InterNations Featured Blog
Kristen: Un Homme et Une Femme
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Paris, etc.
I have a pretty normal American girl background. I was born and raised in a town outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Go Steelers!) went to Penn State University and headed to New York City after graduation to work for Ogilvy & Mather, a global advertising agency. In my five years in New York, I learned how to survive on entry-level salaries (it can be done!), worked long but rewarding hours, experienced amazing food, ran the NYC Marathon, spent a few summer weekends in the Hamptons, enjoyed Sundays in Central Park, had a few bad relationships and even more bad dates- and then I met my now husband. This is where Paris comes in.
Sir Lancelot has a German passport (but doesn’t speak a word of German), was born in Geneva and then his mom moved them back to the UK when his parents split up. So French is his first language but he learned English starting at age six, so he also has an English accent.
After winning a big pitch in 2010, Sir L was spending more and more time in Paris for business, to the point where we felt like it might just be easier if we moved there as living life on an Air France flight isn’t that glamorous. So we did. We were engaged in August 2010, married in April 2011 and pack up our New York life and headed to Paris in September 2011.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I’d known for quite some time that Paris was in our future and about four months before our move, I found a few blogs of American women living in Paris that really spoke to me and helped me mentally prepare for Paris life. Honestly, before Paris I didn’t read any blogs and had never thought about blogging. I decided to start un homme et une femme because I thought it would be a great way to keep in touch with friends and family back in the States, act as a creative outlet while I was not working and be a way to meet some people in similar situations in Paris.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
That’s a tough question as I’m partial to so many since I’ve experienced so many weird things since living here. A favorite of readers seems to be the stories about my neighbor and in particular, how he invited us to their Christmas party, “The Grinch Got Invited To A Christmas Party.” It honestly was the absolute worst time that anyone could have tried to communicate with me in English or in French. My favorites entries are when I write about something weird that happened to me because of the cultural differences between America and France – I think I write about these the best. I try to do food/restaurant/things to do posts here and there but there are other bloggers out there that I personally believe are better storytellers about those things. I just want to make people laugh!
Tell us about the ways your new life in Paris differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
My life in Paris differs in so many ways from my life in America. The biggest difference is that I don’t have a job, which was and still is a daily struggle for me. I’ve always been a Type A, motivated person, even more so after living in New York where your identity is what you do for a living, whether you like it or not. Plus I worked really hard to get where I was in my career before we left, so just not getting up every day and working in advertising is still strange to me.
Luckily, this time has given me the opportunity to work on new endeavors and passions. Blogging has led me to be a freelance writer for Girls Guide To Paris and I’ve launched my new initiative, The Kale Project, to bring the vegetable kale to Paris! A lot of exciting stuff is happening and it’s been fulfilling to work on something I am so passionate about.
As for culture shock, everyone experiences it in different ways depending on where they are in life when they move. But as with anyone and anything in life, some days are better than others and it’s important to just remind yourself that everything gets better with time.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Paris? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Of course I was not fully prepared! I built up these perfume ad images in my head where I would have the perfect day with perfect weather in the perfect outfit doing perfectly Parisien things! The truth is that when you truly live somewhere, you live there so you have to do stuff to keep living like laundry and grocery shopping and cleaning your apartment (all while it’s cloudy and rainy) – which in a country where I don’t speak the language is twice as difficult!
Yet, I don’t think I would have changed anything about our preparation before arriving here. Given the circumstances we were in (my mother-in-law had just been diagnosed with leukemia), we did the best we could with preparation. Part of the fun of change is the daydreaming about what might be!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Put it this way – I can’t completely spell my name in French. I have a really hard time pronouncing the letter “e.” I thought I was doing it OK until one day my dry cleaner made me write our last name on a piece of paper because she couldn’t understand me. So now I have a huge complex when anyone asks me to spell my name and I just respond, “Oui, mais j’ai un gros problème avec la lettre E!” I have a feeling it’s something that will never go away.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Paris?
- Try as hard as you can to learn the language and everything about the culture and way of life.
- Do one thing every day that scares you.
How is the expat community in Paris? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Paris is really strong. I’ve met so many inspiring, entrepreneurial and beautiful women (who I now call friends), because of blogging. And because I’ve chosen to become more of the “social-media/internet” expat community, I have not explored other groups as much but I have a close friend here who is really involved with a few other expat groups and she finds them really valuable as she adjusts to life in Paris.
How would you summarize your expat life in Paris in a single, catchy sentence?
Just like Paris weather, you never know what you’re going to get!