How French-speaking newcomers to Lagos are getting an extra special warm welcome
When a small group of French people living in Lagos started having monthly social get-togethers back in 2015, they never imagined the importance they would eventually have among the city’s francophone community.
Now, with an official name – Les Copains de Lagos (Friends of Lagos) – they are a 400-strong, vibrant French residents’ association offering support, advice and an impressive variety of cultural, sporting and charitable activities for French speakers from around the world.
A dramatic increase in the number of French people visiting and buying property in the Algarve is one of the main reasons for the association’s rapid growth. Portugal has welcomed this French invasion and new agreements have been signed between the two governments concerning taxation, language and education.
Founder member and president of Les Copains de Lagos Patrice Chedozeau explains their role: “Our objective is to help all francophones who come to live here, giving them all the necessary information to help them to settle and integrate into the community – French, Belgians, Swiss, Canadians – anyone who speaks French. We want to guide them and, above all, listen to them. They have needs and we are here to satisfy them.”
The association has built strong links with the Lagos council, organised health and legal seminars, is liaising with Portuguese and French social services and negotiating special protocols with private hospitals.
Les Copains de Lagos offer a diverse range of activities for their members: brain-stimulating games take place weekly, including Bridge, chess, draughts and Scrabble; organised walks are popular, with cycling, tennis, golf, sailing and fishing planned for the future. And no self-respecting French organisation would be complete without pétanque (boules), one of France’s most popular pastimes – played at Boavista Golf & Spa Resort with whom Les Copains de Lagos now have a mutually beneficial protocol giving all association members discounts on a range of resort services.
Difficulty finding French-language books prompted the association to open a library at one of the member’s homes. In conjunction with the council and Lagos Cultural Centre they hope to hold French cinema nights and even a film festival, and musical members would like to create an orchestra. By popular demand, photography classes will soon be starting.
In 2016, when the group helped collect food and drink for the region’s firefighters, who were tackling massive blazes in Monchique, they were surprised by the spontaneous cooperation between Portuguese and French volunteers. Says Patrice: “Portugal has welcomed us and whenever we can help, we will. We are happy to be here and we will show our happiness through action, whenever the occasion arises.”