Anyone else find france is crap when you've got a baby??!!

(122 Posts)
Nancy54 Tue 08-Jan-13 10:47:58

I've lived in france (lorraine) for the past 8 years and have enjoyed living here despite missing family from home.

I've got three month old bg twins who are absolutely wonderful! However, i am finding that there's really limited things to do with babies here and it's quite isolating. When my sister had her baby in the uk a couple of years ago, she went to loads of mum-baby groups, sing alongs etc and so got to meet lots of new mums who then became friends.

It seems that french people don't do this!! new mums seem to stay at home alone or with family for their 10 weeks of maternity leave, then they go back to work full time.

I have finally found a baby massage class which i'm going to this week so hopefully may be able to meet a couple of mums but this is the only activity i've found in the whole city!!

there's baby swimming too but you have to enroll in september to get a place....

Has anyone else has a similar experience in france? Am imagining there's lots more stuff in paris and the bigger cities.

I do think it's cultural too though, ime french people (or those in lorraine) don't go out of their way to meet new people, etc whereas in england we seem to use it as an opportunity to make new friends and share the difficult baby period with others going through the same! i know i'm genralising....

PetiteRaleuse Tue 08-Jan-13 15:59:00

Maybe by then you'll love it and stay so she'll reap the benefits of the Wednesday and weekend activities.

dikkertjedap Tue 08-Jan-13 16:19:10

ng Hi, I am not in France, but I would strongly recommend 'Rosetta Stone' if you are keen to learn French (or any other language for that matter). It is really excellent.

Nancy54 Tue 08-Jan-13 17:37:35

Haha well thank god it's not just me then!! What a shame we don't all live in the same town then we could make our own group!

I do speak the language fluently and we've got lots of friends that we see for aperos etc (well not since the twins were born!) but I would just love to have some mum friends but no one is to be seen!!

This will make you laugh: a couple of weeks before giving birth I went to a 'jumeaux et plus' information meeting for parents to be. I was hoping to meet some other twin mums there. So basically they just talked at us for about two hours and then at the end I got up in front of everyone and said 'would anyone like to swap emails or phone numbers so that we could meet up once our twins are born'? Guess how many people wanted to? Yes, you've guessed it, none! Just a big fat silence. La honte!

PetiteRaleuse Tue 08-Jan-13 17:42:17

Oh no that is awful Nancy

I found the silence in the ob gyn waiting room deafening. A whole group of pregnant women sat together (he does pregnancy appointments in the morning and others in the afternoon and evening) and there was just silence and no eye contact. After appointment number three I stopped saying bonjour.

That was in Luxembourg

Bonsoir Tue 08-Jan-13 18:09:30

In Paris there is a group called Message that is quite big and does all the stuff that Anglo-Saxon mothers expect.

It's difficult now because it's winter, but even French people can get friendly in your local park or swimming pool when you both have babies!

Nancy54 Tue 08-Jan-13 19:24:16

Yeah shame I don't live in Paris!

Yeah I know french people can be friendly, but I'm not sure they're bothered about making new friends when they have a baby like we tend to do in the uk.

Claire - I didn't know you lived in Italy! Whereabouts?

ClairesTravellingCircus Tue 08-Jan-13 21:25:35

Hi Nancy I'm in Trieste, right on the border with Slovenia.

(whispers: In fact I am Italian, but lived in the UK for 10 years and had my first two dcs there, I often feel like an alien here confused)

Weta Tue 08-Jan-13 21:37:06

Nancy that sounds horrible, how embarrassing! I did find in France that people look at you a bit strangely if you try to strike up conversation (I speak the language very fluently) - in fact I have a theory that they kind of need to see you in the background some number of times (10 or 20 I reckokn!) before they will consider it normal to actually speak to you. That said, I did eventually make some very good French friends through my son's friends at maternelle.

PetiteRaleuse I can imagine the drive to Lux is pretty unpleasant although probably not too bad if you were going to mum and baby type groups at odd times of day rather than having to go in the rush hour? I know where you're coming from about the expat scene, although I think expat friends are still a step up from no friends at all smile

In my first stint in France (in Strasbourg in my 20s) I was desperate to meet French people and pretty much shunned expats, but the second time round in Montpellier I wasn't so fussed and just figured that friends were friends, regardless of where they came from...

PetiteRaleuse Tue 08-Jan-13 22:43:45

Weta I didn't mean it to soumd like I am actively avoiding expat groups except the people i have pissed off professionally and as you know Luxembourg is small it's more that I avoid driving to the city, thereby not getting involved with the expat community iyswim.

Due to DD1 childcare routine and still getting my head round having a newborn trips right into town are also tough to organise.

PetiteRaleuse Tue 08-Jan-13 22:46:58

Nancy I told my French DH of your experience this evening. He guessed that one person in the group would have answered on the logic that someone would probably be new to the area. He wasn't surprised by none though.

PetiteRaleuse Tue 08-Jan-13 22:49:29

I lived in Paris for ten years and although there is the sense of isolation I always feel in cities there truly is something for everyone, and meeting people is easy if you want to. Out in the sticks it's harder.

Weta Wed 09-Jan-13 06:50:49

That all sounds very understandable PetiteRaleuse, everything is much harder with a newborn and an older child... I guess on the upside your older one will be in school before too long, and then there are many more things to be involved in. As you say, the more rural you are the harder it is - we had 6 months living next to my in-laws in a hamlet in Provence and I was soooooo happy to move to a city after that!

PetiteRaleuse Wed 09-Jan-13 07:07:54

I can imagine !

VariousBartimaeus Wed 09-Jan-13 08:10:46

From my experience of living in France (8 years now shock) the French can be friendly but it's hard to make friends IYSWIM.

At first I avoided the expat scene just because I'm not an expat and I intend on staying here forever. Once I had DS though I did join Message (not an expat community really - there are lots of "lifers") to meet people (am not doing very well on that front to be honest though as I work FT and DS doesn't sleep through yet so I'm totally knackered and never have enough time for everything).

I've made French friends through work but it took months, if not years, to move from being friendly/having lunch/going for a drink after work to actually meeting up with them at the weekend with or without partners.

And as I'm in Paris, lots of people I work with are Parisiens so their entire family/friend structure is here and they just don't have time for more friends. Plus living in a city you can easily live nearly an hour away from your friends so it's not simple meeting up.

I have a friend who I used to work with (she left the company). We now see each other twice a year-ish (though we email more often) because she works FT, has two young children, 3 sisters, her mum, her dad, her friends and all her DH's family/friends who live in Paris so finding a free weekend to meet up is not easy! The most we saw each other was when our maternity leave coincided, although as we live a good 50 minutes apart on public transport it was not straightforward.

Have you tried Meetup to see if there's any English-speaking mums in your area? You could always set up a group and see if anyone else joins...

Bonsoir Wed 09-Jan-13 08:13:54

I've made French friends through work but it took months, if not years, to move from being friendly/having lunch/going for a drink after work to actually meeting up with them at the weekend with or without partners.

I agree that it takes a very long time with many French people to work through the stages of intimacy such that you can ring on their doorbell on a Saturday and pop in for a coffee when you are in the neighbourhood/call them at 4pm for a picnic in the park at 6pm/suggest a last-minute cinema on a Sunday night.

Nancy54 Wed 09-Jan-13 08:24:10

YeAh weta I think you're totally right about the ten or twenty times thing, I have now after 8 years got some good friends here but not all have children and if they do they work full time so I can't see them during the week. Hence the need to make some new mum friends but in afraid it's not going to happen. Having babies here is making me want to move home. I'm having to rely on my mil for help a couple of days a week, othrwise ill go mad as the twins arent the easiest and while she means well she is rather annoying!
Raleuse - my dp also wasn't surprised, he just said "we'll, that's the french for you!" (And he's french!)

Claire - I've been to Trieste a couple of times! I did my Erasmus year in Ferrara! In fact that's where I met my dp!

Having small children in a country that is not your own can always be difficult.
I had my 2 in the Uk (I am Italian), and mother and baby groups bored the hell out of me.
We also lived in a small town, so there wasn't much to do/ see either. Things improved drastically when a friend had her baby too and we started spending time together, it was lovely.

PetiteRaleuse Wed 09-Jan-13 08:29:47

Being a SAHM here is also more rare. Surprisingly for a country where there is still so much sexism women go back to work quite quickly.

Nancy54 Wed 09-Jan-13 08:49:36

Yeah most don't even seem to consider staying off longer than the three months conge mat.
I think over here when you have a baby it's more about making the baby fit in with your life rather than changing your life for the baby.

VariousBartimaeus Wed 09-Jan-13 08:57:45

I went back to work when DS was 6 months and it's true, everyone looked at me as though I'd said I'd be off 10 years hmm

My parents look after DS for me and they say the parks are full of nannies, rarely any mums.

Having said that, my mum recently met a poor woman who didn't leave her flat for the first 3 months because her Dr told her not to! shock I got the occasional remark when out and about with newborn DS but I just assumed it was weird old ladies making comments as opposed to medical advice confused

Nancy54 Wed 09-Jan-13 09:11:24

Yes people are always surprised that I'm out and about with the twins. Before I gave birth my mil told me not to take them out of the house for the first 6 months!!!

Nancy54 Wed 09-Jan-13 09:11:45

(But she is a bit odd)

PetiteRaleuse Wed 09-Jan-13 10:28:24

There's an absolute fear of babies catching something among the older generation. I know that the fact I have pets that I allow near the children is frowned upon.

Also the fact I don't cover everything in eau de javel.

VariousBartimaeus Wed 09-Jan-13 11:14:14

grin
And yet they send their babies to creches where they get every illness going!

I was told that DS would get really ill at primary school as he isn't in a creche so hasn't built up immunity hmm probably true but am sticking my head in the sand

PetiteRaleuse Wed 09-Jan-13 11:50:37

When I sent DD1 to creche part time everyone said it was good as she would get everything now instead of later on at school. She started in September and they were right. She has just spent a week in hospital with double pneumonia and bronchiolitis, and passed the bronchiolitis on to her new born sister. Got to love creche grin

Thanks, I'd rather she caught everything when she's a bit older.

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