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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Summer Silence in Paris

8 August 2012

Summer in Paris? I tricked you, I’m sorry. Paris only sports those palm trees in August when over 6,000 tons of sand is hauled in for Paris Plage, the capital’s makeshift tropical getaway along the Seine.  In case those majestic palm trees didn’t give it away, this photo was taken in Santa Monica though it could have easily have been Palm Springs, Santa Barbara or even San Francisco – places I’m still thinking of two months after our trip. I might also add that the title of this post is a bit misleading. Paris is indeed sleepy in August but that’s not entirely what this is about. What I’d really like to be doing this month – availing myself of the lighter crowds to test some of the city’s storied sweets (so many left to try) and new tables – is at odds with what is actually possible. I couldn’t fight off my disappointment when the first “en congés” (on holiday) signs were haphazardly fastened to shops fronts and bakery doors nor could I stave off the pit in my stomach at the thought of how meager my meals would be for the rest of the summer. My trusty bakery, most of […]…

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I left my heart in California

19 June 2012

It came as little surprise when I learned recently that a somewhat well-known, American expat couple had packed up 10 years of life in Paris and moved back to America. I was taken aback that a pair so anchored and involved in the community would jump ship, but I was unsurprised by the desire to turn the page; start a new chapter. After the last two weeks, I can honestly say I get it now. We billed our trip to the U.S. – several days in Philadelphia to visit my family followed by a week in California- as an adventure in both place and love. It was an opportunity for C and me to shake off the taxing days we’ve had since the start of the year and grow closer through the discovery of a new place. While the trip certainly delivered on that front, it was heightened, somewhat unexpectedly, by the friends we saw and the people we met along the way. After less than 24 hours in Santa Monica, and blanketed by sunshine, C was hooked. No humidity, crisp blue skies and athletic locals of all ages wherever we looked. “Everyone is so… fit”, he remarked. He marveled […]…

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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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France Making it Harder to Become French

9 January 2012

Becoming French – no longer as easy as a nap in the Tuileries! I figured this day would come. It was inevitable when Sarkozy made it four years instead of three that a foreigner would have to be married before being eligible to apply for citizenship. A small detail, perhaps, but a sign that he wanted more control over immigration and the foreign population. Despite having to jump through administrative hoops and produce amounts of paper that would make environmentalists seethe, becoming a citizen for Westerners is relatively easy (particularly if you’re married to a French native). When Sarkozy talks of the necessity for foreigners to adhere to France’s democratic values and secularism, he’s taking particular aim at the substantial muslim and North/West African population who, in his eyes, do not sufficiently adapt. Now, in what is likely a strategic political move to pull conservative votes away from the National Front for this year’s election, Sarkozy and his party are taking action to make it harder to become French. Prior to this month, becoming French required a certain number of years in the country, stacks of documentation, an interview and a lengthy wait. Time-consuming and frustrating but tolerable. Now, candidates […]…

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