France’s fifth-largest city may be a magnet for the global jet set, but there are also established support networks for the expat community in Nice
Nice, a city of one million people on the French Riviera, is synonymous with la belle vie. Along with other glitzy Cote d’Azur cities, it is a favourite hangout for the rich, the famous and the arty, as well as retirees attracted by the sun, the laid-back life and the stunning scenery.
According to the International School of Nice, there’s a sizeable expat community too. “While there are no ‘expat enclaves’ as such,” says the director, David Johnson, “many international residents in Nice opt for Cimiez or Fabron, which are picturesque neighbourhoods easily accessible by public transport”.
The city however has a vibrant, well-established network of services, amenities and events catering to the expats, from Anglophone schools to international grocery stores, and social clubs to meetup groups.
‘For those who have just arrived here, that makes the transition from their home country much easier,’ Mr. Johnson says. Here are some of his insider tips on settling in:
1. International social clubs
The Mediterranean way of life is social and sociable. For international parents in Nice recently arrived making contacts is an unrivalled way to be informed.
‘Joining one of the many community clubs in the region is a great way to connect with people,’ says Nalinka Kalder, IB Diploma Coordinator at ISN.
Do your bit for Anglo-French relations and join the British Association of Nice, a benevolent club which provides practical and financial help for British residents and visitors that the local UK consular office cannot. Organising regular lunches, coffee mornings, French conversation groups, garden parties, outings to the movies and book clubs, it is a great place to meet people and get advice.
The International Women’s Club of the Riviera in Mouans-Sartoux north of Cannes, meanwhile, has almost 700 members from around 40 countries, and stages social, cultural and sporting activities including French and Italian conversation classes, performing arts demonstrations, cooking and handicrafts, and golf, pilates, tennis and walking.
And if you fancy heading to the hills far from the madding crowd, look no further than the Riviera Rambling Club, which leads hikes among the area’s dreamy landscapes.
2. Online communities
For those less inclined to join a members’ club, Nice has frequent meetups catering to a broad range of interest groups.
‘There’s also an array of online resources catering to expats and international parents in Nice. Check out Nice Expat Events Facebook group, for example, for language exchanges, cultural meetings, and sports activities and Nice expat services,’ says Mrs. Kalder.
3. Who you gonna call? Facebook Mamas
A great resource for expat parents is the Nice Mamas Facebook group. These ‘Mama’ groups, found in many cities all over the world, are especially geared towards expats who have children. They often find themselves the most precious treasure trove of resources.
Members are all expat-parents, and many have already vanquished the same hurdles you may be facing now. They will helpfully dispense advice on everything from childcare to navigating the famously Kafkaesque maze of French bureaucracy.
These communities are also a sure-fire way to make friends or find playmates for your little ones, as they often organise social events, play-dates or even themed-parties.
4. Business and pleasure
The lines between work and leisure can be blurred in the life of an expat, for whom networking is an essential skill. There are a number of English language, business-focused associations in Nice catering to entrepreneurs, freelancers and careerists. Need inspiration to turn that business idea into reality? Find people to share your thoughts with!
The Nice Nomads group caters to a community of around 900 freelancers, contractors, entrepreneurs, small business owners and self-employed who meet to chat about their projects, share ideas and offer feedback.
The Riviera Business Club, meanwhile, describes itself as ‘the largest international business network in the South of France’ and connects more than 1,200 people from different nationalities via networking events and workshops.
Similarly, the Professional Women’s Network in Nice is part of a global network with the aim of developing skills and competencies. Members can access local events, mentor programs and forums aimed at career progression.
5. Learn the language
Nice is a stylish and beautiful city attracting a cosmopolitan, international crowd, but it is also quintessentially French. With English understood but not widely spoken, maybe now is the time to take your secondary school French to new levels.
‘Learning the local language is a great way to immerse yourself in the city and get things done, and many international parents in Nice choose to invest time in doing so,’ says Mrs. Kalder. ‘Enrol at one of the excellent language schools such as Alliance Française and before you know it you’ll be speaking like a niçois!’
6. Get your fix of home comforts
The birthplace of the salade niçoise, tourte de blettes, Nice is a gastronomic paradise and then some. But every once in a while you’ll yearn for a taste of home.
‘A ‘go to’ international grocery store is Geoffreys of London in nearby Antibes. A ‘Riviera institution’ it stocks household brands from the US, UK, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand,’ says Eve Therrien, the Middle School Principal at ISN.
So if root beer is your tipple, Hershey’s is your preferred chocolate, Libby’s pumpkin pie filling is a family favourite, Vegemite is your spread of choice, or Tetley is your dream cuppa, there’s plenty of food for thought. And they do deliveries too!
Galleries Lafayette Gourmand, close to the airport, is popular for expats looking for luxury chocolates and cookies and coffees. There’s a deli counter with Indian samosas, and there’s Italian ravioli, sushi and bento!
7. Embrace the diversity
There is a large community of primary and secondary school students from around the world living in Nice, so new families arriving in the area will be in good company.
‘Students on the French Riviera reflect the strong international community in the city and region. For example, there are students from the UK, America, France, Russia, Scandinavia, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands at ISN,’ says David Johnson.
Currently the Director of the International School of Nice, David Johnson has worked in a variety of roles in four different international schools in Europe, ranging from classroom teacher to Advanced Placement and IB Diploma Coordinator and College Counselor. In the classroom he has taught AP, IB and IGCSE English, Information Technology and Theory of Knowledge. In addition to participating in numerous IB, ECIS, AP and CIS conferences and workshops, he has served as chairman of the ECIS Language Arts Committee and as a consultant for the Advanced Placement program, as well as organising subject area workshops both for ECIS and the College Board. In his free time, he enjoys reading, travelling, spending time with family and friends, and participating in all sorts of mountain activities, including climbing, skiing, mountain biking and hiking.Arrange a visit!