In this series, I want to take a look at why people come to France. Everyone has their own personal struggles and triumphs as an expat – but I would love to take a look at patterns and similarities between each individual.
Today we’re talking with Lindsey of American Girls Are, whose hysterical blog always leaves me giggling in front of my computer screen. It’s also a great resource for those wanting to move to the City of Lights – she even writes about the best croissants in Paris.
1) How did it come about that you moved to France? Did you want to move here? What were your apprehensions?
In July 2009 my college sweet heart of 6 years (whoa!) was offered a job in Paris. He said, “move to France with me” and I said, “oh la la.” After about five minutes of Amelie running through my head, reality set in–Europe is really, really far away, I don’t speak a lick of French, I have zero jobs lined up in Paris…I turned into a total worry wart and became apprehensive about moving abroad, but after several years of long distance dating I couldn’t imagine hunkering down for a transatlantic relationship. Plus, I was very tempted by all of the yummy food and started counting croissants to fall asleep at night. After hemming and hawing for a few weeks, my (now) husband accepted the job and we started planning our move to the City of Lights.
2) What were your first impressions once you arrived? How did that change as time went on?
Gray, gray, gray! I immediately noticed the lack of color and was feeling super silly in my pink Chucks! But now, I appreciate how the Parisians use color to subtly enhance their outfits, their restaurants, their homes and it’s just beautiful. The gray tone of the buildings provides a perfect background for experimenting with color in fun and surprising ways.
3) Do you speak French? How important is language to living abroad?
Before August I spoke one word of French–“les incompetents” and I learned that little gem from Home Alone. Pretty impressive. Thankfully I’ve taken several courses and have a grasp of the language (a very loose grasp mind you). Signing up for classes and practicing my French on a daily basis has been the single most important thing I’ve done to make life in Paris easier. Bumbling through a conversation is better than nothing and I really like to rock the awkward Franglish combo.
4) Do you feel integrated into life in France?
Not exactly…I live a diluted version of French life. I spend 1 hour on lunch, the French spend 2 hours. I go to the grocery store, the French visit the markets. I eat granola and fat free yogurt, the French eat fresh fruit and fromage blanc. I’m slowly adopting the French way, but it’s a constant work in progress. Each week I’m here, Paris feels more and more like home and not some weird, foreign dreamland. I still haven’t done the butcher business though…I’m working up to that.
5) What do you miss the most about your native country?
I miss my family and friends. Cheesy, but true. Of course there are the little things I miss like big jars of peanut butter and free refills, but my heart really pines for nights out with my girlfriends, going to hockey games with my dad, talking walks with my mom, and being silly with my sis. I went from being a 30 minute drive away to 3,000 miles away–a HUGE transition! I’m hoping to get some teleportation skills in the coming months When you move faraway you realize there’s nothing more important than the people in your life–no matter how much you miss good radio and Sour Patch Kids.
6) What is your favorite thing about living in France?
I want to say pastries, but that makes me sound like Two Ton Tessie. I do indeed love the foodie culture here and eat more buttery goodies than I care to share, but I heart low cost airlines and the ability to travel to and fro throughout the continent with ease. I’m like the modern day Carmen San Diego–France today, Turkey tomorrow. It is awesome!
7) What is your favorite French wine?
Confession: I don’t like wine. Correction: I don’t like wine like the French like wine. This presents a bit of a challenge. I’m sort of a sugar addict and prefer to sip sweet drinks that aren’t appropriate for lunch and dinner a.k.a mojitos. I try to enjoy the wine culture, but I’ll never be a sommelier’s best friend. I usually select wine based on the label…ever heard of Herding Cats? It’s great