Thanksgiving is a special holiday, a time most Americans associate with being with family and eating a wonderfully copious meal. It’s no surprise then that this time of year can be one of the most common for homesickness as an expat living in France. But there are groups that help Americans adjust to life here while meeting French people interested in the U.S., some of whom have lived there before.
One such organization is France États-Unis Grenoble (FEU), part of the national France États-Unis network, created by the U.S. Embassy and the French Foreign Ministry in 1945 to contribute to mutual understanding.
In November, FEU Grenoble hosts a fantastic meal at the Loft Restaurant near the Grenoble Europole business district, complete with turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. It always quite a success, with dozens there to enjoy the meal and the company. Besides the annual Thanksgiving dinner, what does FEU Grenoble do, exactly?
The association’s board organizes several networking events monthly. Highlights include celebrations for Thanksgiving, Independence Day (July 4th) and Presidents’ Day. Other events include monthly “hotspots” apéritifs the first Wednesday of every month at Café de la Table Ronde, one of the oldest cafés in France (1739), as well as Alpine snowshoe walks and visits around Grenoble, like to the Château de Vizille.
Mr. Pat Brans, a New Orleans native on the board of FEU Grenoble, first got involved with the organization in Toulouse in the fall of 1986 after arriving for a new engineering job (with no French in his background). He had come to work with a French company that wanted him to “to help them set up operations in the Washington D.C. area.”
Pat said that meetings were informal and full of young people consisting of “French students studying English” as well as “American exchange students….and some young engineers” like himself. Some members would have dinner together, and this is how he met his former French wife. They lived in the U.S. for awhile, but they all live in Grenoble now with “two Franco-American children.”
He has now been part of FEU Grenoble for four years and compliments the city’s “great (and free) international school system” that enables students to immerse themselves in foreign languages. He also likes the balance Grenoble offers as “a relatively small town” with “an international flavor” (with several multinational companies and scientific research centers here). Pat is a technology consultant and author with a soon to be published book about time management.
He is just one of many American expats living in Grenoble, a surprisingly international city for its size. There are a total of 35,000 expats (not all native English speakers) living there (out of a metro population of less than 500,000). It’s definitely an interesting place to be and France États-Unis Grenoble is one of the best organizations for bringing people of these different cultures together. You can learn more on their website.