21.3.14

On Friendship in Paris

Macarons and roses in Paris

'Do you think you'll move back home at some point?' is one of the most commonly fielded questions among expats and one that is fraught with complications. The answer is tightly wound by its own questions and scenarios.

What if Paris has become a legitimate home and going back would actually mean starting over in a place no longer familiar? Am I tied to a work visa? Do I have the legal right to stay indefinitely? Is there an explicit expiration date to this experience? Have I become too European to consider any other lifestyle? Both the ability and desire to stay in Paris depends largely on these questions, among countless others.

One of my best friends in Paris is American and moved abroad five years ago with her husband for his job. While they've fully integrated, speak the language and have constructed an impressive network of friends of various nationalities, they accept (albeit grudgingly) that their Paris chapter might come to a close in several years for a myriad of reasons. I'm confident that she's a pal for life but since my flag is firmly planted in France, it's hard to fathom that our regular coffee dates could one day become a tender memory of 'what used to be'.

Some of my longtime friends are considering their options outside of Paris- for different jobs, more space, less stress - while others have already moved on. 
Amy Feezor Photographing Macarons

And, since it's no longer untoward to make friends on the internet, I must also consider the online connections I've made that have blossomed into viable friendships à distance. In fact, I began communicating with four of the five other women in the photo above on Twitter and on blogs long before I ever shared a meal with them. 

Sitting next to designer Anne Ditmeyer (far left), who I met five (!!) years ago at the American University of Paris, is Amy Feezor - the former Copy Director of Real Simple Magazine, a killer design/lifestyle writer and new Paris resident. Our mutual friend Nichole Robertson connected us in person several weeks ago but we've actually been exchanging messages for years, anticipating an opportunity to take our interests offline. The city's singular appeal is a magnet for travelers and dreamers the world over (hence the unabated interest in Paris blogs) so I was confident Amy would find her way over here someday. As I expected, the spark was immediate, and now I'm trying to fashion a plan to keep her here permanently. 

The same is true for Susan Hutchinson of Fleurishing (right of Amy), the inspiration behind my Franco File Friday series, a staunch Francophile and a truly caring friend. We bonded on Twitter over Philadelphia, design and, of course, all things related to France and solidified our friendship when she and her husband vacationed in Paris in 2010. Since then, we've mailed letters, enjoyed meals in her neck of the woods when I've visited and reunited in Paris again just last weekend.

As opinionated expats struggling to belong, Kasia Dietz (to my left) and I found ourselves with instant new-friend fodder when we started to get to know one another on Twitter five years ago. Our meeting was timely; in what felt like one sudden and violent wave, some of my close friends had decamped to other parts of the world, effectively unraveling our ties. Having lived in New York, a city brimming with transients, Kasia had firsthand experience with this feeling of loss and offered tremendous support. Though our paths to Paris were different, we shared many of the same fears, passions and ambitions and for that I'm grateful.

And to the far right, Ashley Ludaescher, an ultra talented photographer and fellow blogger based in Berlin who I had the pleasure of getting close to offline during The Hive conference two years ago. We've since collaborated on several projects (like this and this) and get together in our respective cities whenever possible.

For all the ills engendered by technology and social media, we can’t ignore the potent power they bestow in bringing us together.  Do I wish I could see Amy, Susan, Ashley and a handful of other friends from other countries more than once a year or once in a blue moon? Of course. But we're global citizens now and our notions of friendship and what it means to be involved actors in the lives of others have rightfully been challenged. The only barriers are those we self-impose. We're mobile, we're connected and wholly responsible for nurturing our relationships with others, regardless of distance. 

As an expat, you learn to accept that some friendships will be transient. Either you invest time and energy into forging those ties anyway or you keep one foot in a former life and miss the opportunity to let each connection enrich your life. I choose the former. 

Thank you to Susan for hosting the brunch that brought all of us together. 

// Group photo courtesy of Ashley Ludaescher //
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