Saturday, September 10, 2011

Starting over

Last night I met up with a kiwi girl off couchsurfing who's just moved to Tours to be with her French boyfriend, who's just about to start his masters here. It's such a cliché to come across the other side of the world and hang out with only expats, especially if it's expats from your own country, but, as we talked about last night, Tours is not London, and kiwis aren't Americans or English - there just aren't that many of us around, so it suddenly becomes special when you get the chance to hang out with someone who just gets your accent and cultural references and sense of humour (whereas in London I felt more like, geez, came all the way over here to get away from you people ha ha! Not really, but there are heaps of Kiwis and Aussies running around there).

We started out at the guinguette - after a miserable start to the day, it turned hot and sunny in late afternoon, so it was great to actually get to spend some time there before it closes for the season (next week I think). What started out as a quiet drink after work ended up with us splitting a bottle of rosé and, a bar and a club later, only getting home around 4 in the morning. She's going to be a bit back and forth in and out of Tours, as she doesn't have a visa and consequently has no job and no real plans for the moment. But it was great to meet someone new that I clicked with straight away.

One of the other things we talked about - hence the title of this blog post - was making friends. It's kind of hard for me to admit it, but I am feeling lonely at the moment and quite down about feeling like I've ended up, a year in, with hardly any friends here. It's just sinking in how much time I used to spend hanging out with G. Weirdly for someone who seemed to know just about everyone in Tours, she never really seemed to 'make plans' to go out and meet up with friends, so if ever at 5 pm on a Saturday I was bored and felt like going out, she was pretty much always up for it, and we'd head in to town and usually run into people she knew. Otherwise, we were often organising drinks at our place or in town, usually with my friend Liz and maybe one or two others, so I always felt pretty busy and content to hang out with the same small group of people.

Now, as well as pulling the rug out from under me in terms of my living situation, my social life has kind of crumbled as well. Liz and I are still tight, and there's a couple of other people I can hang out with, but especially with now living alone, I really feel quite isolated. In many ways, I'm in a bit of a difficult situation. I don't have a lot of the resources other people have to call on - no French boyfriend (despite everyone's confident predictions that, having failed in New Zealand, I'd catch me a man in France), I'm not a student and I'm older than student age but not old enough to fit into that middle-aged family expat scene, not many people at work who are around my age and sociable etc. Last year I made friends with some of the assistants but - while you never know - I feel like this year I'm probably too old and too far out of the whole assistant experience to plan on doing that again. Marion the kiwi is a little bit older than me, which is great, because everyone else who seems to fetch up in Europe seems to be straight out of uni or something. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but as time marches on it does get a bit weird hanging out with 22 year olds and I imagine they would feel the same way about hanging out with me!

But I've decided that I need to make more of an effort. Perhaps I did get too cosy, relying on G for a social network, and not trying to get out there and do things and meet people. Hopefully last night was a good start and I can motivate myself to do things like go back to the Café des Langues language exchange or figure out some other ways I can meet new people (suggestions welcome!) It's hard not to feel like there's something wrong with you or you've failed somehow in this situation, but I'm trying to be optimistic and think that I can change things up this year.

On a funny note, we were at an Irish pub last night when suddenly a bunch of English guys were surrounding us. I discovered they worked for EDF and you should have seen one of their faces when I said "Oh my gosh, I know your brother!" At first I think he thought I was full of it, but I was able to convince him of it in the end (despite not being able to remember his brother's name)! I had met him in town a couple of months ago when he was visiting and he'd promised to put me in touch with his brother but he never did. Anyway, we swapped numbers and I suppose in the friendly spirit I'll get in touch again. They all had that very laddish Brits abroad immature sort of a vibe, but hey, might be fun to go have a pint and watch football with or whatever.


  1. I know how you feel, and that whole finding friends based on language thing gets a bit tiresome after awhile, too (eg - here in France, you often seem to end up hanging out with people BECAUSE they speak English, whereas you might not neccessarily want to spend that much time with them back home). Stay positive though! xx

  2. Oddly enough, I hung out with a guy last weekend who will be starting to work at EDF in Tours very soon. He's moving down from Picardie.

    And I know what you mean about feeling older than the assistants and past that time. They just seem younger and younger!

  3. I hear you on this too - when I lived in Bretagne, I often felt isolated. In the beginning, I was friends with assistants, but as they say in Dazed & Confused "I keep getting older and they stay the same age". Eventually it just no longer interested me to hear/watch people go through the adaptation cycle over and over again. Not to mention that you'd get to know someone and then 7-9 months later they'd leave and you'd have to start all over again.

    Maybe you could see if there is an accueil de villes françaises in Tours? They usually have a younger section for people under 30 who have just moved to town and don't know anyone...

  4. I hear you completely on this one.. really hits home with me this week. I'm 25 so I might be passable with assistants or students, but i've got a baby. Because I have a baby, i'm passable with the middle-aged family scene, but they are all much older than me and despite my best efforts, I realized a few nights ago that there's a gap there and I can't bridge it on my own. It also seems that once you make a great friend, something happens and either you leave, or they leave. I definitely understand your loneliness and IMO, there's no shame in spending time with other expats who get you :)

  5. Have you tried On Va Sortir? I've never used it myself but I know lots of people who have and have had good experiences. I think the age range is pretty wide and here in Paris it seems to be used mostly by French people and non-anglophone foreigners, unlike some of the expat/social networking -type sites.


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