Over the years, French expats have moved to the U.K. en masse.
There are an estimated 300,000 French citizens residing in the UK, 200,000 of whom live in London. There are also about 3,000 French businesses in Great Britain, employing a whopping 40,000 people.
Yet it can take awhile for the French to adapt to life in their neighbouring, but quite different, nation. We asked French expats for their tips on how to survive and thrive in the UK.
Below are some of their tips:
Food for thought
While two hour lunch breaks may be a norm in France, they probably won’t occur in the UK.
French people spend an average of two hours and twenty minutes eating everyday, whereas in the UK people spend 23 minutes for all three meals, according to the French National Statistic Agency.
Don’t be surprised if, when telling your boss that you will be back from lunch in a half hour, she proclaims “OK fantastic!”
No, your newfound speedy eating habits are not a stellar accomplishment in her eyes. Rather Brits are accustomed to saying “Great!” or “Fantastic!” as a means of confirmation.
However, the seemingly positive phrase “That’s interesting” can be a subtle way of saying, “I’m not fully convinced” in Brit-speak.
Finding a flat
Especially in a city like London, finding a decently priced room can feel a bit like trying to locate the Loch Ness Monster.
But not all hope is lost. Gumtree is a comprehensive -- and free -- starting point. Yet, although they require a subscription, Easy Roomate and SpareRoom can yield quicker results, expats tell us.
And looking to buy or rent your own place? Try Rightmove.co.uk.
Meeting for drinks versus at home
Not surprisingly, a common social gathering spot for Brits is in a pub or bar.
But once a Brit invites you to their home for dinner or drinks you know you have crossed the threshold of acquaintance and into “genuine friend”.
“The home is a very private space where not everyone is invited,”
says Wonda, a French expat who has lived in London for five years.
Are you pronouncing or using an English word incorrectly?
Even in the U.K., several expat years may drift by before you realise it. In order to be polite, Brits usually won’t tell their French friends and acquaintances if they have made a mistake. But conversely, ask them for input and they will most likely be happy to comply.
Caring less but having fun
The Brits have taken note of the old saying, “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”
Yes, they may be a bit noisier in public, and not always, well, the classiest people in the world by French standards. But...
“By being less focused on their appearances, they are more focused on enjoying themselves and having fun,”
says Sabine, a French expat who has lived in Glasgow for two years.
How are you? I’m fine.
Like their American counterparts, Brits often ask “How are you” as a greeting rather than an actual question, and are used to a standard response of “I’m fine.”
“When my English neighbour asks me how I am, he doesn't listen to the answer, but when my Austrian neighbour asks, I can be honest with him and so is he with me,”
says Sophie, a French expat who has lived in London for 19 years.
Opening a bank account
While it used to be a tedious process to open a bank account in the UK, nowadays you just need to present a proof of identity and proof of address. Several banks allow you to open an account before you even arrive in the U.K.
Check out this guide on how to open a bank account in the UK for more.