Corey: A French Frye in Paris
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- Kasia: The Joys of Traveling to and Living in Paris
- Melissa: Prête-Moi Paris!
- Michael: je parle américain
- Melinda: My Heart in Two Places
- Naomi: sous les toits
- Milsters: Little Pieces of Light
- Danielle: danielle abroad
- Lauren: Folies du Bonheur
- Sara: Simply Sara Travel
- Marina: Garlands in Paris
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to France, etc.
I was raised in a quiet rural part of Maine and then attended college at the Rhode Island School of Design where I studied Fine Arts and painting. It was there that I also discovered the guitar, and slowly my creative ambitions migrated from the visual to the musical. Rather than finishing my degree I decided to move to New York City, where I lived for 10 years working as a singer/songwriter. In fact it was music that led me to Paris: one night a French girl visiting New York saw me singing in a subway station, took my card and later emailed me from France…and now five years later we’re married and living here.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
In the time leading up to my final departure I knew it would d be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and that I needed to somehow record it, not only to share it with others but to make sure that I wouldn’t forget such a unique moment in my life. I had never blogged before, nor had I any aspirations to be a writer, but it soon became a fun and useful way to share my experiences and maintain a connection with my family (and my native language). I’ve since developed a true fondness for writing and plan to pursue it more seriously.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Tell us about the ways your new life in France differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Culture shock on some level is unavoidable of course, but luckily for me my relationship with my wife (as well as a deep appreciation for Paris) eliminated a lot of doubt. Having said that, one problem I have to deal with is the idea of being a perpetual outsider; my naturally shy personality combined with the language barrier can make for some difficult moments. Whenever this happens I take a walk through the city to remind myself of how lucky I am, despite these occasional bumps in the road.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in France? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared; you just have to do your best and roll with the punches once you’re over here. Something I wish I’d prepared myself better for would be the notion of patience—to not expect everything to fall into place right away. An expat is essentially rebuilding a life from scratch, which offers challenges but also wonderful opportunities for personal growth that you’d never have in your own country. It all depends on how you choose to look at it.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Most of the funny moments have unfortunately come at the expense of my own dignity, i.e., embarrassing mistakes while speaking French. A classic example is a fight I had over the phone with an ex-boss, during which I repeatedly used the word malentendant which I thought meant “a misunderstanding”. I found out afterward that I was using the wrong word, meaning I had just defended my whole argument by telling my boss that the problem between us was “a deaf person”! Not very funny at the moment, but now it makes me laugh.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in France?
- Be a student of your new culture and remain as open as you can to what you might encounter. Not everything will go to plan or make sense, but take the bad with the good and enjoy the overall experience--it’s a noble one.
- Be patient. Try to avoid giving yourself deadlines like “I should be speaking fluently after 2 years,” or “This thing’s a failure if I don’t have the job/friends/confidence/etc that I had back home.” Adapt to it at your own pace.
- Don’t be in a hurry to shed your “tourist” label. We sometimes want to become a local so badly that we forget to stop and appreciate the beauty that a foreign place has to offer. Whatever country you’re moving to, there’s someone in the world right now dreaming of visiting it just once in their lives. Respect that fact by taking advantage your own opportunity to explore, including all those wonderful cheesy clichés.
How is the expat community in France? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Meeting expats and exchanging ideas about Paris is something I don’t do often, but would like to do more of. Seeing the city through the eyes of other foreigners is always interesting. I would encourage anyone in Paris who enjoys my blog to drop me a line; I’m sort of a Paris history nerd and I enjoy giving tours to like-minded folks and sharing my knowledge of the city’s secrets.
How would you summarize your expat life in France in a single, catchy sentence?
Being an expat isn’t about recreating who you were before; it’s about re-inventing who you are now.