When I first arrived on the Cote d’Azur in 2016, I went through a really difficult year of integrating - even though my French had improved and I was now conversational, I still didn’t seem to be meeting new people, and those that I did meet promptly left the region several months later. I gave myself a couple of months to do everything I could to find my place here and if nothing worked, I was going to pack my bags and head back home to Singapore with my tail between my legs.
This was when the group, English-Speakers on the French Riviera was born. 7 years later, I’m so proud to tell you that not only has the group grown to over 10,000 people, but it has grown into a community that helps each other out, many friendships and even businesses have been formed from it, and I can really say that I’ve found my family in France.
All that to say that I know how difficult it is to find your footing when you’re living here - the area is notoriously transient, people come and go all the time, and because it’s such a touristy region, the local community may appear wary to foreigners in particular. I can't express enough how important it is to find a community that speaks most to you when you're looking to call a place home.
I’d like to share my tips below on how (and where) you can find and form your own communities too so that you finally feel at home on the French Riviera!
Find a Facebook group that tickles your fancy
There is a huge community of Facebook groups specifically designed for the French Riviera around that you can join to meet people living here. Here are some of the more active Facebook groups worth exploring:
English-Speakers on the Riviera: Of course, this group has to make the top list, it’s mine! I’ve worked very hard to ensure that the group culture is friendly and helpful to any questions you may have about living in the region from asking about administrative processes to finding recommendations for any services in English.
Côte d'Azur Living, Relocation, Connections, Integration, France: A similar group for English-Speaking foreigners, it brings together expatriates from various countries who are living or planning to live on the Riviera. It offers a platform to share experiences, ask questions, and organise meetups.
Meet People on the French Riviera: Josh and Robin Kennedy head up this very active group who meets up every week in different cities across the Cote d’Azur, giving you the perfect opportunity to explore and meet different people across the region. If you join as a member, you’ll get heavy discounts on the events they organise. We have a special collaboration with them so if you sign up here, use the code RIVIERAENGLISHSPEAKERS you’ll get a 20% off their subscription!
French Riviera Hiking/Hiking French Riviera: If you enjoy outdoor activities, there are plenty of very nice hiking circuits in the Alpes Maritimes with stunning sea and mountain viewpoints. This group is perfect for meeting like-minded individuals who share your passion for adventure. You’ll often find individuals proposing hikes or you can suggest one as well, or ask advice about where to go or what routes are like if you’re unfamiliar with it.
Mountain Gang: A fun-loving group with a younger crowd that plans adventurous trips around the region every weekend to the mountains around the Riviera. The organiser plans it for free and provides you with details on how to meet up with them.
Riviera Mums and Dads: Join this group to connect with other mums and dads on the French Riviera. Share experiences, discuss parenting challenges, organise family- friendly outings, and seek recommendations for child-friendly activities or advice about schools in the region. It’s a great platform to meet fellow parents and build a supportive community.
Women on the French Riviera: For women who love empowering other women, this group offers a platform for women to connect, share their experiences, discuss personal growth, and support one another in their professional and personal endeavours.
Riviera Entrepreneurs: If you’re an entrepreneur or aspiring business professional, this group provides a platform to connect with like-minded individuals, exchange ideas, seek advice, and collaborate on potential business ventures. Attend networking events and gain insights from seasoned entrepreneurs in the region.
Finding Social Events
The French Riviera is home to numerous social events, including parties, galas, and cultural gatherings. Keep an eye out for local event listings and attend as many as possible. Whether it’s a yacht party, a charity gala or a music festival, these events provide excellent opportunities to meet new people and expand your social circle. Engage in conversations, be genuinely interested in others, and exchange contact information to nurture new connections.
Websites and Apps
The City Hall, or mairie, of your city, will have the list of upcoming events and it’s a great chance to catch local festivals or find traditional artisans that you may not hear about elsewhere. For example, the city hall of Nice has plenty of suggestions for cultural events and where to go to “Discover Nice”.
On Va Sortir is another website specifically designed to promote and facilitate friendly meetups organized by its members. This platform offers a wide range of activities on a daily basis, including cinema outings, bar gatherings, sports events, and more. Since the activities are proposed by fellow members, there is a diverse selection to choose from.
While there is a subscription fee to participate, it is well worth it if you are interested in meeting new people, exploring new places, and trying out new experiences. It's important to note that On Va Sortir caters more towards slightly older individuals, providing a platform where they can connect with like-minded people and engage in social activities tailored to their preferences.
In addition to social media platforms, there are various websites like meetup.com where you can find events on the French Riviera organised by professionals or individuals. You can also easily host and charge (or not) for an event on the site if you’d like!
Frimake is a French app that has been making its rounds on the French social scene, allowing individuals to create events or simply create an outing with like-minded people in the area.
Join Sports Clubs
France has a myriad of sports clubs that cater to organising outings and even training with highly discounted rates - you name it, skiing, climbing, sailing, cycling, etc. Not sure what to try out? We made a list recently about Sports for Adrenaline Junkies, check it out to get some inspiration!
Joining a sports club on the French Riviera is a great way to meet new people and immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture. By becoming a member of a sports club, one can not only challenge their physical limits but also connect with like-minded individuals (many who are French) who share a passion for active experiences. From forming lifelong friendships to discovering hidden gems along the coast, joining a sports club on the French Riviera promises a journey filled with unforgettable memories.
Giving back to the community not only helps you make a positive impact but also provides opportunities to meet new people who have similar values to engage in shared activities and causes. Consider volunteering for local charities and associations to donate your time and join a community that cares about the same issues as you do. Here are some associations who operate in English that you can donate your time or resources to:
Mimosa Matters: This organisation is dedicated to education, prevention and building awareness through raising funds for local cancer associations and individuals. There are so many ways to volunteer from attending events to helping to organise fundraisers, such as cake sales, chocolate tastings, yoga mornings and bike rides.
Sunnybank Association: A group of volunteers, eager to improve the quality of life for the English-speaking elderly in the Riviera by providing support through daily visits to local residential care homes, weekly visits to a nearby independent living facility, fundraising activities and the offer of a social setting for lunch and drinks.
French Riviera Animals Association: This organisation works with local refuges in the area, regularly fundraising to provide food, bedding and financial help, as well as organising a cat and dog adoption scheme.
Tous Bénévoles is a renowned association in France that focuses on promoting civic engagement and is recognized as a leading voluntary service organization. The primary goal of Tous Bénévoles is to foster community involvement by bringing individuals together to volunteer and contribute to society.
Engaging with Tous Bénévoles allows you to experience the rewards of lending a helping hand while also diversifying your experiences and expanding your social circle. It offers a wide range of ways to get involved, ensuring that there are options to suit your interests and availability.
Learn the Language while Exploring
If you’re trying to learn French but are simply not used to sitting down in a classroom type setting with homework, you could learn the language while exploring the region and deeply immersing yourself in French culture.
Patricia Pedditzi of French Riviera ExPAT Services often organises a fun activity like perfume-making, food tours, or wine-tasting events where you can learn about French culture while learning the language.
Sylvie Galli of French Express also organises “staycations” at her property in Caille where you’ll spend the weekend conversing with her as she takes you on hikes around the area and cooks you fabulous French dishes while she teaches you French!
If all else fails….
Put a post out on any of the Facebook groups we mentioned to introduce yourself and who you would like to meet, you’ll be surprised how many people are often open to meet a new friend!
Did we miss something out? Let us know how you've found your community in the comments below that others could also benefit from!
This article has been a combined effort of Tricia Teo, founder of Riviera English-Speakers and our favourite summer intern, Claire Thomson.