Updated: Jul 11, 2019
One of the worries of moving to France is how well will we make friends and integrate. How will we be able to continue our hobbies and activities that we enjoyed back in the UK? Where will we find likeminded people? Knowing that there are a few dates scribbled on the calendar each week will help us to settle in and live the fulfilled life we dreamt of, whilst enhancing our circle of friends and maybe even honing some new skills.
Social media can be an enormous help in sourcing clubs and local events. Facebook is a tool that should not be overlooked or dismissed – many English groups advertise their activities on dedicated Facebook pages, enabling the English speaking community to get together and socialise.
In the Charente there is so much to do that you could probably be busy every day of the week, especially during the summer months. When I arrived, I threw myself into the local community and gradually met some lovely people who enjoyed similar activities to myself. Just in my immediate area there was a gardening club, a sewing club, an indoor bowls group, a writing group, a book club, a walking group and various workshops to teach new skills. My husband joined a group of amateur beekeepers to learn how to keep bees and enjoy some locally produced honey. He really enjoyed it and came home with some natural lip balm for me!
I joined a beginner’s patchwork class. A lovely South African lady set up a workshop in the barn adjoining her house just outside Chabanais in the Charente. This was something I had always wanted to learn to do properly so what better place than Le Grange du Patchwork at Grenord? The French villages and countryside can offer inspiration to artists and photographers with the wonderful colour and light of the stunning scenery. There are many artists’ retreats in the area and you will sometimes see a keen artist sat in a field with his easel, capturing the smiling faces of the sunflowers or the radiance of the poppy fields.
I was fortunate to attend an author’s lunch which was held by the organisers of the Charroux Literary Festival. For a writer like myself, this was an extremely interesting day out, made even better by the wonderful lunch and wine!
If general knowledge is your thing, then there are a number of quizzes arranged by various organisations, usually held at one of the local cafes or restaurants. For a small fee, you can become part of a team and enjoy a good meal, whilst putting your grey matter to good use. If you go as a couple, you will normally be teamed up with another couple and this is a great way to make friends.
There are many worthwhile charitable organisations that are always on the lookout for help in various forms. Animal shelters need people to help walk dogs or muck out stables. Foster families are needed for cats and dogs who are waiting to be rehomed. They organise various fundraising events that you can get involved with, even if it’s just baking a cake that they can sell at their fete. All help is greatly appreciated.
Voluntary work is a wonderful way to make new friends. I was involved in a charity called Cancer Support France. They are a national charity that offer support to the English speaking community in France, who have been touched by cancer. The branch Charente Plus, are busy raising funds to train active listeners and purchase equipment for the local hospital. The charity was originally set up in 2002 and has grown in recent years with a network of affiliated associations all over France.
So you see, there really is no need to worry as it will all be on your doorstep. You will probably find yourself needing a day off from time to time to catch up on household chores!