Tag Archives: expat life

One More Month in Paris

Paris
July 16. That’s the date we move back to New York, which happens to be exactly one month from today. I can’t believe my two-plus years have flown by so quickly…and that I have a mere month left. I don’t even want to think about what moving back to NYC is going to be like. From fellow friends who have loved Paris as much as I do and have been forced had to repatriate, it is going to blow big time. Always the planner though, I’ve decided to combat the inevitable repatriation woes with the following action plan:

  1. Experience NY as an expat! When you’ve grown up in a certain city, you always take it for granted. Not this time around! I’m going to take on NY as if I never lived there. Museums, tourist sights, local events – sign me up tout de suite!
  2. Catch up with old friends, and especially, new friends. We’ve been lucky enough to make friends in Paris who have now returned to NYC. There’s an undeniable bond for those of us who have lived abroad together. Only they can truly understand the ups and downs of your time overseas, resulting in a friendship that will last a lifetime. I’m thankful that if we have to leave our friends here, we at least have many old and new friends to return to.
  3. Travel, travel, travel! Although it won’t be as easy to hop to a new country for a weekend getaway, and I’ll only have a mere three weeks of vacation, it’s time to start exploring Les États-Unis more, and the Americas side of the world.

As for now, many people ask what’s remaining on my bucket list in Paris. So here’s what we’ll be up to with our time left here:

  1. Go to a Crazy Horse cabaret show, which is a raunchier version of Moulin Rouge…I think.
  2. Capture a piece of our Parisian life. Instead of being photographed in front of a slew of tourist sites, I’m hiring our friend Lindsey of Pictours Paris for a family shoot in our apartment, neighborhood, and one or two touristy spots.
  3. Discover a new view of Paris courtesy of Messy Nessy Chic.
  4. Ride bus 69. No, I’m not being a pervert. Paris’s public bus #69 happens to have a très scenic route that includes the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
  5. Shop! Luckily, les soldes begin June 25 so I can stock up on a much-needed new wardrobe for my new job and return home! I have to attempt to look Parisian chic, after all!
  6. Consume as much cheese, baguette, and wine as possible.
  7. Finally take advantage of the free English guided tours at Notre-Dame de Paris.
  8. Je voudrais faire une réservation, svp! As you can see in my Google map, I’ve eaten at a lot of bars/restaurants in Paris…but there are so many more I still need to try!
  9. Spend quality time with my beloved friends here. Oh, how I’m going to miss them! I love you!
  10. Enjoy Paris!
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Après Paris?

Paris
After nearly two and a half years of newfound friendships, unforgettable travel experiences, and maddening #gotfrenched situations, la vie parisienne is sadly coming to an abrupt end. Oui, it’s true.

Just as we moved to Paris for an amazing career opportunity, we are doing the same for our repatriation to NYC. And so au revoir to our plans of living in Paris until 2015 and then moving to London. Ugh, putain.

Up until today, I had started telling my friends in Paris and a few close friends and work colleagues in NYC, with many of them immediately asking me the same question: “Are you excited??” Well, the answer is no, I’m too worried to be excited right now, and I have a feeling I’ll embark on a grieving stage once mobility actually starts. Although I’m happy to be reunited with my friends and family and intrigued about where this next chapter will lead me, I’m anxious about finding an apartment that’s not ridiculously expensive, incredibly worried about finding a full-time job that I’ll love (or finding a job at all!), devastated to be leaving my friends who have become my quasi-adopted family here, and equally devastated about moving from this stunning City of Lights. I love it here.

I love it here even though Frenchies drive me to drink sometimes.

I love it here despite the fact that the concept of efficiency is non-existent.

I love it here even though you have to sign multiple copies of the same document because the government knows Frenchies are too lazy to just make a copy of the one original.

I love it here even though it rains a whole lot more than I remembered (en fait, more rainy days than London!).

I love it here even though stores close for three-hour lunch breaks and it’s nearly impossible trying to remember that la pressing is closed from 1:30pm to 2:30pm, the boucherie from 1pm to 4:15pm (yes, 3 hour and 15 minute lunch break), that one boulangerie is closed on Mondays, while the one next door is closed on Tuesdays, and that la poissonnerie is closed from …wait, I still haven’t figured out when they’re closed in the afternoon.

I love it here even though a lease agreement, French ID card, bank statement, and a cell phone bill still aren’t enough proof of where you live.

I love it here even though painters poop in your toilet and steal your candy. Yeah, actually, no, I take that one back.

I love it here.

But c’est la vie…and my new life will be back in the City That Never Sleeps. What I have to try to remember is that I felt a lot of the same things when I left NYC for Paris. As many of my best friends know, there were many sleepless nights ruminating about the challenges that laid before me: would I be able to make new friends? was I ruining my career? would Tyler survive the flight overseas? would I be lonely? Yes, no, yes, and no. It all worked out, and I’m cautiously optimistic it will when I return.

I really do love you, NYC, even though this blog post probably doesn’t sound like it. I just might love Paris even more.

So, à bientôt, NYC; our repatriation begins this July!

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young (wo)man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – Earnest Hemingway

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Today…

the French are sucking the lifeblood out of me yet again. For some reason, they are simply incapable of the concept of customer service.

Today…when pointing out a minute error that I would like easily corrected, the girl simply said “désolée”. I wanted to say “Merci, but I don’t need a ‘désolée’, I would just love it if you could correct this, and that would be perfect.” Unfortunately, I’m not oftentimes very good at coming up with this on the fly in French.

Today…when trying to go to the bank the teller actually had me answer a slew of questions and show my bank card through a video monitor as proof that this was my bank before letting me in through the second set of security doors. Today…apparently, I look like a criminal. Once through, she informed me that since this wasn’t my main bank branch, she didn’t recognize me and that’s why she treated me like a second-class citizen. I wanted to reply, “Oh, but I remember you, as this actually isn’t my first time at this branch. You weren’t very nice to me last time when I wanted to do a bank withdrawal and told me my French ID, my NYC ID and my bank card weren’t enough proof that it was actually me taking money out of my own bank account.” Again, I’m not good with quick comebacks in French.

Oh, but I can’t forget about yesterday…when I went to the RSI office to tell them I don’t need a carte vitale/French social security as I already have international health insurance. Well, “c’est obligatoire,” they responded. But I don’t need two health insurances. “Mais, vous l’avez.” (“But, you have it.”). My comeback in French, “umm, merci?”.

To sum up these past two days, I’m going to use a phrase my friend Whitney coined…”I got Frenched”.

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The Painter Stole My Candy

After a weekend trip to Berlin last November, I returned to find the apartment above mine had a water leak and was causing the floor in mes toilettes to flood. After phone-stalking the management company and recruiting the building’s guardienne and Rio’s assistant to do the same so I could have a plumber come and fix the problem tout de suite, someone finally came three days later. Three days later! By this point, the leak had become so bad that the water damage had spread to the adjoining walls in my kitchen and bathroom (like a typical French apartment, my “toilet room” is separate from my bathroom with a shower), causing major bubbling and fissures. Not to mention, I had to constantly mop the toilet room floor every 30 minutes so the water wouldn’t spread into my hallway. It was gross to say the least. Oh, and did I mention I had a guest staying with me during this time?

Fast forward nearly five months, and the management company’s insurance company finally sent someone to repair the walls from the water damage. Total damage was roughly over 2,000 euros…but would’ve probably been less had the management company sent someone in a timely manner. Well, having had a pretty positive experience with the contractor that installed my kitchen cabinets when I first moved to Paris, I thought the painter they sent would be equally professional. Much to my horror and dismay, I was wrong.

Upon arrival, the painter’s “patron” says that the repair will take three days. Never mind I am 99% positive it would take an American 1 1/2 days, but c’est bon. After a slow start, the painter essentially worked 2 1/2 hours before taking a 2 hour lunch break and then worked another 1 1/2 hours peppered in with a couple of cigarette breaks on my balcony. After a little mid-afternoon break in my toilet, off he packed up and tells me he’ll be back the next day at 8am. Umm, so apparently 4 hours is a full day’s worth of work for French people. Irritated, yet, woefully accustomed to the French work ethic, I sucked it up and hoped the next day would be a bit better. How I have remained so hopeful in this country is beyond me; sometimes, I swear they suck the lifeblood out of you…and I’m someone who loves it here!

The next day, the painter arrives at 8am and tells me he has to come back on Monday as they cannot work on my apartment today after all. They must finish the work in my neighbor’s apartment. What the what?! My apartment is a disaster where showering is essentially impossible, all my kitchen pantry items are scattered about in my foyer and I can’t even cook anything since plastic is draping the sides of my kitchen walls (not that I really cook, but still!). After not so calmly stating that the work must be completed today and that I am living in un appartement dégueulasse right now, the painter packs up his stuff and says his patron will discuss the situation with me.

Once the patron finally comes up to my apartment, I am so frustrated (and a bit hungover), that I start crying with frustration. Lo and behold, he immediately tells me the work can recommence today and will actually be finished today as well! I’m so relieved, yet disturbed that I had to come to this breaking point to get what I want, that I can’t help but still rant and rave like a crazy American lady. (Side Note: The only other time I have broken down in Paris after a similar Kafka-esque situation, the French ended up finally agreeing to what needed to be done. Just sayin’.)

Well, I’m relieved to say that the paint job really was finished that day, and more efficiently than the day before with two painters in lieu of just one. But I can’t help but share some French golden nuggets of what transpired that day. Well, after taking a reasonable 1 1/2 hour lunch break, they returned to take a poop in my toilet. How do I know? Well, once they left that evening, I discovered it and had to scrub the sh*t out of it, literally. It’s fine though, these are natural bodily functions after all. So after they relieve themselves and poke around the rooms that are being painted for a couple of minutes, they ask me to make them two coffees. I was so caught off-guard, that I simply said, “umm, d’accord” and made them two fresh Nespresso cups before getting back to work. I, foolishly, thought they’d do the same. In fact, they sipped their cafés allongés and had a good chat before starting to paint. Obviously, I was seething at this point and emailed my friends the play-by-play while giving the kitchen door dirty looks.

A few hours later though, they were finally gone! Hallelujah! As I happily and frantically cleaned the apartment and put away all the kitchen, toilet and bathroom items, I noticed that I was missing something though. A huge chocolate candy bar! Yes, these Frenchies actually stole a candy bar (and probably ate it in secret with the coffee I made them). Who does that…and who knows what else might’ve been stolen that I haven’t noticed yet?! I was so miffed by the whole situation, I couldn’t resist calling the patron to inform him about the lack of professionalism from his team. He tells me he can’t understand my French, is driving in traffic and to text him. Yup, never heard from him again.

On a French etiquette note…apparently, I should’ve offered un café to the painter immediately upon his arrival. According to my French friends, they do this if someone is going to be working in their apartment for more than a few hours in hopes that they won’t steal anything and will do a good job. Now I know, and now you know…but may you hopefully never have to deal with a French painter in your life!

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Which London Neighborhood Do You Recommend?

London NeighborhoodsThat’s the question I asked practically every single pseudo-friendly Brit this past weekend. That or “Where should I live in London?”

It’s becoming more and more apparent we’ll be leaving Paris in 2014, which is about a year earlier than expected (2 year stay instead of a 3 year stay). Rio’s been saying we’d probably move to London for months now but I’ve been in denial for quite some time. I seriously thought I was going to be able to stay in Paris forever. Dreams crushed. Anyways, I’ve gone through my stages of grief and so while I was in London visiting friends this past weekend (thus, the lack of blog posts), I figured I might as well get a head start on figuring out which neighborhoods in London would be good for notre petite famille.

Boy – nearly everyone had a different neighborhood they recommended. From Angel in Islington and Herne Hill by Brixton to London Fields and Primrose Hill. It looks like it’s not going to be as easy deciding on a place as it was in Paris! The pic above is a little sheet where a shopkeeper started writing down all her neighborhood recommendations, and I started adding to it after chatting with random bartenders, waitresses and friends.

So if there are any readers out there who are either British or live/have lived in London, please let me know your thoughts on London neighborhoods. I hear the East End is quite the trendy area now… and Rio will be working in the City of London as well as Croydon, so it’ll need to be convenient to get to those two areas. Oh, and in case it helps, here is my list of must-haves that I gave Rio when he was apartment-hunting for us in Paris (and he was able to fulfill everything in our beautiful little Parisian home):

  1. 2 bedrooms. We have A LOT of visitors. Although… maybe we’ll have less in London compared to Paris.
  2. South / Southwest view. I need the sunshine, as little as there may be in London!
  3. French charm & details … or I guess in this case, traditional British charm & details.
  4. Elevator. Having to take Tyler the Terror up and down stairs four times a day is too treacherous.
  5. Outdoor space. Right now, we have a balcony and when the weather’s nice, I love working out there, enjoying some wine and apéros and just soaking up the vitamin D. And Tyler quite likes it as well.
  6. Close to a park. I am literally at Parc Monceau every single day.
  7. Close to a metro (or I guess, tube).
  8. Close to lots of bars and restaurants. After a year, I still haven’t been able to eat/drink at all the bars and restaurants in my neighborhood!
  9. Safety, safety, safety. I have no desire to live in a gritty neighborhood where I have to worry about pick-pocketers or worse when I’m coming home late at night.
  10. And last, but not least, a neighborhood vibe. I love that the local fromagerie, cave à vin, marché, boucherie, retoucherie, pressing and apéros spot all know me and I know them. I mean, the fact that we wave to each other when I’m walking by their storefront, or when I stop by and they ask me how Tyler’s doing is priceless.

Bloody hell, how am I going to ever leave Paris!

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Expat Life: C’est Toujours Au Revoir

Au Revoir, Mes Amis
Today, a friend left Paris to return to New York. After a mere year in Paris, I’ve had to say goodbye to a number of fellow expats. Off they went to Milan, San Francisco, Johannesburg, DC, Buenos Aires, London, and NYC.

Friends here warned me that this was a never-ending cycle of expat life, but I’m starting to feel it even more recently. Perhaps it’s because I’ve (almost) come to terms with the fact that our little family will probably not be able to stay in Paris forever either and in fact, have to leave a little earlier than expected to move to London. Oui, c’est vrai et je suis pas contente. Pas du tout.

Ever the optimist, I’m still hoping that we’ll still somehow get to live our expat days (and the rest of our lives) in my favorite city in the world, but… if not, that just means I’m going to have to 1) appreciate Paris even more than I already do and 2) convince Rio that we should buy a pied-à-terre here. A girl can dream!

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My One Year Anniversary And How I Know the Parisians are Rubbing Off On Me

One year ago today, I looked around the empty apartment that Rio and I had bought and shared for five years, locked up and said goodbye to New York. I was off to Paris and despite having incredible worries about risking my career and not being able to make a single friend, I was willing to leave it all behind for Rio and the other love of my life: Paris.

Do I ever miss New York? Sure – there are some hard, lonely days where I think about what the NYC version of me would be doing at that exact moment if I were there. How my friends are probably all having easy laughs with each other and not having to share their “story” with each other… because we all already know each others’ stories. While I’m sitting through “blind friend dates” wondering whether the other person likes me and if we’ll actually hang out again. How I’d be running off to a studio with Starbucks in hand in the hectic craze of preparing for a TV segment for work and bumping into celebrities in the green room. While I’m sitting at home working at a tiny uncomfortable desk in sweatpants and unwashed hair with no human being in the vicinity to have a conversation with. How I’d be going to Long Island with Tyler in tow to bask in the sun and go swimming at my parents’ house. While I’m still shivering in a coat with grey skies overhead.

I miss my friends and family. I miss the sunshine. I miss having anything you want at any time of night and having it delivered to your apartment door.  I miss my NYC life. But do I regret leaving? Not one bit. In one year, I’ve built quite a life for myself here. New friends, new clients, a new home that actually feels like a home, and new adventures. Paris does me good. So in the spirit of my “one year anniversary”, here is my top 5 list of how you know these lovable Parisians are rubbing off on you:

5. You walk straight ahead and make people jump out of the way on the street. It’s not your fault if they get bumped into – they’re in your way.
4. You automatically order un apéritif when you sit down at dinner. It’s to whet the appetite, after all.
3. You go to three different boulangeries in one trip and think that’s completely normal. One for your favorite baguette, one for your favorite croissant, and one for some other favorite baked good.
2. You’re willing to wait on line for 20 minutes for a block of cheese… and don’t think you’re wasting time.
1. You catch yourself making incoherent noises that pass off for words in France. i.e. “uh nah nah nah nah nah”, “plffff” and “upppp”. Fellow expats, you know what I’m talking about.

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French Phrase of the Day: Femme au Foyer

Bières Cultes Inside Bières Cultes
French Phrase of the Day: Housewife
While at one of Rio’s favorite neighborhood stores, Bières Cultes, which is solely dedicated to beer, we started chatting it up with the salesperson. Hearing us speak in English, he naturally asked us where we were from and we said New York. Cue typical French response: eyes widen and interest in us exponentially grows immediately with Frenchie exclaiming “Oh! J’adore New York!” This is usually followed by a question on how long we’ve lived here, whether we like Paris or NY more or a comment on “L’ènergie! La diversité!” Anyways, I digress… as the salesperson rang up a bunch of Trappiste beers, he asked what we were doing here.

Rio: Financial reporting
Me: Well, I freelance for American companies doing PR, but besides that, I basically run errands, have lunch with friends… what do you call that in France anyway?
Bières Cultes salesperson: Hmm, une femme au foyer.
Me: You mean like a woman in the lobby? Um, ok…

Well, I mentioned this to someone who speaks way better French than I do a couple days later at a party and apparently it means “housewife”… however, it’s not used that often anymore since it’s a really old-school term. But anyways… housewife?!?! OMG – my worst nightmare. No offense to housewives out there, mais c’est pas pour moi… especially considering I’m childless and I think having a child is a valid excuse to be a housewife/stay-at-home-mom. And this is who the pseudo-cool beer sales guy thinks I am? Isn’t there a French term for something like “lady who has boozy lunches, runs errands, cooks more than she ever did before, plans social activities and vacations, but also works a bit because she risked her career to move to Paris”??

The sales guy wrote out "femme au foyer" for me on a beer coaster. C'est gentil.

The sales guy wrote out “femme au foyer” for me on a beer coaster. C’est gentil.

 

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Let’s Call it A Girls’ Week

One of the things I’m most thankful about my life in Paris is all the wonderful friends I’ve made here. I definitely was more than nervous about that before coming and many expats will tell you it can get lonely quickly here. Well, after nearly a year here, many people have been warm & welcoming, and I’ve met some lifelong friends. Believe me, I’m not saying it’s all champagne and croissants here, there are definitely better days than others.

Kasia & Kim

Kasia & Kim


So, while Rio was in Budapest for work this week, Monday night I had plans with Venezuelan Carolina and Aussi-American Kim (and owner of organic skincare line Priti NYC) and we decided to go to a happy hour blogger event our friend Kasia was hosting. Kasia’s a handbag designer who I met at Kim’s Thanksgiving dinner and has a blog called Love in the City of Lights. I’m obsessed with her bags and plan on buying a Rive Droite bag ASAP.

Carolina, Kim P. showing her Parisian Events logo on the cupcake, and Kim showing perfect nails (she is the owner of Priti NYC, after all!).

Carolina, Kim P. showing her Parisian Events logo on the cupcake, and Kim showing perfect nails (she is the owner of Priti NYC, after all!).

So… the expat world is ridiculously small, which I’ve realized time and time again. While at Kasia’s event, who do I bump into, but the most famous wedding planner in Paris (not an exaggeration) – Kim Petyt of Parisian Events!! After drinks, we all ended up grabbing some Thai food and it was the perfect Monday night.

Robin, me, Brooke & Christine.

Robin, me, Brooke & Christine.

Fast forward to Wednesday, and Robin and I had a true “ladies who lunch” day. BTW – you should check out her blog too (my BFF Kristen says it’s like reading my blog – haha)! Some networking in the AM, shopping, lunching, drinking, and then off to dinner at this Mexican restaurant Candelaria I’ve been wanting to try. We met up with Christine and Brooke, and had a great time just catching up and talking about la vie Parisienne.

The only hiccup was I woke up at 2:30am with a rumbling stomach from the cactus taco I ate (yeah, it may be delicious, but maybe don’t get the cactus if you go to Candelaria).

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French Customer Service (An Oxymoron)

What’s the difference between customer service in France and customer service in the US? It exists in the US.

Any American expat living in France will tell you the same thing – and quite a few Parisians too. Here’s a recent example…

As a result of my non-functioning cable box, for approximately two months I’ve had to deal with the wretched telecommunications company that is known as Orange, who is the leading provider of internet, television and cell phone service. So you know how in NY, we complain about Time Warner and if we have issues, we can call and, if necessary, have them send someone over? Yeah, ça n’existe pas à Paris. First of all, every time you call Orange, you are charged per minute. Yes – even while you’re on hold forever. Then, when nothing seems to work to fix your cable box, even after you’ve exchanged the cable box (AKA un décodeur), they still refuse to send a technician over to help you – even if you say you’re willing to pay for it.

Moi: SVP, je peux payer! Je peux payer pour le technicien!
Horrid Orange: Non, c’est pas possible, madame. C’est pas possible.

Just last week, I literally made about 7 calls in one day to the Orange customer service number for Anglophones. Yes, I speak French – but when you’re dealing with technical, gadgety terms, I’d much prefer to speak in my native tongue. Well, every time I called this alleged Anglophone number, they would say that no one there spoke English so I’d have to call the Anglophone number and would proceed to give me the number I had just dialed. Realizing that speaking with an Anglophone wasn’t going to happen, I decided to just deal with the situation in French. That call lasted over an hour and resulted in me asking the painter next door for help and then being hung up on by Orange. Putain!

Well, this American does not give up! I called Orange again, practically in tears of frustration, and miraculously was able to get a slightly-friendlier customer service guy. And voila, he said he’d send over a technician (for a fee of 119 euros, naturally). When I asked him why every single other person I spoke with said it wasn’t possible to send a technician, he said he didn’t know why because he could.

Hmm… there’s a reason why some people say living in France is like living in a Kafka-esque world.

Anyone else have “French customer service” stories to share?

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