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This article has been written by Sandy Shroyer for Renestance as a guest blogger. You can find follow her adventures in her blog at https://www.roaminretirement.com/

If you read about the kindness of French strangers a few weeks ago, you may recall our first trip to France in 1993. We visited France several more times over the next almost-three decades, and now we have lived in Montpellier for a couple of months. What, you may wonder, has our experience been like here?

Photo by Sandy Shroyer

In a word, wonderful. Thanks to Renestance, as well as a Facebook group, Americans in Montpellier, we avoided that “I just moved here and don’t know a soul” feeling. Our Renestance consultant Lizzie welcomed us at our homecoming with gorgeous culinary gifts (We’re now addicted to Lucques green olives!). Our landlords were gracious and welcoming. The friends whom we had met for coffee during our July reconnaissance visit invited us to their home the first week.

Photo by Sandy Shroyer

Our landlords live above us, and in our second week here, Madame called, asking whether she could stop by “pour une minute.” She arrived with a beautiful cake to welcome us (this, after she had ironed sheets to loan us for our first night here). Later she invited me over for coffee, where we had a wonderful conversation in Franglish. I think we’re going to be friends!

On our first weekend here, we stopped at a popular bakery, Paul, for breakfast. As we left, the couple at the next table stopped us, having noticed we were speaking English. Jeremy and Clair are British but have lived in Montpellier for almost 30 years. They welcomed us, offered advice and assistance, and even invited us to their lovely home for a proper English tea! 

One of the “Long Duck Ladies” (a Facebook group established by Renestance founder Dennelle Taylor Nizoux), organizes a Thursday morning coffee meetup for English speakers. This has become a necessary calendar item for me, providing both friendship and a break from trying to speak French all the time. 

Photo by Sandy Shroyer

Our lovely American friends Gwen and Tom have introduced us to some of their French friends. Gwen has become the “glue” of her neighborhood, fostering friendships among longtime French neighbors who had barely met each other. Gwen’s superpower is hosting and connecting people, and we’re grateful to have these friends. 

Photo by Sandy Shroyer

Recently I fell in love (je suis tombée amoureuse) with a painting at the Sunday brocante, or flea market, at the Promenade du Peyrou. As we left and walked toward a café, I stepped off a curb and my shoes slid out from under me (je suis tombée), twisting my knees and hips into pretzels (Warning: be careful about slick stone walkways!). As I lay on the ground to catch my breath, a well-dressed French woman stopped to help. She explained (I think) that she had a medical background, and proceeded to teach my husband the correct way to help someone up. After they got me on my feet and over to a bench, she shared that she, too, had fallen in this same slick spot (“C’est comme de la glace!”). She spoke no English, but over the next 20 minutes we chatted in French, with me understanding about every fourth word. She was gracious, reassuring, and warm. We didn’t exchange names or contact information, but for that 20 minutes she was a lovely, caring friend. 

So yes, our experience since we moved to France has confirmed what we first learned in 1993. People in France, and especially in Montpellier, are generous, charming, and kind!

Sandra Shroyer

In early 2022, Sandy Shroyer retired from her professional career. Her jobs have included cooking for hired ranch hands, serving as a community mental health center staff psychologist, performing various leadership roles in healthcare firms, managing a lot of highly successful sales executives, and selling technology and services to health systems and health plans. The best part of her career was people—those who became lifelong friends, those who irritated her into learning important lessons, and those who taught her things through their kindness and genius. Her superpower is connecting people, whether it’s professional networking, introducing friends who become friends with each other, or just figuring out who might like to know someone she knows. She tried never to miss an opportunity to have fun at work. Sandy and her husband traveled full-time in the United States during the pandemic, and they are spending their retirement in Montpellier, France.

All articles by: Sandra Shroyer

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