainly work from home and are very spread out geographically.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yes, it’s especially difficult when the friends aren’t in the same region. Takes even more of an effort! Thank you for checking out my post!

      Reply

  • Diane

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    Thanks Cosette, yea I don’t want to befriend the local drunk or crack addict, but a few quality people would get my vote over 10 acquaintances any day!

    Reply

  • Apres New York

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    This is true for many expats – whether they’re in France or elsewhere. I consider myself lucky to have French and expat friends here, but I also work really hard at it (not that you don’t!). I’m constantly making plans to make relationships stronger (BFFs don’t happen overnight), going on blind friend dates, etc.

    I was lucky that before I moved here, many people connected me with friends they thought I should meet. One thing I do is go to a coworking space so I’m not working in solitary confinement at home. I find that definitely helps and gives you a sense of “going to work”. If you’re in a suburb far from Paris… that must be hard though.

    Keep trying (even though it can be hard during this dreary gray season), and perhaps set little goals each week, whether it’s making plans with an acquaintance (even though you didn’t initially love them – maybe you will once you get to know them better), joining an organization, etc. and hopefully, you’ll have a close set of friends before you know it.

    Good luck!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      That coworking space sounds awesome, but not sure anything like that exists where I am. ;-( I am definitely going to keep trying! Nothing bad can come from trying…

      Reply

  • bevchen

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    I can relate to this! I’ve always found it difficult making friends, and living abroad (I’m in Germany) it’s even worse! I was lucky in that I fist came here for a year abroad and lived in a student residence – with more than 100 people in the same building, I had to find SOMEONE I could get along with!

    After 6 years here, I now have quite a few people to socialise, but only 2 or 3 that I would consider real friends. I do get on with some of my colleagues, but I work in a different town to where I live so can’t really hang out with them much.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hey, nothing wrong with 2 or 3 friends! That’s great!

      Reply

  • Mary

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    It can be tough, for sure. It’s also harder when you’re a bit older and more settled. If I lived in a city centre apartment and was going out every night I imagine it would be easier to meet new friends than now, when I live in the middle of nowhere with my partner and small child.
    For me sport, in particular rock climbing, has been a key way to make a lot of friends. By its nature you spend entire days at a time with people and you share an interest and goals so you have something to talk about and a mutual interest in meeting up and getting out together. Bonds develop over time. (Great post, btw.)

    Reply

  • Catherine

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    Hi Diane, although I’m not an expat (yet), I can very much relate to the “coldness” of being in France for an extended period of time. However warm my husband’s friends and relatives, after over more than 10 years of being around them (for countless significant occasions), there is still a distance they keep. So I can only imagine the difficulty in creating a close friendship with a “stranger” … I think your plan to work outside the home is a good one and will help move things along much faster. Best of luck Diane, fingers crossed for you!!

    Reply

    • John

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      Hi Catherine,

      I can relate to your post so much. I live about 45km from Paris. My partner is Frencn and we have two children.
      I have been living here since 1997 and whenever we have a family getogether with the in-laws, my partners two brothers are polite but that is as far as it goes. They both live on the edge of our village. Apart from these family events we rarely see them. Even if my French parents in law live in front of our house, they will visit them but not us.

      So after 19 years I don’t count my BIL’s as being “friends”. More a case of them putting up with me because their sister happens to be in a relationship with me.

      Over the years I have tried sharing things that might interest them, to no avail. So I have given up.

      We stay at that “polite” stage.
      John recently posted…Bois de la Sainte, Fontenay-le-Vicomte, France.My Profile

      Reply

  • Kristin of Be My Travel Muse

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    I remember feeling super lonely when I moved to Taiwan. Try meetup.com groups. They’re often split up into specific interests, which should help you find some groups of people your age out there. Hang in there!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Kristin, thanks for the tip! I just tried meetup.com and had to expand the search to 100 miles of where I live and found ONE group. And it’s for computer programming. I’ll keep checking back. I live in the middle of nowhere. Thx for the encouragement

      Reply

  • Jeanette

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    I can completely relate; I live in France, work from “home” and have few friends although, I don’t really feel the need to make new friends and haven’t found any French people that I really connect with anyway. I do find myself missing my friends and social life back home and while catching up via technology can pacify the loneliness, it’s definitely not a replacement for the real thing!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      It’s not easy, so sorry you’re in the same boat!

      Reply

  • Jessica of HolaYessica

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    I can definitely relate. I live in Barcelona, and the Catalans are notoriously ‘closed’ people who don’t like making friends with foreigners. Sometimes it’s really, really tough. And of course, it doesn’t happen right away. But being lonely can make everything else much more stressful, so it’s a bit of a vicious cycle – the more stressed you are, the less friendly you are, etc. etc.

    I hope things have improved a bit since you posted this!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Jessica, thanks for sharing your experience. You’re right about the cycle. When you’re unhappy about one thing, it tends to seep over into other areas of your life. Not cool at all!

      Reply

  • Elsa

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    I’ve just found out about your blog and was curious to read it because I’m a french girl living in canada. It’s always interesting to see the experience from the other side. I live in Montreal, so I don’t have any language barrier but in a way I relate to that. They’re a lot of french (from france) living in Montreal, and it is so easy to just live in a sort of french community over there. Go out with french that are living the same experience etc etc and completely miss out the opportunity to live a unique expat experience.
    So, I’m really careful who I go out with, and it took me month before creating a good relationship with friends(canadian mostly). It’s important to try to create opportunity in every situation. From the coffee place you go to the neighbors. I know it’s easy to say but it is true. And I truly relate to the frustration, hang in there 🙂
    I completely understand the way you feel about french, and I wish there was a national tip I could give you but time is the only way. Try to spot the people that travel a lot, usually they are the more open minded one.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thanks for your encouragement, Elsa. It’s definitely not easy, but your tips are good ones. I’m still trying…

      And I have to get back to Montreal someday. I was there in the winter a few years ago and it was SO COLD that we barely saw anything other than the underground mall! Thanks for sharing your experience!

      Reply

  • fabrice

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    Hi

    I am french (south of France) And I am living for 8 years in Belgium. it is geographically close, same language, but same point it is hard to have real friend. It is easy to understand. My friend are mostly from my childhood and teenage time, because of school. in Belgium, people has already thier friends, and will not try to make some new one. That is life. However I met thousands of people and belonged to several clubs and bands (music). But no real, real friend, just friendly people.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Looks like we’re all kind of in the same situation, Fabrice. It’s weird. I think of Americans as friendly and easy to get to know in general (of course exceptions exist), but I wonder if expats in the US have trouble making friends. Part of me thinks it’s what you put into it, but I’ve tried so much and nothing. I’ll be your friend 😉

      Reply

      • Leila

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        Hello Diane, I came across this forum and loved the postings so I thought why not sharing my experience too. I am a french woman, I have lived 10 years in California and now I’m back in France. I have lived in another countries before the US too. The key for me was to learn the language and be fluent so I can be part of that new society. It didn’t matter if the people I met were locals or not though. Also I ‘ve realized that a lot of french people (or other nationalities for the matter) tend to hang out together just because they were from the same country. So that I avoided and went with the affinity instead. I love americans, I love their optimistic spirit, and the fact that they don’t pollute people’s mind with their complaints ( French’s favorite hobby). I met many people while in California, quite fast too. For my experience, americans make the effort to understand what you’re trying to say, they are curious about new people they meet and about new things in general. Having said that the biggest problem I had with americans was my lack of ability to read them. Since, they are, in general, so pollitically correct, it’s very hard to know what they were truly thinking. You might think we are best of friends when actually it’s their way of life. It’s like when you go to a store and the clerkman ask you how you are today ? He/she is not expecting you to return the question, it’s just a way of life there. So making friends was super easy, making true friends was very hard!; Although I have managed to make some good friends !! I’ve became a US citizen and cannot wait to go back. Coming back to France was extremely hard. 10 years in California changes you forever and so I feel sometimes like an alien in my home country. France is obviously a beautiful country but with tortured people living in. They are scared about their future and their retirement (may be I should too), get into relationships as early as possible meanwhile pretending to be so free spirited. It’s very hard for me to be here and not so easy to be away? This is why I always say : living abroad is the most intelligent thing I have done but it is also a curse. It changes you forever. I hope I haven’t bored to death and If I can be of any advice, you contact me! so long 🙂

        Reply

        • Diane

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          Hi Leila, thanks so much for the insightful comment. I can identify with a lot of what you said and agree with Americans’ optimistic spirit in general. The social differences really are DIFFERENT and not easy to overcome if you’re an outsider but you give me hope! About California, it is a special place and while I haven’t lived there, I have vacationed there and people do seem to be friendly and make an effort to understand others — more so maybe than in other areas of the US. Thanks again for stopping by!

          Reply

  • stella

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    I’m french but I live in Belgium.
    It’s te same for me. I am lonely. I don’t have a real friend. I know fex expats but they all are all so busy.

    I don’t have a job so it is harder to meet new people.
    I wonder how to make friends when you are an adult!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      It’s definitely not easy… I feel your pain. I hope this changes for the better soon! Hang in there

      Reply

  • Bex

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    Thanks for sharing this post. When I started as an expat in Greece, my first year in a provincial inland town, as the only foreigner, was very lonely.
    Now I live in Athens, it’s much easier. You’re right: circimstances can make it harder. But social networking (for all its sins) helped me find an expat group when I moved to Athens, and through them I also met Greeks/locals.

    A lot to be said for the internet.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Amen to the internet. The only people I am friendly with aside from small talk with neighbors are people online. Yay!

      Reply

  • Jen

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    I would love to have coffee or lunch next time you make it to Paris! I can definitely relate. And at first I thought I really wanted to meet French people and get to understand their culture better, but then I realized how much in common I have with other expats and that it would be great to be able to chat with others once in a while who can actually relate!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thank you, Jen! I’ll let you know next time I’m in town (will be in a week but just to get to the airport at the crack of dawn).

      Reply

  • Anca

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    Hi Diane,

    I can definitely relate. What brought me to your post was actually a Google search for “expat loneliness.”

    I’ve been living in Germany for 8 years now. I also lived in Brussels for 3 years when I was in my early 30s. I’ll be 45 this summer.

    Work was always the reason for my relocation. And my interest in learning new things and the desire to be in an international setting (I’m Romanian). But all this comes with a price.

    After a lay-off from the corporate world, I decided to work as a freelance writer. I love what I do but it’s very isolating. In time people I used to work with moved to other countries.

    The ones who are still around gradually stopped calling me. In fact I was the one that was initiating contact with them most of the time (lunches, dinners, outdoor activities, you name it).

    When I realized it was more of a one way connection, and there’s nothing really from their side coming my way, I kind of got tired of calling them.

    So yes, I do feel lonely. And just like Cosette mentioned above, I am also in favor of quality in people. I never had many friends and the only 2 BFFs I’ve ever had live one in London, the other one in Toronto.

    It’s nice to have friends abroad because it’s always fun to visit them. And all of them are spread around the world.

    I miss having a friend I could spontaneously meet for a coffee, someone that I could have a deep conversation with. And yeah, someone I could call at 3am if I’m feeling sick.

    I may sound pathetic. The thing is that the older you get, the harder making new friends becomes.

    I do have two German friends, and that thanks to Twitter. And they are really great people. I met them, I speak with them often. But again one lives in another city (we do email a lot, which helps in a way), the other one just had a baby, so her priorities will drastically change now.

    I just read about meetup.com and joined a few groups in my area. Will see what comes out of it.

    Anyway I intend to move to an English speaking country at some point. I felt in my element when I’ve been to LA, NYC and especially Toronto. Hope the universe will align the planets for me to make it happen. 🙂

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      You’re not pathetic at all. I think all expats can relate to a lot of what you said, at least at one time or another. It is really hard to make friends as you get older and especially if there’s no easy way to connect like work, or kids at the same school, etc. I do hope things get better for you and your German friends stay in touch. The one way friendships you mentioned really suck and I’ve had a few of them as well. Thank you for your comment and know you’re not alone. 😉

      Reply

  • Collene

    |

    I connected instantly to everything you said in your post. I moved to a small town south-west of France at the end of April this year. Although my (french) husband & I hang out with his friends (who are all French) I’d like to meet women my age French or otherwise to have a coffee & cocktails with! How have you progressed since your initial post in January?

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Hi Collene, thanks for sharing your experience. I haven’t progressed at all unfortunately. I have more small talk with neighbors in my building, but friends? Nope. I’m kind of used to it at this point. We’re moving into a house at the end of the summer, so hopefully that will keep me busy. If you’re ever up in the Loire Valley, let me know!

      Reply

      • Collene

        |

        Thanks. That’s so nice of you. I’ve only heard good things about Loire Valley. I’m near Bordeaux so it’s not impossible. Good luck with moving.

        Reply

        • Jay

          |

          I’ve read through all these posts and relate to many of the issues. Moved to south west France six years ago and boy has it been tough to hook up with ladies like me who don’t work, don’t have children but would like to meet up for a coffee and a chat. The expat community are very transient in this area, many returning to the UK after a short while whilst others live between both countries. My husband and I have met some couples where the wife is pleasant but the husband has an alcohol problem! I have a few female acquaintances amongst the expats but none I can go shopping or have a coffee with or perhaps a visit to a cinema, none I can get close to. I miss the female relationships I had in the UK, although stay in touch with them via email/Skype and meet them for lunch when I go to the UK twice a year. I am lucky in having one French friend (boy is it difficult to get to know French people !) who is a lady my own age and we usually see each other once a week. However, my biggest problem is one not described here, my husband is anti social, telling me often that he doesn’t want or need friends, he is extremely content to stay at home and work the land. This has resulted in expat couples no longer inviting us, word has got around that he would rather stay home! I would have thought it impossible to take early retirement, live in a lovely home with a handsome husband and still be lonely! One further problem is that this part of south west France has a dearth of places to go and things to do ! I’m used to going somewhere once a week in the UK, whether it is an antiques fair, a flower show, a craft fair, a county show, a horse show, to the races, stately home or RHS garden. There really is very little going on here apart from markets and fetes! When you’ve been to one you’ve been to them all ! Having read this back, I really do sound very sorry for myself, I have never given in to my feelings before, this blog is responsible! My saviour is my art which I discovered a few years ago, I would go stir crazy without it. I never thought I would say it, but I can understand why British women decide to go back to the UK, it is never the men in my experience. Having said all this, as Collene, near Bordeaux is not far from where I live it would be lovely to hook up, I have never before been as maudlin as this, believe me this is unusual for me !

          Reply

          • Diane

            |

            It’s so strange, isn’t it? I think I replied here saying something about how it’s a Catch 22. How can you make friends and get personal when there are social boundaries preventing you from doing so? I don’t think I’ll ever figure that one out. I think having a strong support system when abroad is really important and not always easy to maintain/find. I really hope your husband changes his ways and/or you maybe move somewhere a little more lively. That’s no fun at all. ;-( Chin up!

            Reply

          • Jay

            |

            Hi, first of all apologies for my tale of woe, I poured my heart out for the first time because I have no one to share my worries with. My husband and I have been together for 40 years and if anything since we’ve retired, he’s become more anti social not less. I’ve decided to build a social life for myself and I told him yesterday that I don’t intend to live like a hermit ! I am going to join pilates and French conversation groups this winter as a starting point and if I can find a like minded girlfriend, will go away on weekend breaks without my husband ! Thank you for listening.

            Reply

          • Diane

            |

            No need for any apologies. I get it. And good for you for getting yourself out there. Best of luck! Bonne continuation!

            Reply

          • mary loveday

            |

            I think you have been very honest. It is hard. If ever you would like to chew the fat please get in touch. I live alone not far from Bezier and it would be great to have a phone-a-friend on the same wavelength. I love animasl and all the persuits you mentioned – a giant ommlette in the local town does not do it for me!!! Hope you get back to me. I am very down to earth, well travelled and like to laugh. I do hope that you will. All the best to you. TTFN

            Reply

  • k_sam

    |

    I can definitely relate! I spent my first five years in the middle of nowhere in Bretagne, and it was so hard to make French friends. I was so lonely, but by the end, I almost didn’t even realize it – the scary part was that it had become my new normal.

    I did eventually find the few foreigners who came to town or to the region each year as language assistants, but they only stayed 7 or 9 months and then they left, and I had to start all over again with the following year’s crew. It was at least something, but we definitely didn’t have the same goals – most of them were students, single, and looking to party, and I was a bit older and already settled down.

    Anyways, just wanted to say that I’ve been there and I feel for you!

    Reply

    • k_sam

      |

      PS. I also wanted to say I tried many of the same thing you did to make friends, ie joining the gym, participating in classes/activities, etc to no avail – so it’s not just you! 🙂

      Reply

      • Diane

        |

        Isn’t it strange? Even in NYC, I’d meet random people waiting in line, doing cardio at the gym and other places. Doesn’t seem to happen in France. In my husband’s most recent post on social differences, he explained that asking too many questions can be seen as rude so chitchat seems to be surface level, but it’s a catch 22 because how can you make friends if you never get past the obligatory hi how are you and bye?? Very tricky.

        Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Oh man, that really is rough. And I hope your “normal” now is a lot better and you’re not in the middle of nowhere anymore. I was out on the Crozon Peninsula (I think that’s the name) when we spent a week near Quimper and it’s really isolated when you get that far out, so I definitely understand feeling physically disconnected. Are you still in France?

      Reply

  • Heather in Arles

    |

    Oh this obviously has struck a chord for a lot of us out there! Thank you for being so honest.
    I have been in France for twelve years and really hear you that the social differences are not to be underestimated. Like you, I met so many people so easily in NYC and with time that would develop naturally into friendships–not so here! I have come to accept that I am just different in a lot of ways than French women and that is that. And that most French women my age are not looking to make new friends either–here it really seems like people are friends with folks they have known since childhood, from work or friends with their children’s friends. Since, like several others here, I don’t have kids and work from home…well, that doesn’t help but I really think that the differences are what are the most hinderance to me. Other expat friends that live in bigger towns like Montpellier and Grenoble are a part of expat groups that meet up once a month and oh how I would love to have that familiarity, that ease of “sameness” every once in awhile!
    As has also been said, I am SO grateful for my blog and making friends all over the world who have the same interests as I do–hooray for that!

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      It is strange that people don’t actively pursue new friendships. The more people I know, the better! We can all learn from each other. And it’s so true about the French being friends with their children’s friends’ parents and those from childhood. Newcomers are kind of out there in their own group. I too long for that familiarity. One day, right?

      Reply

    • mary loveday

      |

      I have just found this site and it is something to see that I am not alone in being lonely. I live in an isolated Mas with a dog, cat and a horse. I have tried so hard to make friends but it seems that as I am single I am looked upon in rural French society as a bit odd. I would love to chat on line if you care to contact me. I hope you do.

      Reply

      • Diane

        |

        Hi Mary, sorry you’re in this situation. But as you see, you’re not alone. May I ask What originally brought you to France (and particularly that area) and how long you’ve been there? I think making friends is absolutely possible but it takes time. I recently joined my gym in town to get out a bit more and people talk to me there but it’s just friendly chit chat. Maybe with time things will change. Feel free to contact me thru the contact page on my site if you want to chat

        Reply

    • John

      |

      Hi Heather,

      I thought I’d comment as it seems we have a couple of things in common. The struggling to make friends thing and working from home. In our village, it isn’t necessarily the fact that people have known each other from childhood – although I could say that about my partners two brothers – who stick with their school friends and only stay “polite” with me. Being up here in the Paris region, it seems that in the main, people move in to our village from the near suburbs or from other regions of France.
      It seems that those from elswhere in France are a bit more friendlier than those who where brought up in the banlieue.

      That said, people tend to form cliques in our village and if you can’t get into this mentality then you are considered an outsider. When my son started at the local school 7 years ago, I started off by saying “Bonjour” to other parents. I was blanked. Over the years, I’ve got to know 2 or 3 parents – but mainly with the aid of my French partner.

      I have been “sounded out” by a few parents in the past – but something must put them off. I get by in French, I make mistakes, but over the years people have said that I speak it fairly well. These encounters come to nothing.
      I’m not a nasty person – although I have been really frustrated by the daily grind of school runs – which inside can make me feel angry.

      The sad fact is, that people seem to have high standards. If you don’t match up to their expectations, then they pass you over. Obviously this hurts.

      These days I just try my best to ignore the nasty ones. If people say Hello I say Hello back. If they are polite, I’m polite back. Otherwise I’ve given up going out of my way to get to know those who blank me.

      Good luck to you down in the south. I have been down that way a number of times now as my French MIL is originally from the Midi.
      John recently posted…Bois de la Sainte, Fontenay-le-Vicomte, France.My Profile

      Reply

      • Diane

        |

        Hi John, Diane here (the owner of the blog). I know you were replying to someone else but just wanted to chime in so you’d know I saw your comment. 😉

        First, I’m so sorry for the trouble you’ve had with making friends. You’re not alone, as you can see from the comments on this post. I don’t have any real advice for you… is moving an option?

        I know for me personally, I use to be very quick to blame problems I have on France or the French but after getting some distance from the situation, I always think well, maybe it would be the same in the US. I’ve never moved across the country or had to start fresh, so would my own countrymen be so welcoming? Friendly? Open? I have no idea. Where I live as well, the French seem to be somewhat closed — even to other French people new to the area. People are surface-level friendly and say hi (sometimes) but beyond that, people are busy with their own lives. It really sounds terrible how people react to you especially since you seem to speak the language, have kids in the school system and have a French partner! I’m so sorry to hear that. No one should be made to feel invisible or unimportant. I feel like sometimes the people are scared or intimidated by foreigners — either that they won’t be understood or that they themselves won’t understand the foreigner. There are all kinds of reasons.

        I guess all you can do is keep on trying to live your life… be kind… be helpful… and hope that things turn around. And like I said, if moving is an option, I’d seriously consider it! Good luck to you

        Reply

        • John

          |

          Hi Diane,

          Thanks for that reply. I can’t remember if I wrote a response to it or not – but I’m back on here as I had an email notification when someone posted to this thread a few days ago.

          Yes I suppose you are right and that there can be a number of reasons why people can be a bit distant. Although there are those who have gone out of their way to snub me – this has been connected with me being involved in the village magazine in the past. I used to typeset it from home 3 times a year and worked on it for 7 years.

          So in short I have seen how people can be, particularly because I have taken part in a couple of the village council meetings.

          So as you say, I carry on living my life and just concentrate on the “nice ones” Luckily we have a handful of friends through our kids becoming friends with others at school. That said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we become friends with their parents, despite trying.

          In the main, in that situation, the parents are friendly with my French partner but tend to give me a wide berth. Perhaps I just *look* frightening? Whatever the reason, it isn’t my problem. I have made efforts in the past and if they can’t see that then what am i supposed to do?

          Anyway – there is most definately a culture gap and although I have taken on board French things, I will never be “French” and I’ll admit that I am in my British bubble for certain things. Like watchin English TV (I had about 15 years of French TV before we finally got UK satelite set up) and my hobbies.

          You are what you are, I guess and I for one just cannot see me becoming 100% just to please other people. 🙂

          John.
          John recently posted…LEARN ENGLISH IN THE ESSONNE!My Profile

          Reply

  • patty

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    American expat living in Montpellier France. It has been two years no real friend. People here are flaky and dont follow through. Impossible to be platonic friends with men as they just want to have sex with me and it annoys the hell out of me. They always try, they do not respect boundaries. French women are not very interested in being friends with me, and if they have a partner either 1) impossible to ask them out, always with partner or 2) they insist to take partner with and the partner is trying to hit on me and everyone is uncomfortable.

    If there is any expat in the montpellier area who want to be friends with me please email me. I am fed up and sad about the whole situation pretty much. I have tried so many venues(english conversation groups, sports, on va sortir) and am just so tired and exhausted trying to make friends now.

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Aw, sorry to hear you’re having a tough time, Patty. What brought you to France originally if you don’t mind my asking? I know there are French women out there who would love to have an American friend so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. I hope the situation improves! Thank you for checking out my post!

      Reply

    • Grant

      |

      Hi Patty, gosh you really are caught between a rock and a hard place! I assume by your comments that you are a looker and that has a significant impact on your search for friends in France. As you mention, men aren’t looking for a platonic relationship and, from my experience as an expat in Aix en Provence, women will see you as a threat, particularly those already in relationships with men. Finding friends here is difficult and takes a lot of effort – I’ve been lucky and have cemented some great friendships but only with people who have been expats themselves. It’s like we all belong to a unique club and can understand and empathise with our respective adventures. Keep at it Patty, I’m sure you’ll get there. Note, not all men are “focused on one thing”. 🙂

      Reply

    • NVF

      |

      Hi Patty
      Although not close we are also not hundreds of kms apart. I have just added the latest post and it’s tough isn’t it. If you fancy a chat drop me a line.

      Reply

    • mary loveday

      |

      Hello Patty, I live near Bedarieux which is about 45 mins drive from you. I am alone in a Mas with a dog, cat and a lovely horse. 7 years I have been here and it still feels hard to connect on any level – even though I am outgoing. It would be great to have a chat with you by email so we can chew the fat. I have lived all over the Middle East when I worked for an airlines back in the day – but we always had a group of us so this is really different. I really hope you will get in touch. All the best to you. Mary.

      Reply

      • Diane

        |

        OK, you answered my one question. You’ve been here 7 years. It’s not easy, is it? Feel free to write me on my contact page

        Reply

  • Steve

    |

    I’m an American expat living in Prague. I totally empathize with this post in very many ways. I’m 50 years old, an ESL teacher in Prague. I’ve almost given up trying to make friends to be honest: “friends” are the luxury of youth, before people graduate from university and find a job. Between work and marriage, there really is no time or energy left for the luxury of friends in adult life. Combine that with moving globally in this day and age of globalization, and you have a whole lot of very lonely, isolated adults. Even when I go to expat social functions, it all seems so hollow and meaningless. Everybody chats over a beer or glass of wine, but unlike when I was younger people have no time or interest to actually develop friendship in adult life. I think I once read somewhere that “if you have 2 friends in life you are very fortunate; and if you have just 1 friend you are indeed blessed”. So very true.

    My last comment is this: I too am a friendless American expat living abroad! Amen.

    Thank you for posting this most excellent blog 🙂

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Hi Steve, I’m so sorry to hear you can identify with what I wrote. Totally agree that it’s so much easier to make friends when we’re younger and still in school. People seem more open to it. The isolation can be so depressing and sometimes I’m like “Ahhh what’s wrong with me??” Then I realize it’s not just me. I guess it’s their loss. But doesn’t make the day to day any easier when you have no one to call up for a cup of coffee! Hoping our situations change in the friend department. Hang in there!

      Reply

  • lydia

    |

    Hello Diane, I do agree with you about having new friends in a foreign country it’s not easy. i used to be expat in beijing china for 6 years, and we just made friends with french or franco-européen people. just a few chinese and it’s a very superficial relationship. now i’m in states and it’s hard too. no really french expat community, and in my distric main américans women are working, so not easy to get in touch with . Our neighboors are very nice and they invited us for christmas evening. on return i invited them over for “wine and cheese beginning january, i heard they love it. In france we still live in maine et loire, that’s were you live no ? i will be back in april for holidays and would love to meet you there.
    good luck and merry christmas

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Hi Lydia, it’s not easy anywhere, is it? But I’m so glad you have Christmas and New Year’s plans. And yup, I’m in the Maine et Loire. Would love to meet you. Just email me closer to the time. 😉 Merry Christmas!

      Reply

  • NVF

    |

    I just came across this page having searched ‘lonely in France’. I totally empathise with previous posts. After finding out that my partner of 18 years was being unfaithful with the (expat & married) next door neighbour I had to move out of our home which is also our business. That was last year and it has been so hard as I don’t want to leave our business which after 10 years is doing well. I am a strong person and force myself to get out and about which can feel like you’re an alien as a single 50 year old. I am in the Aude dept of the Languedoc so drop me a line if you are anywhere nearby. It’s been good to find so many other people in my boat…. Let’s try and row together! In fact I am surprised there’s no Facebook group for us.
    And before signing off, I am interested to know why this forum has gone quiet?

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Hi NVF, sorry to hear about your situation. I can’t imagine how difficult things have been for you over the past year. I admire you for staying for your business. I hope things will turn around for you soon! As for the comment section getting quiet (that’s what you meant by forum, right?), I guess people either 1) Haven’t been searching for this sort of thing or 2) Haven’t felt compelled to comment. But yes, expat life can be super lonely. You’re not alone. Hang in there

      Reply

    • mary loveday

      |

      You have had a tough time ……..I have just found this site so it’s all new to me but very welcome to know we are all to some degree in the same boat. Well onwards and upwards – hey-ho! I live not far from Bezier in the 34. Get back to me if you would like to and we can converse on something other than this machine. I hope things improve for you and wish you all the very best. Take care. Mary

      Reply

  • adelina

    |

    Night, folks!
    It is midnight.all the bad thoughts rushing through your mind, homeland you left behind, reasons to have done so, the defined and at the same time so uncertain future.
    When one has a lack of courage to challenge, you are jusy dragged behind.
    But I believe that life has prepared so many beautiful surprising things for me-that I just won’t let it go!

    Reply

  • Laetitia

    |

    Hi Diane. Thank you for this post ! It’s so sincere and I think indeed expats don’t like to talk about that. I’m a french, living in California. I just arrived 2 months ago. I totally understand your situation : I also live in the suburbs where it is hard to meet people. Not a lot going on, no real place to hang out. Also, I don’t work, so no social-working life for me either, which makes it even harder to make friends. I tried meet ups but it didn’t really work for me. I met a few french people, because it was easier and I’m not very proud of that. I’m going to try harder, but I understand that sometimes you just feel like not trying anymore.
    I just wanted to thank you for saying this and I hope you will meet nice french people !

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Hi Laetitia, thanks for your comment. I agree with you that expats don’t like to talk about things like this in general. Maybe because people always assume the grass is greener or that you’re not trying hard enough or that they just don’t want to come across as a complainer. But I think this post resonated unfortunately for many of us out there and making friends is slow going — regardless of where you’re from and where you live. What brought you to California in the first place? I’d recommend joining a gym or some type of activity if there’s something in your area. I’ve met a few people from my gym who seems promising. 😉 Good luck!

      Reply

      • Laetitia

        |

        Hi Diane, thank you for your answer and I’m happy that you met people ! Good for you !
        As for myself, I followed my husband to California, he found a job there that he likes. We live in the suburds and can only afford one car that we have to share, which is pretty annoying. In my area, you can’t do anything without a car, so the days I don’t have it, I pretty much have to stay at home, or just go for a walk in the neighborhood. I come from a city where I used to walk everywhere, so it’s hard getting use to that. I keep trying nevertheless !

        Reply

  • Marianne

    |

    I can totally relate. I am definitely a lonely expat but it’s mostly because I do not know the language very well so I feel I am unable to communicate past basic sentences. It’s hard to engage with another person if the most you can say is “I like cheese.” Most of the time I feel very boring.
    I’d like to find other people that are my age where I’m living but realistically it’s very difficult because I am in a small town. If I were living in a big city I think it would be easier to find friends or to find other English speakers but that just isn’t the case here. It’s definitely difficult and I feel like I’ve reached out to all of the possible places I could. I went in a couple bars too and just sat there hoping to start conversation with somebody (like would be normal in the U.S.) but in France I was just looked at strangely, like “what’s that girl doing by herself?”

    Reply

  • Liz

    |

    Diane, Your post is so honest, and I wonder if you are still feeling the same way in Jan 2015.
    As I contemplate moving to the Loire Valley where I have had a house for 10 years, reading your comments has made me think again.

    Reply

    • Diane

      |

      Hi Liz, thanks for writing. I’m doing any update post later this month.

      First, please don’t let anything in this post sway you one or another. I think outside factors play into one’s happiness but it ultimately comes down to what you make of it. What I experience could be the exact opposite of what you find here. About my situation: Yes it has improved. But it’s because I made a change. If I kept going the way I was going, I’d still be sitting around wondering why I don’t have any friends. But again, that’s not to say that it’s the expat’s fault if it’s hard to make friends. It really is HARD and I stand by that. But it’s hard anywhere. I do believe we have to do our part though in making things happen for ourselves.

      My mini update is that I joined my town’s gym in April and have become friends with one of the employees there and friendly with all of the staff and a few other members. Do I have any close friends? No. But I do have that one friend that I’ll get coffee with or meet up with here and there, and a handful of acquaintances and people I look forward to chatting with at the gym. So I put myself out there, made the effort to talk despite being scared and the obvious outsider and it’s worked out. Through the gym, I met an American couple where the guy plays on a local pro sports team and also met some Canadians in the same situation. I never would have even heard of them if I hadn’t joined the gym and at least tried. It’s just lucky for me that I am into working out so it’s a win-win. 😉

      I’m not sure where your house is, but if it’s in a small village and you don’t really have a network (or school-age kids whose parents you can be friendly with), you may want to look into what social options there are in the area. I’m not in a tiny town but I’m not in Paris or anything either so options are kind of limited. I think it’s important to find one activity or group that you connect with, whether it’s a church or sports affiliation or hobby group and pursue meeting people through that. And of course, make sure you’re at least decent w/the French language. If I didn’t speak French, I’d still be friendless.

      Again, not sure if any of that helps but I do want to say that time, positive thinking, some effort and a little bit of luck all go into making a crappy friend outlook into a better one. I’m proof. 😉

      Reply

  • Dejana

    |

    Oh wow, thanks for that text!!! In my case it’s not France, but some other country, but just the exact same issues. I in fact do have some friends here, but they can hardly replace the friends I have back home (the other home). They’re not (yet) the people i would just call out of the blue bc I feel like talking to somebody or go for a coffee or whatever. The fact that I work freelance, means from home, makes it more difficult to meet people, as I ca’t meet them at my workplace. It’s difficult but I know it won’t be forever. And it’s good to know I’m not the only one having to go through this.
    I see you wrote this about 1 year ago – did things become better in the meantime?

    Reply

  • Theresia

    |

    I understand what you mean! I went to live in a village near Antwerp in Belgium for 1 year and it was really hard to make friends! Everybody was speaking English and were friendly but it was so hard to bond with somebody!

    Reply

  • Sonja

    |

    Sometimes making friends is hard, I do not kow why!

    Reply

    • Diana

      |

      Hi Diane,

      My name is Diana and I am also American and live in France. I find myself in the same boat. We do have two children so, it helps. I also work from home by teaching English online. We live in a small town in Loire which is a tourist location but I found it difficult to make friends here.

      So, I understand. Where do you live?

      Regards,

      Diana

      Reply

      • Diane

        |

        Hi Diana, thanks for writing. How long have you been in France? I hope you read the update to this post linked. 😉

        Reply

  • friends ...

    |

    Hi Diane,

    You write that it’s difficult to make friends around you live in France. First question : When you phone to sombody, it will be pleasant to speak a little french and be courteous, not hang down when someone speak in french on the line !!!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi there, have you had people hang up on you when you’ve spoken French? Sorry, not quite sure what you mean because here if I don’t phone someone in France and speak French they won’t understand me since no one speaks English. Of course it’s necessary to speak French to French people. Courtesy goes a long way. 😉

      Reply

  • Anna

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    Hello, another lonely expat here. Living in the countryside, so going to happenings in Paris is far (30km). I dis not read all thé comment, after the first ones that i could relate to, I scrolled to the end to see if thé page is still active. Been here for there years, and mu only frien just moved away, so thé lonelyness is creeping in. Would love to find similarités people not too far away, to exchange on friends making strategies, and why not even start à friendship!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hey Anna, sorry you’re having a hard time. I know all too well what it’s like. If you’re comfortable with it, share here in the comments where you live (general area is fine) and maybe someone reading is nearby. This post still gets hits from Google so you never know. 😉 Hope things get better for you soon!

      Reply

      • Anna

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        Thank Diane for your answer, and sorry for awful french autocorrect ! I’m in Yvelines, not far from Chambourcy.

        Reply

    • John

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      Hi Anna,

      I’m 45km from Paris, in the Essonne. My partner is French and we have two children.

      If you would ever like to chat with someone more local, feel free to drop me an email.
      John recently posted…Bois de la Sainte, Fontenay-le-Vicomte, France.My Profile

      Reply

  • Katie

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    Hi to all, I read this discussion thread with interest. Yes it is difficult to meet people in France. When i was widowed I eventually started https://www.expatdatingfrance.com/ because of the loniliness. I had thought about returning to the UK but didn’t want to. Facebook is a very good place to make friends and there are many in France if you check them out.

    Reply

  • Shelley

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    Hi, yes, it is difficult to meet people, especially like-minded people in France. I live in a rural area and social activity is limited to the summer months. My husband works away and only returns every other weekend too. Maybe there could be a meet-up advertised on here? I’m sure many would be up for it!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Shelley, where do you live? I’d love to do a meetup but not sure where since I’m not in Paris! Open to everyone’s suggestions though!

      Reply

      • Shelley

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        Hi, I’m in Charente (16) in Poitou Charentes, 2 hours NE of Bordeaux and around 2 hours east of La Rochelle. I love the idea of gite or hotel stop overs in different cities and towns to meet people either via train or car, although I am limited to one or two nights as I have lots of feathered and furry animals. I’d be happy to meet up with you and others too. Loving the website and Facebook page too!

        Reply

  • Steven

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    Hello, I live just South of Limoges. I am 56 and I live alone, it’s a long story, they usually are. Until April (’16) I worked in a fairly high pressure hedge fund environment and then I moved here to a house I’ve owned since 2011. I am lonely. There, I’ve said it. I judge my loneliness by the fact that I cry about the 2 out of 10 dogs that don’t prefer Pedigree Chum and worry about what they are going to eat. It is testament to the extent of expat loneliness that this thread has been going since 2013 and is still going! I’m sure there are equally lonely (English speaking) people within 75kms of me. I have met some expats. However, expats are drawn like gravity to their home language and once in the gravity field it’s not easy to break out, even if the expats you have met are mostly interested in Strictly Come Dancing. Btw, I think a meetup is a great idea.

    Reply

  • John

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    Hi there,

    Perhaps I’m a bit late in the day to reply to this post, but I happened to just come across it on a Google search.

    I can really identify with the points raised, after living in France for the last 19 years. Originally I’m from the UK, but moved here because my partner is French. Perhaps like a few expats it was quite a struggle to switch from a Midlands city to the île de France countryside.
    Obviously the language was a barrier too – as during my schooldays I was never enthusiastic about learning French. As a result, my grade was low.

    People say that if you “make an effort” and speak French, it will go a long way. Well, from experience it does with a small number of kind French people. In the main it makes no difference. But perhaps that is because I live in the Paris region, where life is fast and stressful.
    In the main – if I have spoken to someone in the street, more often than not upon hearing my English accent, they walk away!

    So to the lonliness thing. I live in a smallish village of 1,300 inhabitants. My two children go to the local school in the centre of the village – about 5 mins walk from home. When my son started school in 2009, I made the effort to say “Bonjour” to other parents. As a result I know 2 or 3 “nice” parents. The rest totally blanked me. That is how it is to this day. In fact I spoke to one of the parents who would blank me the other day. Mainly because my French partner has been able to get along with them, whereas I haven’t. So through her I was able to have a conversation with this parent.
    I teach English and have a few students, all from neighbouring villages. This parent was interested in her 7 year old son learning English. The strange thing is that despite being ignored when I’ve said “Bonjour” in the past – they both knew I was English.
    In the main I know (or am pretty certain) that the other parents know I’m English, yet there is mainly a frosty reception at school.

    Over the years I’ve lost confidence in certain parents and so I just like to get the school run over and done with. I have English lessons after my kids goûter anyway – so have to hurry back at “home time”.

    So even though I give English lessons, which are working fairly well, I feel pretty lonely much of the time. In fact it is the contact through the lessons and the fact I’ve always looked after my kids (I was a home Dad when they were babies), that keep me going.

    I have been putting leaflets for my lessons through the doors of houses in the nearest town. But I am loathed to do that in my own village. I just see the same faces all the time and they don’t seem very friendly to me.
    Whenever I’ve spoken to my neighbour, Michel (which has only taken me 18 years of Bonjours before we actually had a conversation), he told me that our village was very “clan like”. Meaning that there are cliques. That was pretty obvious to me from the start, but it was nice to have it confirmed by a local. In fact it seems that, if you aren’t up to the high standards of people, then you get passed over.
    One of my students has told me more or less the same thing – he lives in a village about 10km away.

    So after living here for a long time I’ve finally not cracked the “code”. Over the years I have even typeset the village magazine, which I did for 7 years. Until after the last elections a new deputy mayoress took the project off me and gave it to one of her friends. This deputy lives over the street from me and on the two occasions I’ve spoken to her (on the phone, never face to face), she has been pretty nasty. I have never given her a reason to act this way.

    Perhaps there is a mentality in my village that English people or “etrangères” are not welcome?

    Who knows?

    Reply

    • Sara Riches

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      It has all gone wrong for me in Midi Pyrenees France. Hasty buy of a second property forced by my husband whom I am Divorcing which has brought me a Depression agrophobia I have no Job nor good french.
      Came here last August 2017, now desperate to return to the UK without friends no job and no home just a car and some belongings.
      I left a secure job to look after my husband who was already ill.
      Isolating and bad for my health I do not like the countryside much either.
      Your great blog says it all but I think some of the the locals view the English as Cash Cows.

      Reply

  • John

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    Hi Sara,

    Really sorry to hear about that and it is interesting to see your experiences of living in France.

    I can identify with your problems, as like you, if I didn’t have my partner then I would find it really difficult to return to the UK. The unfortunate thing is that living in France isn’t as easy as many people seem to think. Administration, finding work, healthcare and just the *way* things are done here. None of it is very logical when you are used to the British way of doing things.

    In 1997 I moved here because I met my French partner. I could only speak a few sentences in French, stuff I could remember from school. I left behind my mentally ill Mother so I had to put things in place for her. She passed away in 2014.
    So over the last 20 years things have been very eventful. Not the least worries from back home that I’ve had to sort out plus finding work over here which at the start was far from easy – and honestly not that much easier when my French started to get better.

    We are in the Paris region, which for me is unlike the rest of France in that people can be a bit on the argumentative-stressed out side. i have been to the south west of France several times, to the Dordogne and the Hérault – the latter in the montagnes noires, where my MIL is originally from.
    Admittedly the area is very isolated and I can understand your frustrationof a rural life down that way.

    I hope that you’ll find a solution to your problems and if you ever want to chat about life in France, I am a good listener and can perhaps understand the various frustrations connected with living here.

    Take care,

    John.
    John recently posted…LEARN ENGLISH IN THE ESSONNE!My Profile

    Reply

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