Posts Tagged 'expat'

Luck and Expectations: Some Thoughts on Moving Abroad

Thinking of moving to Paris? Carpe Diem.

Thinking of moving to Paris? Carpe Diem.

Recently I was tapped as an “expat expert” and asked to contribute a tip about living abroad for an HiFx campaign. At first I balked at being considered an “expert.” But then I reasoned: if experience is what makes someone knowledgeable, then I must know something after 7 years in Paris.

Still, I had trouble coming up with concrete advice. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that everyone’s experience is different. Part of the adventure (and frustration) of life in France is that it’s difficult to pin down the precise rules. Documents asked of one person for a dossier, for example, may not be requested of another.

Art along the Seine

Art along the Seine

In the end, perseverance counts more than anything. My tip, therefore, emphasized attitude, summed up in a few short lines. (You can see the full list of tips here; mine will be added soon).

The topic got me to wondering, though. How could I expand on the lessons I learned moving to the City of Light? I realized expectations and the perception of luck play a major role when I talk to people about moving abroad. Here are some broad thoughts on the subject:

Continue reading ‘Luck and Expectations: Some Thoughts on Moving Abroad’

Author Interview: Aurelia d’Andrea of ‘Living Abroad in France’ (Plus: A Reader Poll!)

Aurelia d'Andrea (photo by Sophia Pagan)

When my (crazy) idea of moving to France first came to me ’round about 2005/2006, there weren’t that many practical guides explaining how to make it happen. I found books with titles like “Working and Living in France,” but these were inevitably written largely by and for UK residents.

As all of my North American expat friends can attest, a vastly different set of challenges face those not already wielding an EU-passport.

That’s why it’s lovely to see a new book (released Valentine’s Day – aww) written for a more North American audience.

Aurelia d’Andrea is a freelance writer, former magazine editor, and professional Parisian dog walker (!) who has put together a useful guide to Living Abroad in France (conveniently, that is the title of the book, too!)

D’Andrea hails from San Francisco, but has successfully navigated two different long-term stays in France. Her book covers everything from planning a fact-finding trip to moving with pets, the different types of visas and their associated requirements to renting or buying an apartment.

The guidebook is engaging and accessible and packed full of resources. Besides admiring the work it takes to put together such a guide, I’m also relieved to have an easy title to point to now when others ask me how they too can live in la belle France. “Get this book,” I can now say. (Phew, I’m off the hook!)

It takes real perseverance to make the dream of living in France a reality, but as d’Andrea proves – it’s possible. And so worth it.

I’m happy Aurelia agreed to answer a few questions for the blog.

I was stunned to learn that you researched and wrote this entire book from scratch under a very tight deadline. The book gives an overview of everything from French government to getting your kids into school, handling administrative hurdles to mapping regional geography. How in the heck do you even approach putting together such an extensive guide on such a large topic as “Living Abroad in France”?

Continue reading ‘Author Interview: Aurelia d’Andrea of ‘Living Abroad in France’ (Plus: A Reader Poll!)’

Unconventional Christmas

A 'green' Christmas tree made of plastic bottles

Hello friends,

I hope you had a wonderful weekend full of warmth and good cheer.

Mine was laid-back but lovely.

On Saturday I finally went to Angelina to try their famous hot chocolate. I was tickled to be a tourist in my adopted city for Christmas – what better time? Angelina has a grand dining room and the hot chocolate does not disappoint.

Next I strolled from the Tuilieres to the Marais where my friend and I grabbed a falafel.

Yes, my Christmas Eve dinner was a falafel from a Rue des Rosiers joint. As we sat eating our falafels on a stoop (classy all the way), we remarked this was the fun of being an expat, especially during the holidays: no rules. No expectations. You make it up as you go.

Continue reading ‘Unconventional Christmas’

Aux Deux Amis

Last night I met up with two of my favorite Paris bloggers – the awesome Amy Thomas of God, I Love Paris and the wonderful Erica of HiP Paris Blog.

Amy and I share the same feeling of being both blessed and cursed to have such strong affinities for New York and Paris. On the one hand, spoiled for riches to have intimate true love and knowledge of two incredible cities. On the other, heartache, because we’re forever torn between the two.

Amy moved back to New York in January and believes the decision the right one. She also said the adjustment has been difficult. From what I’ve heard, repatriation can be even more of a shock than first moving to a foreign country.

What did Thomas Wolfe say? You can’t go home again.

Well, you can, but you are different. Home feels different. Once an expat, the very notion of home becomes complicated. It’s no longer just a fixed location, but an evolving, fluid concept, one that changes how you interact with the world. It reaches right down to your very identity.

Continue reading ‘Aux Deux Amis’

This American Life

Palm trees in the city: a view from Governor's Island

The April I first vacationed in Paris – the one where I lived in a Sorbonne professor’s top-floor apartment near the Gare du Nord; the one where I met a Frenchman and experienced a coup de foudre; the month, that really, changed everything – I told a friend that I felt I had just lived an entirely different life.

You have, she said.

I feel kind of like that now.

It would be impossible to encapsulate over three weeks back on home soil, but I can tell you I feel different. There are reminders of who I used to be here, pieces of myself I’ve lost, aspects of my personality I want to regain.

As beautiful as Paris is, and as much as the (mostly invented) image of the bohemian writer may appeal, it is really here that I feel free.

Washington Square Park in bloom

I’ve appreciated having my loud laugh celebrated, rather than scorned, random smiles from strangers on the street. I saw a 70-year old man tattooed from head to toe, made friends in line at Trader Joe’s.

Paris has become home, but it wasn’t until I stepped back here that I realized I’ve actually been holding my breath, that the discreet city has quieted me. Sometimes you have to leave the country of “c’est pas possible” for the land of “yes we can.”

99 cents: the American dream?

Perhaps I’ll provide little snippets of my adventures over the coming weeks, because really, it’s hard to sum up. New York embraced me. Vermont invigorated me. From the buzzing city to a little hotbox of creativity, I am nearly full to bursting with inspiration.

Today New York celebrates its version of Bastille Day on 60th Street.

I think I’ll wait for the real deal on July 14 when I will just have arrived back to Paris.

Despite what I’ve been saying here, I’m looking forward to going back. I’m packing my smile and renewed strength with me, though. I prefer who I am in America. Can I be that American in Paris?

Belleville in Brooklyn

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The Joys of Travel

Often, adventure lies in the journey itself.

Like a roadtrip in Mexico where we set off without destination and ended up diving from high cliffs into a turquoise sea, sleeping on a white-sand beach, and stumbling upon a haunted house (we ran away as there were haunted people inside, too).

Or in Ghana, where my guidebook’s only accommodation recommendation for a certain region was to find the “Jesus Reigns Supply Shop” and ask the owner, Michael, if we could stay at his place. (He wasn’t there, but the two workers we met kept us stuffed on sweet mangoes until Michael arrived to whisk us away on his motorbike. He and his wife’s little B&B turned out to be a nice respite).

Sometimes, though, you just want to get to where you’re going.

For my trip back to the States, this was the aim. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans.

On a good day, the drive to Charles de Gaulle Airport takes 30 minutes, though we always leave over an hour for the inevitable traffic jams. The airline had already called early in the morning to inform me that the flight had changed – I love (read hate) how they’re allowed to change any thing at will up to the last moment.

Even with the delay, it became a race to the finish. After over an hour and half stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, a mad dash off the highway to find the nearest RER train station because it was obvious I would miss the flight if I stayed stymied amongst the cars, a worried wait in the Aulnay sous Bois station as it began to rain, I made it to the airport and through all check-in and security procedures with 20 minutes to spare.

I was seated next to 15 young Russian children for the next 7 hours.

But I made it, and I remember why I come back home:

My niece, the cutest little girl in the world.

The hardest thing about being an expat is being far from family and friends. So you soak up every last second with them, say grace for the time spent.

I stayed with my sister and her husband in their new house in DC (congrats, homeowners!) and my above-noted gorgeous niece. My mom came up from North Carolina.

At the end of the weekend, I couldn’t imagine how I ever thought these few days would be enough. (No matter how long, it’s never enough).

But then another travel mishap to distract me. A tardy cab, an asshole driver, a missed bus, a long wait in the hot sun.

But now I’m in New York and it’s all okay again. My last trip here was something of a heartbreaker. I felt like an outsider to a place I had once known so intimately.

This time I’m more prepared. I accept that I am a visitor, that Paris is now home. But I’m visiting as I lived here – with an open wonder. This great city helped shape me, taught me to be who I am to the fullest.

I’m on 95th street on the West side and found it a good omen to pass this building on my block:

Sans Souci. Without Worry.

I’m adopting that motto.

Until I fly up to Vermont on Monday, that is. (Third trip’s a charm?)

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Expat Focus on, well…me

I was surprised (and delighted!) when the website Expat Focus asked to interview me for their “Expat Experiences” section.

Not only did I get to talk about myself, but it gave me the excuse to get my friend Dani, a professional photographer and resident at 59Rivoli, to take photos of me in front of several Paris landmarks. (Actually, I say that like it’s a good thing. I don’t like talking about myself or getting my photo taken. Both were fun, nonetheless).

Contemplative Sion - This photo is just waiting for its book jacket, no?

If the explanation on this blog that I moved to France on a “romantic whim” is a bit too vague, the interview fills in a few of those holes. (Though after reading the longer version, you’ll probably still reach the same conclusion).

I used to eschew labels. Chalk it up to never quite fitting into any one category. A New Yorker who grew up in North Carolina, a mixed-race girl obliged to check the “other” box whenever she filled out official information (whoever thought “other” was a good way to classify people’s race and/or ethnicity has some explaining to do).

In short, I’ve long been accustomed to dueling identities. Nothing prepared me for the tug between these two worlds, though – France and the United States. So one label I do strongly identify with now is “expat.” There’s nothing hazy about the situation: I am a citizen of one country living her life in another.

I’m happy to share my experience of what that looks like. (What that feels like? Yes, probably the better question.) Feel free to read my story here.


paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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