The expat community in France abounds with brilliant voices and captivating tales of abandoned homes, lost love, endless adventure, culinary discovery and personal enrichment. It’s those who offer a different perspective on life abroad that stand out from the growing glut of Franco-focused novels, vignettes and blogs.
Katia Grimmer-Laversanne, an Australian who moved to Paris in 2001 after finding love online, cemented herself as distinguishable storyteller with the Katia & Kyliemac podcast, an internet radio show she co-hosted from 2006 to early 2012 that addressed some of the more peculiar and amusing elements to expat life. When her co-host left France to embark on a new adventure, Katia felt she still had more stories to tell.
As of last week she’s back with The France Project, a new podcast that explores different themes about France from different perspectivesI was beyond humbled when she asked to interview me for the first episode (catch me at 22 minutes !), alongside Ann Mah who reads a beautiful story of how she fell in love with France as a little girl. You’ll be hooked immediately, as I was, to Katia’s natural verve and passion for France !
Describe what you love about France in three words.
Food, wine, (the) challenge
With family so far away, what has kept you in Paris for over 10 years?
My French husband, first and foremost. We met online, at a time when I was just finishing my studies in Australia and he had just started a good job in Paris. It made sense to start our life together in France and we simply haven't left yet! We both have jobs that we love and that has played a big role in our decision to stay here for now.
Beyond the practical reasons for staying, one of the things I love most about our life here in France is the opportunity to meet so many interesting people. These encounters continue to inspire, challenge and invigorate me, and I'm always pushing myself to do, see and create more thanks to the people I've met here. Of course, Paris as a city has a history of inspiring creativity, and it continues to do so for me on a daily basis.
I'm not sure I would have had this same creative experience in my own country - living here has taken me out of my comfort zone and forced me to question my goals and ideas about how I want to live my life. I've come into my own here, I've found my place in the world, if you will, and a big part of that is thanks to this country which never ceases to surprise and challenge me.
That said, I don't think we're meant to stay in one place, really. France is our home for now (and will always play a big role in our lives because of our familial links to this country), but who knows where the next years will take us? Perhaps one day we'll be living in Australia - I can definitely see another version of my podcast happening there, The Australia Project! But I think that there are opportunities all over the world for people who are willing to make them happen.
Best place to relax and recharge in France?
Chez mes beau-parents! My in-laws live near Saint-Etienne, surrounded by some wonderful national parks and since I'm a country girl at heart (I grew up on a farm in rural Australia), I really enjoy getting outside with them and breathing fresh air!
My in-laws are also two of the kindest, most generous people I know, and I am so grateful to have them in my life. My mother-in-law is a brilliant cook, and my father-in-law is a walking encyclopedia of general knowledge about everything from wine and cheese to Roman ruins and geology and everything in between, so we always leave their home feeling nourished in both body and soul!
But family aside, I'll find any excuse to pick a wine region and spend a week travelling around the area, visiting vineyards and learning more about the wine and that region's specialities, and where we always manage to fit in a tasting or thirteen... It's a wonderful way to discover the country. I also have a special spot in my heart for Brittany - we have great memories of wandering along the wild, untamed coastlines in the heart of winter, hunting for cockles and chipping oysters off the rocks, slurping them down then and there!
Favorite spots in Paris for a glass of wine and a snack?
Au Passage (Passage Saint-Sébastien, 75011 Paris). It's much hyped but it's well deserving of the attention (even with the departure of James Henry, the chef who put it on the map). I've spent many an evening there with friends, working our way slowly through their amazing tapas-style creations and enjoying their very well curated wine list.
Most amusing or frustrating interaction with the French?
I've been here for so long now that things rarely surprise me anymore! I steel my resolve when I have to deal with any administration or general services and I grit my teeth and reinvent my question when I don't get what I need from a public servant or a cranky shopkeeper. Living here has taught me that the old saying "no is only the beginning of negotiations" is very true in France, and a little bit of charm goes a long way!
Thank you, Katia! I can't wait to listen to the next episodes of The France Project!
For updates on the show and Katia: