Marina: Garlands in Paris
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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.
I’m Marina, a proud Michigander who moved from the US to Paris in 2011. I came here to do my Master’s degree in muséologie (Museum Studies). My school was literally in one of the wings of the Louvre, making for an easy commute to see great art!
Now I work in the education department of a museum here in Paris. I am a big fan of imagination, and I love encouraging people to use this capacity in museums. I am also newly engaged to a Frenchman, which makes for many opportunities to learn firsthand about Franco-American cultural differences…
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I love writing and photography and I had wanted to start a blog for a long time. The problem was that I could never choose a single subject to focus on: museums, expat life, party planning, Paris, garlands… But then I had an inspiration: why not write about it all and see what happened? That’s how Garlands in Paris was born.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
- My favorite entry about expat life is when I wrote about embracing my cultural identity in I Am American, Give Me Ice.
- One of my favorite hobbies is walking around the Louvre with my camera and taking pictures of details in artworks; I call these excursions ‘Photo Safaris’, and one of my favorites is Hands in Sculpture.
- I talk about finding little pleasures even during hard times (including writing a 150 page Master’s thesis in French) in Waiting For the Calm After the Storm.
- And a fun cocktail recipe can be found at ‘The Panic Attack’ (Sazerac and Cider).
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?
Well, the most obvious difference is that everything is in French! It is a daily challenge to create a professional life in my second language. It is definitely much easier now; but, when I first arrived, it was so frustrating to not be able to express myself clearly.
I definitely had culture shock in the beginning; any change is hard, even good change. I would spend some days angry at France. But Paris is such a pretty place that it is hard to stay mad at it for long!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Paris? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
As I had studied abroad in Paris during university, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. The only thing I would change would probably be brushing up on my practical French more seriously in the months before my arrival, like listening to French radio, watching French movies, or finding a local francophone conversation partner. Grammar is important, but confidence is more so.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Oh boy, this one still makes me cringe.
At a dinner party, I asked a French married couple how they met. From what I understood, they met when my friend came in to his future wife’s office for a tooth cleaning, and it was such a strong connection that he asked her out on the spot. I found that to be incredibly romantic and I kept telling them how it was like a scene out of a movie. What had actually been said, however, was that they met when my friend came to his future wife’s apartment as a plumber. So, when I continued to tell them all night how their story was like a movie, everyone else thought I was talking about, well, another type of movie…
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Paris?
- Visit the museums! Paris offers some of the world’s greatest museums, which are great for both social outings and moments of solitude in the midst of busy city life.
- Mingle with the locals. Some of my richest experiences in Paris have come from interactions with my French friends.
- Start learning French, now! Making a sincere effort to communicate as any linguistic level goes a long way for the French.
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 comprised of energetic and passionate people who are eager to be social and take advantage of what Paris has to offer.
It was surprisingly easy to make friends here, especially through shared acquaintances. One friend leads to another who leads to another…
How would you summarize your expat life in Paris in a single, catchy sentence?
Celebrating beauty in the everyday to make life a bit more cheery.