3 Lessons Learned from Life in Paris

12 August 2013

I first introduced you to Hilary Reyl’s novel “Lessons in French” in my recent post 6 French-Inspired Reads for Summer. Since the book provided a bevy of insights into adulthood as scene through a prism of life in Paris, I thought it would be interesting to have Hilary share a few of the life lessons she gleaned from her own experiences in the capital. All three are prefaced with related excerpts from the book. — 1// “In Paris, I am virtually transparent. A gift perhaps, un don, so to speak, voilá. But when you feel invisible, there is no end to the trouble you can get into.” The heartbreaking beauty of Paris, along with its push to stylish conformity, seduces you, in your youth, into constructing ever-fresh identities in its myriad images. It is a city where you can lose yourself in version after version of gorgeous otherness. This is at once liberating and quite dizzying. Along with my heroine Kate, I have slowly learned that you cannot simply be seduced over and over. You yourself have to assume a seductive presence; you have to be visible. 2//  “…the importance of Berthillon ice cream [is] on a par with that […]…

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Paris, for Now… {guest post by Expat Edna}

5 September 2012

Retain your gasps, it’s true. Paris’s vaunted magic and charm doesn’t seduce everyone and when I met Edna Zhou, a 23 year old expat from Pennsylvania who has traveled extensively in Asia, just after she arrived earlier this year, I sensed the city would need to pull out all the stops to win her favor. She’s made a concerted effort to appreciate her surroundings but her relationship with Paris isn’t a grand love affair. Whereas I can envision my life in Paris forty years from now, she’s eager for the next adventure. Here, she explains why.  I’ve never been a Francophile. I’ve never dreamed of long walks through Paris’s cobblestoned streets, or whiling away the afternoon at a café in Montmartre…or whatever else it is people dream about when they think about Paris. So when I received a job offer in the city and moved here eight months ago, I might not have been jumping up and down for joy. But I was open to loving Paris. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened. Most people I tell find the sentiment hard to believe. And just like you can’t explain love, I have a hard time explaining why I don’t love Paris. I like […]…

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Paris Rules for the Rails

14 August 2012

“Get lazy during rush hour and you risk a few complaints” What is it about public transportation that makes otherwise civilized individuals behave badly? Few would consider commuting a pleasant experience but faulting the offensive stench in the metro or cramped, stroller-packed buses as cause for complete disregard for others is only acceptable to a point. All passengers are in the same, stinky boat yet not all of them break rules or ignore widely accepted social norms. For the last year, The RATP, Paris’s transport authority, has been running an advertising campaign to call offenders out on their unseemly behavior by portraying them as animals (let’s be honest, even papi needs to be reminded he can’t kick back like he’s at home). The campaign is an outgrowth of a study conducted by the RATP to understand why Parisians look and act so disgruntled on public transportation. Again, cue the smells and cramped quarters. While we could argue that boorish conduct is endemic to public transportation systems in most large cities around the world,  few transit authorities devote the energy to raising awareness and curbing infractions through civic education. Bravo, RATP! Your ads have proven both entertaining and affirming. So what […]…

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Expat Comforts

10 April 2012

During the first couple of years as an expat in Paris, waves of homesickness and leaden spirits were frequent and initially made worse by too many trips stateside. When things were good it was because Paris generously fueled my resolve to make the city my permanent home but a number of recurring expat roadblocks meant that she dispirited as quickly as she inspired. Six years later and it’s the reverse scenario that causes unease. The U.S. will forever be a source of travel excitement and adventure but not where I want to spend my everyday -a decision made even easier by these halcyon days of globalization which have brought countless Anglo imports to the capital. The meteoric rise of the cupcake, the arrival of legitimate Mexican food and the growing availability of treasured foreign food products- all are part of the city’s current reality and represent a far more familiar landscape for American expats than the uncomfortable unknown it fostered in years past. The beginning is often turbulent for expats but if you can persevere and identify a set of comforts, weathering the inevitable highs and lows will become a welcome challenge. Here are a few of mine: | Familiar faces Not only […]…

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Adapting to Paris-101

9 August 2011

When I first settled in Paris, one of the most stressful aspects to adapting to my new life was the linguistic transition. Seven years of French language exposure only equipped me with the necessary skills to excel in simulated classroom conversations but the moment I was in a situation where I had to speak unprepared to a real, living, breathing French person I crumbled in panic and self-doubt. It was on my first date with my husband that I realized I wasn’t as impressive as I thought. Five years and the ability to fool even the Frenchiest of French people later, I can say with confidence that I’m bilingual. But communicating coherently was only part of my battle. Making French friends was brutal, trying to find where I belonged was stressful and trying to reconcile the separation from family and friends from within a tiny studio apartment was isolating. French partner or not, Paris can break you down. That is, if you don’t use the bountiful resources at your disposal to get comfortable. Several months ago I offered some suggestions on how to become an expat in France. Now, inspired by the requests of several readers,  I’ve put together 6 tips […]…

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