How to deal with small French village mentality

What can be done when that warm welcome from the locals begins to turn frosty?

Narrow street in a small French village with flowers
Village life can sometimes be tricky
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Those of us of a certain vintage may recall the entertaining 1972 TV series Clochemerle. Inspired by true events, it centred on personal rivalries and local politics in the fictional village of Clochemerle. 

To all intents and purposes, Clochemerle was just another pretty French village, but beneath the surface there lay a cauldron brimming with resentment.

What happens if, having moved to a village with expectations of living in harmony with your neighbours and embracing village life, the rot suddenly starts to set in? 

A friend moved to a picturesque, isolated French village. At first, she thought that she had hit the jackpot. 

She was enjoying the beauty of the countryside, lapping up the social invitations and doing her utmost to become involved in local activities, with great passion. 

Then, from nowhere, her partner received a series of “anonymous” poison pen letters, detailing her alleged failings. 

Taking appropriate action 

What steps can you take if you find yourself in the same painful situation and how does this local change in attitude manifest itself? 

As upsetting as such “small village mentality” may be, it is important to try and put it into perspective. You may find yourself no longer being invited to village events, and gossip may fly to your ears.

People who you thought were your friends drop you like a hot potato. The first thing to remember is – do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

Even though you may feel wounded to your core, if you go in guns blazing, you will probably only make the situation worse for yourself. 

It will not be everybody in your village who “has it in for you”. 

It probably boils down to a few jealous, insecure types who are resistant to change, or who see you as competition – which in a perverse way, is a compliment! 

Focus on the positives 

Concentrate on the friends you have made locally. By all means, avoid the toxic few and the perpetrators, but do not set out to “recruit” other people to turn them against the petty ones, as you will be lowering yourself to the same base level as the trouble-makers. 

When we are upset, often the offending parties get a kick out of getting a reaction from us. 

If we give in – they have won, but if we ignore them, then we are the winners. There is enormous power in silence. 

I do believe in taking a problem to the source, but in a small community, this may just inflame the situation. Remind yourself of why you chose to move to this village. All those reasons are still valid – do notcut and run – you have done nothing wrong!

Read more: Five tips for dating and finding love in France

Widen your circle 

Now is the time to widen your circle. Make friends with your local mairie. Be prepared to travel to a neighbouring town to socialise and to take up new interests. 

When you do make new friends, do not start moaning to them about the awful village people. 

When somebody is so obviously horrible about you, it speaks volumes about them, and says absolutely nothing about you. 

Those who live a full, contented life are way too busy to behave like children and be spiteful about others. Be grateful that you are not one of that sad lot! 

Do keep attending village activities, hold your head up high, smile and say, “bonjour!” Being happy and going about your business as normal is the best form of revenge. 

The power of the pen

I am a great believer in writing things down, especially when the inside of my head resembles the M25 during the rush hour. 

Get a pen and paper and write down exactly how you feel about the way you have been scapegoated. 

Be as honest as you can and also try to identify and list any past emotions which have been re-triggered, which is very common in a bullying situation. 

You may even wish to write a letter to the perpetrators of the nastiness, to vent your spleen, but whatever you do – do not send it. Burn it or tear it up. Write it all down – your disappointment and your disillusionment. 

Sit with those painful feelings, rather than try to suppress them. Furthermore, you could write down everything you like about yourself – and if you have a partner or good friend, run it past them too. 

Seeking emotional support and validation from safe people can help to heal the most bitter of wounds. 

Tips for dealing with small village mentality

  • Do not buy into the drama – conserve your energy for better things

  • If you metaphorically wrestle in the mud, you will get dirty

  • It will blow over – if you do not fan the flames of discord

  • Take back your power, by being happy

  • Rise above any silliness

  • If you find yourself in physical danger, do go to the police.

Have you found yourself experiencing local hostility after moving to a French village or town? If so, please do email Cynthia at