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Melissa: Prête-Moi Paris!

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in Paris makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Paris, etc.

I am originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. When I was young, I took French classes in middle and high school. I had a particular magnetism to this language and loved learning/speaking it. My twin sister spent almost a whole school year in France while we were in our third year of high school and that brought about my first trip to France: I organized a school trip there with a handful of participants in order to go see her on Spring break. When I finally went to college at the age of 24 I found the opportunity to do a year abroad, so I signed up for a year in Paris. I decided that Paris was my true home and there was no reason to ever leave. (Well I did have to leave for my final year of college in order to get my degree), but I don't count that year, since I came back three times that year - these were the days when you could get a 400$ airfare in March - and my heart was here anyway). Ten years ago, I came to Paris and found the place where I truly belong.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

While working for a study abroad company, I thought it would be a fun way to offer insights into Paris culture and life for the students who were under my care. My superior though did not like the idea and refused. So I said 'merde' and started a blog anyway for myself! I have always been a writer at heart, and I loved the expressive platform of a blog. This was three years ago, and my blog has grown not only in maturity but also in numbers. I used to have a few visits per week when I first started, now I have over ten thousand per month!

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

I most certainly do! I did this one post that got a lot of attention from readers and sparked quite a heated debate in the comments section. Whether people agree with my point or not, I still felt it was a great conversation to have: To See or Not To See

Also another article that I wrote about the Paris expat experience, in which I speak about the struggles of integration that many of us go through in this particular city. I used humor and music to make the article fun and light hearted: L‘herbe Est Toujours Plus Verte Dans Le Pré D’á coté

And this recent post that I wrote, inspired by my friend Frank, about why those of us who adore Paris are so drawn here: Paris Is A Moment

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?

I do think I experienced some culture shock yes, I think everyone does to some degree, but it was not crippling nor did it break me down and send me back home. Paris is my home. I honestly don't know any more how to compare my two lives because my life back in the States was still in a stage of formation (university). I do though enjoy here, among other things, the fact that health care is more affordable, that there is more employment security with French labor laws, and that I don't have to rely on owning a vehicle to get from point A to point B or even to get out of town! But there are concepts and aspects of American living that would be nice to have here as well, but I do not like to spend time comparing. No place is perfect, and I didn't move here to have a better life necessarily, I moved here to have a life that suited me. I moved here because here is where I felt most at home.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Paris? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

I think I was prepared, since I had been to Paris twice already on my own as a tourist, and when I came here ten years ago, I was under the umbrella of a university program which made it all very easy and comfortable. Student life in Paris is itself a lovely way to live, but not forever of course! When I came back to Paris to work and live I did run into some challenges (the eternal struggle to keep one's papers valid, and the low paying jobs that were all that I was allowed to do at that stage), but I was completely able to take care of myself because of how I first began my life here as a student.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

See my article, although it isn't specific to being an expat it does show the frustration that can be involved in navigating the confusing transportation system outside of Paris.

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Paris?

  • Be flexible and prepared to have to jump through hoops to get a visa to stay here. Take it one year at a time. Many people want to find a way to be able to come here permanently. This is rare. Most visas will last a year or less.
  • Keep EVERYTHING (as in paperwork). Keep all documents no matter how insignificant you may think they are, they may come in handy or NECESSARY in the future.
  • SPEAK FRENCH! You cannot integrate a culture unless you first speak their language. And if you cannot integrate a culture, you will always feel left outside. It is much more rewarding to make that effort to speak the language and feel like you belong, than to only connect with people from your former home culture. A more diverse network of friends and acquaintances will make for a richer experience.

How is the expat community in Paris? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

I made French friends my first year here and have kept them close. For me it was essential to spend my time with French people, especially in the beginning when I was learning the language. It can be hard at first to meet them, but I made myself go to the events and hang out with these people even though I felt like a wall flower and an idiot with nothing to say and only a mild comprehension of the conversation, because I knew it was vital to my experience as an expat. I chose not to spend too much of my time with people from Anglophone countries so that I could better immerse myself into this one. But yes I have met many expats through my blog and twitter. Whether they are like-minded though...is an entirely different matter! :-)

How would you summarize your expat life in Paris in a single, catchy sentence?

I may not be French, but I have definitely become Parisian!

Rajat Bhatnagar

"As a new arrival in Paris, InterNations provided me with the chance to get in touch with other Indians and get used to life in Europe faster. "

Samantha Greene

"Meeting people from so many different countries in a convivial atmosphere is what I like best about our expat events in Paris. "

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