I received a message through Facebook asking “how a 100% American woman can become qualified to get connected with France both professionally and culturally, thrive as a naturally creative person while doing it, and become eligible to marry a Frenchman.” I thought it would be nice to respond with a blog post instead of through a private message.
Becoming Connected with France Professionally and Culturally
While still in the USA, you can find a local branch of the Alliance Francaise. Their mission is to teach foreigners French and the French culture. You can also try to find people through LinkedIn, or even Craiglist. If you make connections online, be careful about what information you provide about yourself. Always be cautious. I talked to many people through LinkedIn before moving to France to make business connections – I was a business consultant and connected with French consultants and analysts. It was fun and I made some excellent contacts.
After moving to France, becoming involved with an association or club is a good way to get to know others. Even joining a yoga or painting class can help you extend your reach. You never know who you will end up meeting, so do not be shy to strike up a conversation. I have even found it easy to meet others at the weekly marché and waiting in line at the butcher.
You do not have to have the same beliefs as the French to establish a connection. You need to respect their beliefs and make an effort to understand their points of view. When I met my husband, the fact that we had such different beliefs was entertaining. Seeing that we are both terribly stubborn, it took moving to France for me to really understand his point of view. But we have had, and continue to have, conversations that really fire us up – politics is a controversial topic for us.
Thrive as a Naturally Creative Person
Being immersed into the culture has been a fascinating learning experience. There are two ways of handling differences here, you can either be resistant and complain that “this is not how we do it in the USA,” or you can go with the flow and learn something new. If you want to be connected here, you need to go with the flow. I think if you are creative, it is easier to be flexible and adapt to different situations.
In order to thrive in France, the best advice I could give are:
1. Have a solid foundation in the language. Do not expect many people to speak English, or at least enough English to have real conversations (news, politics, culture). It has been difficult for me to not be able to talk about the news and my emotions to anyone besides my husband. The more fluent I become, the more free I feel here. When someone talks to me, I no longer stare at them like a deer in headlights.
2. Keep an open mind. Learning a new culture is not about trying to get the other person to agree with you. Americans are not always doing things right, and the French have an amazing way of life here. The more I experience life in France, the more I wish I could change the USA. Give the other person a chance to speak and be prepared to try new things. Life is an adventure, no?
3. Know when to give and take. There are some things I can compromise with and others that go beyond my nature. I go with the flow with everything I can, but must stand my ground on a few things. If you do everything the American way, you will never be assimilated in France. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. It is okay to hold your ground on some key things. It is when you hold your ground on everything that you will become an outcast.
Becoming Eligible to Marry a Frenchman
There are no rules for love, even in France. I am not sure what is meant by becoming “eligible,” because anyone can technically marry a Frenchman. It is advisable that you both can speak either good English or French. My husband was proficient in English, so that was our base language all these years. Now we switched to French so I can gain fluency. After you are married, you can apply for the spousal visa back in your home country. It is easier and faster to do it in your home country than in France.
My advice for finding love in France is to be yourself. My husband has seen the best and worst of me, and he still loves me for everything that I am – and the same for me to him. If you are going to marry someone of a different culture, then you cannot hold back part of yourself. You need to be open about everything, or else you will not make it through difficult times. Cultural differences can easily break a relationship (lots of miscommunication and wrong assumptions), so you must be able to be yourself and talk through everything.
I was lucky to have met my husband while vacationing in France. He is my other half and the love of my life. Loving the country helped me to meet my husband, but I do not love my husband because he is from here. He reminded me what it was like to laugh at a time when I was too serious, and was the first person who I can truly be myself with. So do not be so caught up with marrying a Frenchman… you never know where you will find love.