"How are the locals? Are they friendly?"
"I've heard stories about how stand-offish and unfriendly they (the French) are.”
“I've heard it takes at least 5 years to even be invited to something by your neighbours in France."
Most expats that live in France will have had that statement said to them at some point. It's been asked over and over.
Some people seem to be a bit surprised when say that, for us, the integration hasn't been horrific at all and it certainly hasn't taken us 5 years to be invited to something.
When I first moved to France my standard response was:
"I'll know I'm accepted when madame (my neighbour) comes by and gives me one of her chickens (hopefully already dead and plucked!)".
Often the standard "acceptance" gift from from a neighbour in a rural setting is something that they have reared and it's a big thing when they give it to you.
Madame, my neighbour, is in her 70's and has the fattest, healthiest chickens I have ever seen.
She has between 40 and 50 at any one time and one of the highlights of my day is listening to her call them to their coop in the evening and watching them all stop, turn and run towards her when they hear her.
It's quite comical watching a bunch of chickens run!
I’ve been hankering after one of her brood since I got here, they are the benchmark of my acceptance into the community and when I get one of them I'll know I have arrived!
We've been here 6 years, we've been invited to the mayors' son's wedding, invited “aperos” within the village and at the annual village Fete we are always met with "ahh vous etes Les Canadiennes?"
As we are the only non-French people in our village I always chuckle when I hear this and think "You totally know who I am, I wave to you every day".
We don't have a ton of village friends but we know everyone who drives by and we see our neighbour and her son every day in passing for a quick chat and listen to the latest village news.
I send bags of surplus veggies over whenever we have them and the odd jar of jam and she reciprocates in return, although that isn't my intention.
Still no ruddy chicken though, clearly I need to work it a bit harder.
Our neighbours farm is pretty quiet during the day without a soul around and often I have saved the chickens from predators.
Off I go with a stick and a shout to fend off stray dogs and of course that incident with the wild boar but no chicken has made it to my table.
Veggies and a lot of fruit but no ruddy chicken.
Since thinking about why that elusive ruddy chicken hasn't come my way, I came to the conclusion that it's pretty simple really, not rocket science.
They don't have a massive income and their place is a bit, let's just say, run down.
They have about 30 head of cattle that they rear and sell for meat and she has a weekly market stall where she sells fruit, vegetables, eggs and of course chickens.
So why would she give me what is clearly the jewel in her crown when I can pay her for one, I do after all buy eggs from her. Duh!
The huge bag of beans she sent over the other day were a massive gesture in itself and I should count my ruddy chickens that she likes me enough to offer them up.
Clearly I haven't arrived yet on the "ruddy chicken" front.
Obviously "Les Canadiennes" need to wait for a bit longer before offering up the mac-daddy of acceptances. Or maybe I should just go over with my money and ask her for one!