5 places to meet other expats that aren’t bars

by Fiona McMurrey
Courtesy of Homelike

It’s time and true advice that in order to meet more expats, especially American expats in Paris, one of the best places to meet them is at events hosted at American, British, Scottish, or Irish pubs on account of the anglophone atmosphere and the social lubricant of alcohol that takes the edge off of introducing yourself to strangers. However, bars are not for everyone for a variety of reasons, not least of all that they can be ostracizing for women who face a higher risk of harassment, or for folks who either choose not to drink, are recovering from previous addictions, or simply aren’t comfortable in that particular ambience. As such, I’ve aggregated a few suggestions for meeting fellow Americans, accumulated from my 5 years of experience as an American expat.

1. French Learning Programs

Full disclosure, I have never taken a French learning program in France as I learned French before moving to the country and conducted my undergrad and graduate degrees in France so all evidence pointing to the social success of these programs is purely testimonial and from my friends. French learning programs such as L’Alliance Française are perfect for meeting fellow expats as many Americans move to France for a plethora of circumstances that might not lead to an immediate grasp of French or be predicated on a love of or fluency in the language. Language programs also offer the unique opportunity to converse and practice your French without pressure and potentially with a compatriot.

2. Popular Coffee Shops

Courtesy of Ideat

Not to sound excessively hipster or bobo as we say in France, but sometimes the best place to meet American expats by happenstance is at the coolest coffee shops for those in the know. Back in Black, KB Roasters, the Dancing Goat, Partisan, any location of Noir coffee (a surprise favorite of Rick Owens!) should do the trick and if not, at least you can enjoy a phenomenal cup of coffee.

3. Get Active!

Courtesy of the Mairie de Paris

If you enjoy practicing a particular sport, chances are you will definitely end up running into some fellow expats! As an avid swimmer, I usually meet many other Americans at the various pools I frequent around Paris. As the athletic spirit amplifies in time for the Summer Olympics, sports centers will become an increasingly common place to meet expats training in the delusion that they too could compete at the Olympic level (I count myself among that hopeless cohort!).

4. Expat Events in Public Parks

Even if, at least for acerbic introverts like me, events such as these can seem rather, for lack of a better word, hokey, if your homesickness feels overwhelming, attending an organized hang-out with fellow expats can help alleviate the pain of missing your loved ones. These events are generally accessible through Facebook groups, Instagram, and other forms of social media, and, in my experience, are quite welcoming, making them a great low-stakes events en plein air that are sufficiently relaxed and devoid of the social pressures and restrictions that accompany meeting at bars. Moreover, if you have any life-threatening allergies or dietary restrictions you can bring your own food and not have to worry about potential contaminants or be on constant active surveillance.

5. Libraries!

Despite their mandates of silence, libraries are a great place to meet other American expats, particularly at the American Library of Paris which not only hosts an exemplary archive of books but also hosts a variety of events that are open to the public that encourage mingling among fellow literary-minded people.

Being an expat in Paris can be isolating at the worst yet extremely fulfilling at its best! The worst thing you can do is be too hard on yourself for not having indentured yourself in any expat communities when you are still trying to find your way in the city. That being said, in my experience, expat communities are very welcoming to newcomers so go at your own pace and figure out what works best for you but remember that you are not alone on this thrilling experience of being an expat!