When I moved to Rennes 3 months ago I would not think that I would have other friends besides the ones in my program, but I have settled in and not only made friends with the people in my program and at the university but also French friends along with my American friends. Having French friends, and also friends that have lived in France for most of their lives, really helps to settle in with the culture and learn how the everyday French person speaks, slang, jargon, nicknames, etc. It also helps with understanding the simplest things about the French culture that you cannot find on google.
I have also noticed a difference between the way friends get together and hangout in America and how they do it here. In America I feel as if it is more planned either days ahead or hours ahead. In France I have gotten at most an hour notice to 10 minutes notice, or just a spur of the moment planning. At the same time in France friends will hangout for hours moving from getting coffee to beers and then to dinner. In America you usually get coffee with someone when you have the chance during the day for maybe 30 minutes to an hour, and go to dinner with the friends you always get dinner with.
Where and how you meet friends is very different as well. For example I have made friends by giving someone a lighter when they needed one. That was a trick I learned from other friends: when in a different country, where smoking is a social aspect of life, always keep a lighter on you whether you smoke or not. This way people will most likely strike up a conversation with you while using your lighter, and especially if they hear your accent. This is also a great way to practice your French. Meeting people at bars is a very normal thing as well, because from what I’ve noticed people frequent the bars that they like pretty much every weekend. In America it is more about who is in your class when you are friends with someone. Usually you go to parties with those friends but don’t branch outside of the group during the party. This is another very different aspect when meeting friends in France.
All in all I absolutely love having French friends, because whenever I have a question concerning anything French they are happy to help. This way I have felt that I don’t always have to take to google when I want to learn about the country and the culture. It has also helped me immensely in understanding conversations between French speakers and also learn how to express myself in the way of an everyday French speaker.