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I’ve just moved to Paris and I’m having a hard time settling in and making friends. It’s not as easy as I thought:I can’t speak French, I’m feeling homesick and have become very negative about France and the French in general. How can I get my bearings and feel more at home?

Answered by: Emma Bird, moving abroad expert

From the brief description you give of your situation, you are showing all classic signs of culture shock. But don’t worry, this is normal and most expats go through culture shock to some extent. There are several steps you can take to turn around the situation.

Firstly, try writing a diary and vent your feelings on paper. It may not change your plight, but writing is cathartic and it will help you feel better.

Secondly, make sure you keep fit and active. When you’re in a new place and don’t know many people, it’s easy to think curling up on your bed with a book and some chocolate is the answer. It’s not. Instead, go for a brisk walk or a jog, join a gym or go swimming and set a routine. Getting regular exercise is good for you and you’ll be in a better frame of mind to tackle everything else.

Thirdly, don’t make the mistake of thinking you should only mix with the locals. Having a circle of upbeat expat friends means you can talk to people who understand what having the courage to up sticks and move abroad actually involves and they will also be full of helpful hints and tips.

Fourthly, don’t beat yourself up over not speaking French fluently. If you take classes or study at home and you make the effort to speak in spite of making mistakes you will get there.

Finally, start exploring the local neighbourhood and adopt a bar or café near to your home as your own. Go in every day for a café au lait or a glass or vin rouge and it will soon become an extension of your own familiar territory.

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