Lauren: Folies du Bonheur
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Paris, etc.
My name is Lauren Bate, and I'm originally from Sydney, Australia, but have called Paris home since 2009. I worked for four years in marketing for some of Australia’s most-loved magazine titles before I accepted an offer of redundancy as a result of the 2008 global financial crisis and followed a childhood dream of living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It was supposed to be for just one year; 3 and a half later I’m still here. I’ve lived in the 17th arrondissement of Paris for the last four years, which I share with my also Australian boyfriend and our half French bulldog/Maltese pup, Daisy.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started a blog as soon as I arrived to share the experiences I was going through as a newly-planted expat in this city, but I stopped after just a couple of months. It wasn’t satisfying me as a creative outlet, and I was too shy to comment on other blogs and connect with fellow bloggers, which is really the key to generating a community and giving you confidence to publish work. However the desire to blog never left me, but this time I wanted to share more than just Paris; more recipes, crafts, travels, to challenge me creatively. It was whilst on a little jaunt to visit a friend living in Saint Tropez that the expression “un folie du bonheur” was explained to me, and I knew that this would be the name of my resurrected blog as it encompasses the things that I wanted to share. So I started again at the end of 2012 and have not looked back.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I love doing the city guides that I publish after I’ve been away on a trip; the Bordeaux City Guide was the result of a great trip to the city, and for a seven-day road trip I did last year with my boyfriend and his family I kept a daily journal on what we did and saw which I published as a series 7-day road trip. On the cooking front, I love all the recipes that I share in relation to a fête; La Fête des Rois and Lady Lamington's chocolate-coconut cake are two faves due to their history and traditions, not to mention the recipes are delicious!
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?
Oh, it differs so much. The immediate difference would be that I don’t have a car here! It is impossible to get anywhere in Sydney without one and impossible to get anywhere in Paris with one! If I’m going anywhere further than a 20 minute walk away I'll take the metro or, preferably, a bus - something I would avoid like the plague in Sydney. There were other smaller things when I first arrived, like not being able to get a decent cup of coffee, find soy sauce at the supermarket and the amount of paperwork required just to open a bank account, that were slightly frustrating, but I don’t think I ever experienced “culture shock”. Every experience was just part and parcel of moving to a society completely different to the one I was used to. I had made a conscious decision to embrace this city, so as frustrating as some things were I wasn’t greatly troubled by it as it was all part of the experience.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Paris? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
No way, I don’t think anybody really can be completely prepared! I didn’t realise things would move so slowly, from getting a job, bank account, apartment - these things take so much longer than they would in Australia. Knowing this, anybody moving to Paris for a year, perhaps on a one-year visa, really needs to do these things immediately to enjoy their time here. I’ve met so many people who come to the city on a one-year visa and they take almost the year to get settled, and then they have to go again. One thing that I would do over if I had the chance would be to enrol in French classes straight away - I had studied French in high school and completed a little crash course before moving, but I should have really continued learning the language. Since arriving I’ve spoken far too much English and my French really isn’t at the level it should be after being here for as long as I have. In this vein, I would recommend to anyone moving to the city, as strange as it sounds, to not make any English speaking friends! Not initially. It really does take almost complete immersion to pick up the language as it makes living here a lot more fulfilling. Make some international friends where the common language is French. After a while you can make some friends from home, but avoiding speaking English - or your home language - is really helpful.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
When I tell people what I do for work it can be quite a funny experience. I currently work as a nanny, and in French this is a "nou-nou”, but with my accent I sometimes say “nu-nu”, which means “naked-naked”. It raises a few eyebrows for sure.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Paris?
- As mentioned above, learn some French before you come here, and continue when you arrive. You will have a lot of spare time waiting around for bank accounts, jobs etc. to be set up, and you’re likely to have very few friends, so use the time to learn the language before life starts to get busy again.
- Cultivate your level of patience; nothing will happen as quickly as you want it to. Have several copies of all your documents, ALL the documents you could possibly think may be required by a bank/ rental agency, at the ready to speed up the process of settling.
- Follow the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mentality. The French have a lot of idiosyncrasies that can be irritating to start, but once you learn how and why things are done it becomes easier to adapt to a fun and carefree Parisian lifestyle.
How is the expat community in Paris? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
No, not at all. Like all enormous, international cities there are people living here from all around the world. Sites like InterNations and Meet-up are great resources to meet fellow expats. All my closest expat friends, however, I’ve meet through blogging and social media, namely Instagram. If you have been thinking of staring a blog, just do it. But don’t forget to comment and connect with others that you think have similar interests to you to build your community.
How would you summarize your expat life in Paris in a single, catchy sentence?
For every devastating, frustrating low, there is equally a superb, beautiful high - there are great pleasures to be found in everyday, mundane experiences, because, well, this is Paris.
Image credits: Katie Mitchell Photography