It is possible to continue hobbies or interests which do not seem to fit the French agenda by setting up an association yourself, and you may be surprised by an enthusiastic response.
Helen Trehoret loved playing hockey when she lived in the UK, but thought that would end when she moved to Brittany with her French husband, as hockey is not played in schools and is not a common sport.
However in 2016 she set up Hockey Club Pagan at Guissény in rural Finistère and has been delighted by its success: “We now have fourteen members, including seven adults and only two of us have ever played before. Two of us are English and the others are French. There are no outdoor pitches, so we play indoor hockey with teams of 6 in the local sports centre, which is very well equipped.”
She says it was not difficult to set up: “I was amazed how open everyone was and is to the idea, including the Mairie which allows us to use the sports facilities at no cost which is amazing and has really helped. The association has been quite successful in bringing this relatively unknown sport to the area.”
There are training sessions every Monday evening and an annual beach hockey tournament, because she realised that though there are no playing fields, there are wonderful, flat, sandy expanses of beach. There are also two children’s groups, which started in September. One is for the over 6’s and the other session is called baby hockey: “I put on lots of hockey workshops last year to show children what it was all about and it became very popular. We have started doing them in English too – the kids seem to love it.”
Though most people in France associate hockey with ice hockey, there is a growing interest in Field Hockey and Hockey en Salle, indoor hockey, which have their own Federation, Fédération Française de Hockey. It was set up in 1920, there are 185 clubs with 35,000 players and there is a national men’s women’s and young players’ team. The Federation is keen to expand and open new clubs.
Mrs Trehoret moved to France seven years ago and first lived in Quimper, Finistère, where she was delighted to find a team, which she joined. She says it is a sport which is growing in popularity: “There are now three teams in Brittany which means we have other clubs to play against. Children who find they don’t fit into football often enjoy hockey. The most important element is that it is all about fun and doing something different.”
She says she would encourage anyone to set up an association, as she has done: “You may think that people are closed in but not at all. Mairies are always interested in anything to encourage people to be active and there is a lot of support. It really helped me to settle in and working with the kids has been a great way to improve my French.”
She would also welcome new members to her club and is particularly keen to get women involved as there are more men at present. Details at www.facebook.com/hockeyclubpagan/ or email at email@example.com
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France