Shanghai >> Paris

6 January 2012

19 hours of travel later on Swiss Air and Shanghai’s strikingly modern skyline, lack of central heating, street vendors and toothsome dumplings already feel like something out of a dream. Back to familiar Paris, immediately faced with a callous start to 2012. I intended to come back full force this week with a new Franco File Friday feature but less than 10 hours after we returned from China, I learned that my grandfather, aged 92, passed away. Loss is never easy to digest but having landed in Paris on Wednesday, emboldened to tackle the new year with gusto, the impact of the news was even more violent. This is the painful reality of living abroad – I can’t console my family in person and they can’t console me. Fortunately, I’m not alone and I’m grateful that my husband was able to meet him this summer at our Philadelphia wedding reception. I will be thinking of him and my family this weekend, wishing I could be there to reminisce and properly eulogize the strong, confident man who always told me to eat my broccoli and wear slippers indoors. I’ll also be sorting through my photos from China this weekend (so so […]…

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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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Perspective and Great Coffee at Le Bal Café

2 May 2011

Saturday morning I sat down with a student from NYU to answer questions pertaining to her ongoing research for her thesis. She’s looking at the modern expat experience in relation to that of the 1920’s and 30’s as well as the perception of Paris as fantasy vs. reality. Embedded in her work are questions of identity, isolation, integration and home – all issues I’ve grappled with since I arrived five years ago. Her questions allowed me to articulate every aspect of my experience thus far, from the highs (euphoria) and lows (disillusionment) to the local evolutions I’ve seen around me.Perhaps the most noticeable evolution has been in food and drink with the warmly welcomed arrival of foreign talent. American diners and burger joints aside, the spate of Anglo eateries can largely be attributed to the searing success of Rose Bakery. I had my doubts years ago when I first heard about the internationally-staffed organic canteen – how good could English food be, really? I know. I judged without trying, convinced that it couldn’t possibly be as noteworthy as everyone claimed. Expensive though it may be, it’s one of my favorite places to go for warm cheese scones and fresh vegetable medleys. Their […]…

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How to Become a French Expat

27 April 2011

If you’re someone who believes that living in France is like vacationing in France, you might want to leave this page now. Life abroad isn’t all market-hopping, croissant-eating, wine-slurping, terrace-lounging and baguette-chomping, surprisingly enough. That’s part of it, but there’s another side which requires much more patience, flexibility and attention to detail; the side that involves paperwork, rejection, more paperwork, waiting, more waiting and perhaps, if you’re lucky, success. I say all of this because over the last year I’ve received many emails from readers asking for tips on how they can pick up their lives and move abroad to get their own piece of the French pie. “How can I become an expat?”, they ask, hoping it’s easier than they imagine. Well… it’s not. Every expat has their own, very personal experience moving their lives to France, but each of us were held to the same rules and confronted with the same frustrations. I figured it was time to take the conversation off email and post suggestions for those who are genuinely serious and passionate about making the move abroad, two very important pre-requisites. These options will not work for everyone so keep in mind it really depends on […]…

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Giving truth to an old adage

7 January 2010

(Photo: Kymberlee della Luce) You can never go home again…. I’ve often talked about my feelings of internal conflict as a result of my choices. Uncompartmentalized feelings that complicate my everyday. The life of an expat is inherently ridden with conflicting emotions – a passion for the foreign, exotic and unfamiliar and a wistful longing for home or what used to be perceived as home. In September, I was transitioning between jobs and hadn’t seen my family in 9 months. I was experiencing extreme homesickness, anxiety and an overwhelming feeling of lostness. Yet after visiting for 10 days I was in an even worse state. The “home” that I was yearning for was frighteningly the same. This isn’t that surprising, really and in some ways it’s actually reassuring, but it lacked forward motion. The most changed I noticed was that another strip mall was erected with a Babies “R” Us and a supermarket, replacing farm land. But the most troubling realization from this trip was the lack of change in some of the people I once felt close to. They haven’t left their comfort zones and were ostensibly naive to the realities and struggles of the rest of the world. […]…

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