Back to the USA

I’ve been home for almost two weeks now, although it feels much longer. There were so many things that struck me as odd once setting foot on U.S. soil. Flying into Newark, I was shocked to be charged 5 dollars to use a luggage cart. The day after I got home, I met a friend for dinner near the mall. It was already 7:30, and I couldn’t believe the amount of cars in the parking lot; what is everyone doing here after seven? Aren’t the stores closed? I found the server to be so friendly, I thought it was cheesy. Why is she so enthusiastic about appetizers? At dinner we were served huge portions and then sent home with doggie bags. While running in my town, instead of passing cows, fields, and rivers, I ran by 611, Starbucks, and Wawa.

I forget words in English, which makes it seem like I’m showing off. I want to speak franglais at every opportuntity, which no one arounds me understands. I miss eating dinner with friends, planting ourselves around the table for hours, and talking.

A big smile came over my face when I saw my post on Anne’s blog, Pret A Voyager, this morning. My city, in the big lights! What perfect timing. Take a look at Verdun in summer on her blog, and be sure to check out her fabulous series highlighting all of the arrondissements in Paris.

Why France? Talking with Anne

Happy Saint Patty’s Day! Today we have another amazing guest post from Anne, at Pret à Voyager. 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.

I use Anne’s blog all of the time as a resource when I go to Paris – it’s lovely to see the city from a designer’s point of view! For example, today she posted about busking! Ever heard of it? She also highlights other designers on her series Boarding Pass.

1.)   How did it come about that you moved to France? Did you want to move here? What were your apprehensions?

This is my third time living in France. The first time I was a study abroad student, then I taught English for a year. This time I thought I was going to get a job in France. Ha! Yeah, right! It’s a good thing I found the perfect Master’s program for me – an MA in Global Communications from the American University of Paris.

I never really had apprehensions, but then again, all the blogs and resources online didn’t exist like they do now. Also, I moved around a lot growing up, so I guess it was less scary because of that. But for anyone thinking about taking the plunge, just realize it’s not a walk in the park, but just roll with the punches and you’ll be fine. It makes for great material in writing stories!

2.)   What were your first impressions once you arrived? How did that change as time went on?

The first time I ever stepped foot abroad was my junior year of high school with my family. We stayed with dear family friends in their apartment. Perhaps having the “authentic” experience is what really sold me on this place. Each time I’ve returned though, I think the struggle to find an apartment never ceases to amaze me. Apartments are petite here to say the least, but you learn to love and appreciate that. Now I try to chronicle my impressions of life in Paris through my {Un}Glamorous Paris column, where I try to take a humorous look at the less than perfect sides of living here.

3.)   Do you speak French? How important is language to living abroad?

I’ve been studying French since I was in high school (which was a long time ago now). I don’t know if I’ll ever consider myself 100% fluent, but as I learn the intricacies of the language in an advanced French course I’m currently taking, I’m learning to understand the French a bit more too. Learning a language in school is very different than using it in daily life. While you can easily get by in France from speaking English, for me the true pleasure comes from having exchanges with everyday people here.

4.)   Do you feel integrated into life in France?

When I lived here 8 years ago, I wanted people to think I was French, so I didn’t speak much and was afraid to take risks. Now I fully embrace that I’m an American in Paris (who often gets mistaken for French!). I love going to my regular haunts, and most people know I like to conduct my business in French. I love my crepe man who is Sri Lankan – it’s great speaking with other foreigners because they won’t judge you. For me everyday life is a game, and often a challenge, but that’s where I get the pleasure. As with anywhere I’ve lived, it’s taken me a good year to feel fully settled, but yes, I feel like I have a real life here.

5.)   What do you miss the most about your native country?

The space! It’s funny that the older I get the smaller my apartments get. While I am up to 12m2 (129sf) from last year’s 10m2 (110sf), I miss the wide open spaces of the US. While it can be charming to be quite close to the people sitting next to you at a restaurant here, it’s also nice to have some breathing room. I also really miss Target and Trader Joe’s! Ironically though, you can find most things from home here these days.


6.)   What is your favorite thing about living in France?


I love the quality of life. It’s taught me to be more balanced. I like that people appreciate taking holiday and vacations (hello, 5-9 weeks per year!), don’t work all the time, spend hours talking over great meals and go to the market every few days. I’m also a huge fan of public transportation.


7.)   What is your favorite French wine? I probably could have answered this better 10 years ago, but a Côtes du Rhone is always a safe bet by me. As a designer, I still prefer to shop by prettiest label 😉