Just landed in Grenoble? Grenoble Life editor James Dalrymple gives his rough guide to Grenoble’s expat clubs and Anglophone businesses and services.
I have been asked by the French Entrée website to write a post with general advice for expats in Grenoble and the surrounding area, including relevant clubs and associations to join. Where to begin? Maybe you have already heard claims that Grenoble has one of the biggest Anglophone communities of any French city. I’m not sure of the real stats, and I will resist the temptation to invent some here, but suffice to say you stand a good chance of meeting other English-speakers whether you wish to or not.
It can be a bone of contention. Some people get defensive about the expat thing, saying something along the lines of, “I didn’t come to France to meet other [insert relevant English-speaking nationality here], I came to meet French people etc.” I don’t really subscribe to this view. When I lived in the UK, I always gravitated towards people who were very international in their outlook, and counted many cultures among those I called my friends. Just because I came to live in France, doesn’t mean that I should only spend time with French people just to feel good about myself. Among the expat groups and associations listed below, one may find many Anglo-French couples, so-called ‘third culture kids’, and all manner of general pan-European activity that belies the widely held view of what expat communities are.
Most new English-speaking Grenoble residents, particularly those with families, are likely to encounter Open House, the city’s long-established and possibly largest expat association. Among the activities Open House organizes are children’s parties, excursions, wine tastings, lunches, outdoor activities, book groups, coffee meetings and French-English language exchange.
The more student-orientated Happy People 38 organizes intercultural social events and language exchanges. Meanwhile, Celtic Connection promotes Irish and Scottish culture and sport in Grenoble and hosts Hallowe’en and St Patrick’s parties, a Burns’ supper, and summer picnics. Scottish expats and a host of other nationals can also be found at a weekly Knitting Bee at Café Leyritz, Place Vaucanson, every Tuesday afternoon at 2pm.
Although not Anglophone I feel duty-bound to make you aware of the lovely people at Le Club Danemark – Rhône Alpes, who are known to organise Glögg parties, Danish lessons and excursions, including cross country skiing. For more info contact: email@example.com
English Talk Radio, presented by Vivian Draper, is a bi-monthly show on 90.8 Radio Campus Grenoble. The show talks about film, theatre, finance, restaurants and travel, and has a variety of topical local guests; every Sunday at 12.30pm, and every Wednesday at 7pm on 90.8, Radio Campus Grenoble.
For those expats who want their young children to have plenty of contact with the English language, there are some associations which can help with this, including Communication Café and ABC Anglais. Alternatively, French language classes for adults can be obtained from a variety of institutions and associations outlined in depth here.
If you are looking for American or British style cakes there is The Cake Shop and Bookworm Café. The latter also hosts book and poetry groups, language classes, local artists’ exhibitions and occasional musical performances. They also buy and sell second-hand English books, and have English newspapers and magazines to peruse. Furthermore, if you meet French friends yet to be convinced of the potential merits of American cuisine, Pumpkins might be wise place to convert them.
If you can’t find the book you are looking for at Bookworm Café there are two Anglophone libraries, La Bibliotèque Anglophone de Meylan and the English Library at Babel, which also runs book groups for teenagers and adults. Many municipal libraries also have English-language selections, particularly the International Public Library.
Given the dubious French proclivity for dubbing foreign language films into la langue maternelle, you may want to exercise caution when going to the cinema. Le Club (rue du Phalanstère) and La Nef (boulevard Edouard-Rey) are two theatres with dependably interesting programmes, all in version originale. For more info on the city’s movie theatres and film festivals, check out this comprehensive guide.
For church-goers, members from about 10 different denominations and 15 nationalities are welcome to attend The English Speaking Church of Grenoble, which also has a programme of social activities including dances, crafts nights, family evenings, visits to local attractions and walks.
In terms of professional development, the most dynamic and active association is the Working Women’s Network of Grenoble, which organizes networking lunches, workshops and seminars, and is run by a very helpful and efficient body of women. For opportunities to do volunteer work there is VSArt, an association that brings cultural opportunities to disadvantaged and elderly people. The Grenoble chapter was set up and is run by American Meredith Charreyron.
Grenoble also has a number of amateur English-speaking theatre groups. Students of different ages from Cité Internationale Scolaire de Grenoble participate in an annual pantomime and Upstage, respectively. The latter puts on very high quality plays every year at Ste-Marie-d’en-Bas, a 166-seat theatre off Place Notre Dame. Likewise, students of the English department at Stendhal University put on productions on campus every year. English-speakers are also invited to join a new Grenoble English Theatre Group, run by Nathalie Joshua. Novices welcome. For more information contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, of course, I mustn’t forget to mention your very own Grenoble Life, which has articles and practical info for English speaking residents past, present and future. It also includes photo sharing, free classified ads and interviews with prominent members of the Anglophone community.
If I have forgotten any essential clubs or organizations, please use the comments box below to add to the list.