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Reflecting on different expat mentalities in France

December 4th, 2013 1 comment

Last week there was an interesting op-ed in the New York Times. It can be found here, and I’ve pasted the article below. It’s a reflection by expat author Pamela Druckerman on her experience living in France and how she has done well but also struggled to fully adapt to her adopted country and especially Paris.

She has some interesting insights and in particular outlines what she believes are the three main angles American expats in Paris usually take: “fantastists”, “denialists” and “authentic” experience searchers. (Bold face sentence below in article is my emphasis).

Personally I relate a bit more to the “authentic” searcher group.

What is your angle? Do you agree, and as an expat from a country besides the US – are there alternate approaches?

Contributing Op-Ed Writer
An American Neurotic in Paris
By PAMELA DRUCKERMAN
Published: November 27, 2013

PARIS — A few years back I took the ultimate expatriate plunge: I started doing psychotherapy in French. I figured that, as part of the deal, I’d get free one-on-one French lessons. And I hoped that if I revealed my innermost thoughts in French, I might finally feel like an ordinary Parisian — or at least like an ordinary Parisian neurotic.

I soon realized this was a doomed enterprise. Each week I’d manage to vaguely sketch out my feelings and describe the major characters in my life. But it was hard to free associate when I was worried about conjugating verbs correctly. Sometimes I’d just trail off, saying, “Never mind, everything’s fine.”

I’m aware that there are worse things to be than an American in Paris. You could be, for example, a Congolese in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But as I spend my 10th Thanksgiving here, permit me a moment of reflection. Because Thanksgiving prompts the question that expatriates everywhere face: Shouldn’t I be going home?

The Americans in Paris tend to fall into three categories. There are the fantasists — people nourished by Hemingway and Sartre, who are enthralled with the idea of living here. The moneyed version of this person lives as close as possible to the Eiffel Tower. The Bohemian version teaches English or tends bar, to finance his true vocation: being in France.

Then there are the denialists — often here for a spouse’s job — who cope with living in Paris by pretending they’re not in Paris. They tap into a parallel universe of Anglophone schools, babysitters and house painters, and get their French news from CNN.

Finally there are people like me, who study France and then describe it to the folks back home. We’re determined to have an “authentic” French experience. And yet, by mining every encounter for its anthropological significance, we keep our distance, too.

No matter how familiar Paris becomes, something always reminds me that I don’t belong. The other evening, as I chastised the lady who had cut in line at the supermarket, I realized she was grinning at me — amused by my accent. During conversations in French, I often have the sensation that someone is hitting my head. When surrounded by Parisians, I feel 40 percent fatter, and half as funny. Even my shrink eventually took pity and offered to do the sessions in English. (It turns out she’s fluent.)

The question of whether to stay is especially resonant for Americans in Paris, because many feel that they live here by accident. Not many foreigners move to Paris for their dream job. Many do it on a romantic whim. Expatriates often say that they came for six months, but ended up staying for 15 years. And no one is quite sure where the time went. It’s as if Paris is a vortex that lulls you with its hot croissants and grand boulevards. One morning, you wake up middle-aged — still speaking mediocre French.

I wasn’t sure how long I’d live here, but I did expect my stay to follow a certain expatriate narrative: You arrive; you struggle to understand the place; you finally crack the codes and are transformed; you triumphantly return home, with a halo of foreign wisdom and your stylish bilingual children in tow.

But 10 years on, I’ve gone way off that script. Those stylish children threaten to mutiny if I even mention the possibility of moving. I’ve got a French mortgage, and I’m on the French equivalent of the P.T.A. It’s like being a stranger in a very familiar land. I haven’t cracked the codes, but I no longer feel entirely out of sync: When the whole country goes into mourning after a beloved singer or actor dies, these days I actually know who the guy was.

Sometimes I yearn to be in a place where I don’t just know more or less what people are saying, but know exactly what they mean. But I’m no longer fully in sync with America either. Do people there really eat Cronuts, go on juice fasts and work at treadmill desks?

The thought of becoming an ordinary American again scares me. We expatriates don’t like to admit it, but being foreign makes us feel special. Just cooking pancakes on Sunday morning is an intercultural event. I imagine being back in the United States and falling in with a drone army of people who think and talk just like me — the same politics, the same references to summer camp and ’70s television.

But the fact is, those drones are my people. I end up gravitating toward them in Paris, too. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in 10 years is that I’m American to the core. It’s not just my urge to eat turkey in late November. It’s my certainty that I have an authentic self, which must be expressed. It’s being so averse to idleness that I multitask even when I’m having my head shrunk. And it’s my strange confidence that, whether I stay or go, everything will be fine.

Pamela Druckerman is the author of “Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.

Lyon ranked best city in France for work-life balance

December 3rd, 2013 No comments

Bonjour, readers:

As you may know, I’ve lived in Angers, Lyon, Grenoble and Paris. While all of these cities have their qualities and drawbacks, Lyon particularly stands out to me as a wonderful city for work-life balance…not to mention its ideal geographic location.

Two recent polls rank Lyon highly for its business acumen and work-life balance.

“Business Friendly”
An October 2013 ranking carried out by the magazine L’Expansion-L’Entreprise found Lyon as the #1 “Business Friendly” city in France outside of Paris.
This ranking is available for download here: Le palmarès des villes les plus « business friendly »

Work-Life Balance
As published by the ONLYLYON organization that promotes Lyon in France and abroad, the business magazine Courrier Cadres seems to agree with me from a November 2013 poll of executives and managers in France.

The full article and study are available on the Courrier Cadres website here. There were a variety of questions asked and sub-categories that the article develops in full detail. An excerpt from the ONLYLYON article is below, and the overall ranking graphic is at the bottom.

ONLYLYON
LYON, VILLE PRÉFÉRÉE DES CADRES
24 nov. 2013 par Marine Lanceron

Le magazine Courrier Cadres s’est intéressé aux villes préférées des cadres. La rédaction a réalisé un sondage pour savoir quelles régions et communes étaient à leurs yeux les plus attractives d’un point de vue professionnel comme sur le plan de la qualité de vie.

Ce sondage nous apprend que près de 8 cadres sur 10 seraient prêts à faire des sacrifices professionnels pour vivre dans un meilleur environnement et 4 sur 10 sont prêts à partir de leur ville ou commune actuelle.

Lyon arrive en tête des villes qui réunit les critères d’opportunités professionnelles et de qualité de vie (24% des sondés), devançant ainsi Nantes (13%), Toulouse (11%), Bordeaux (10,5%) et Paris (6%). Elle semble donc être la ville la plus attractive pour changer de région.

Lyon, ville préférée des cadres pour allier carrière et qualité de vie, selon notre sondage exclusif Par Aline Gérard, le Jeudi 28 Novembre 2013

Lyon, ville préférée des cadres pour allier carrière et qualité de vie, selon notre sondage exclusif
Par Aline Gérard, le Jeudi 28 Novembre 2013

Full disclosure: I’m an unpaid volunteer “Ambassadeur ONLYLYON” for promoting Lyon.

European American Chamber of Commerce event in Lyon 4/16

The European American Chamber of Commerce, Lyon chapter, is a part of a network organization that facilitates business and best practices between the US and France. It has chapters in Paris, Lyon, Boston, Cincinnati, New Jersey, New York and a partner in Italy.

They hold conferences and events on business-related topics. On April 16th, they’ll be holding a talk on ETI size companies. The event details are below. RSVP required.

Happy networking!

EACC & KPMG present:

Focus on ETIs,
Intermediate sized companies

Europe counts over 30,000 ETIs – an intermediate category between small and medium enterprises and large companies, more than 3,000 of which are in France, where they are considered to be an essential driver of economic growth.

Speaker: Sara Righenzi de Villers, Expert comptable Commissaire aux Comptes, KPMG

Who are they?
How do they resist the effects of the current economic crisis?
What are their challenges?
What are their key growth drivers?

Tuesday 16 April 2013
from 6:30pm to 8:30pm

KPMG, 51 rue de St Cyr 69009 LYON

6:30pm to 7:00pm – Welcome cocktail
7:00pm to 8:00pm – Presentation and Q&A
8:00pm to 8:30pm – Networking cocktail

American Clubs in France: a great resource for events

December 17th, 2012 No comments

Bonjour everyone,

I’ve posted in the past about the American Clubs newsletter. It is not just for Americans but more of a resource for expats and French citizens alike to know what’s going on around in France in terms of networking with like-minded individuals in dozens of cities.

I encourage you to sign up for their newsletter (icon on right here to sign up under “Contact Us/Newsletter).

You should also be able to see the latest newsletter edition, for events all over France, here.

Happy networking!

Lyon’s Fête des Lumières Dec. 6-9

December 5th, 2012 No comments

Lyon Fourviere Lumieres

Bonjour!

The annual famous light festival in Lyon, France, Fête des Lumières, takes place this December 6th thru December 9th, 2012.

It is really a FANTASTIC show. The amazing aspect of the spectacle itself varies according to year, but you won’t regret going. You may only regret the crowds. I’ve been the past 5 festivals and the population of Lyon doubles to almost 4 million during the long weekend.

You can find out more on their Facebook page and the official site. The site is also available in English. The site has useful information on different shows around the city and times.

Travel info
-You’ll want to check out the TCL Lyon public transport system website for travel updates.

-The regional train system, TER Rhone-Alpes, has information on train schedules as well.

-If you’re taking a TGV via SNCF, check out the SNCF website “Gares en Mouvement” to see about train arrivals and departures. They also have tips for visits to Lyon.

-If you’re flying in, the Aeroports de Lyon website has information.

-Hotels are usually booked this weekend months in advance. Check out classifieds or apartment sharing websites at this point.

It’s truly a wonderful festival, and I love the city of Lyon. Check out my post from last year.

Bonne visite !

The Economist’s France 14-page special report

November 19th, 2012 3 comments

The Economist this week has a 14-page special report this week in its print edition that focuses on France, from its economy to politics, under the central theme of how economic structural reform is necessary in order to avoid a “time bomb” going off at the heart of the Eurozone. You can access the Nov. 17, 2012 print edition contents here. The leader article introducing the special report is here, and the special report link can be found at the table of contents site under “Special report: France” (there are 8 articles).

I’m delving into all this right now and encourage you to do the same. Even if you don’t agree with the magazine’s analysis, it is a highly-regarded publication for a reason: for asking important questions.

This is the not the first time the British news magazine has waxed poetic about France’s economic woes and potential for growth. Indeed, French economic and business paper Les Echos puts past covers and stories into perspective (in French).

What do you think are France’s biggest problems and do you think Hollande and Ayrault’s government can solve them?

 

Back to the US after 5 years in la belle France

November 19th, 2012 5 comments

Hello, Bonjour everyone:

Apologies for the lack of activity on this blog in some time. I’m currently setting the stage to revamp its offerings and content to improve its purpose of informing and advising expats and potential expats.

I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your readership and likes and follows, you make this site what is.  My goal is to foster a community of readers, and with your help I will build that.

After spending the past 5 years in France between Lyon, Grenoble and Paris, from teaching English to going to graduate school and working in communications and advertising, I’ve recently moved back to the US to accept a great career opportunity in Chicago.

I’ve greatly appreciated my time of discovery, learning and friendship over the past 5 years, and I’m a better person for having lived in France and made great friendships there with French nationals as well as expats. France will always remain a special place for me, and I know I’ll be back there someday in one way or another.

I will continue to post to my blog and improve its content to share news related to France and expat issues. Now I’m reconnecting to my American roots but keeping my French cultural and linguistic reflexes, and connecting to the French expat community here in Chicago. Quite a role reversal but I’m ready for the adventure.

Thanks again for your readership, and if you have any comments or suggestions for what content you would like to see, feel free to post a note.

Best wishes for Thanksgiving. Posting soon…

Merci!

Michael

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , ,

Bastille Day 2012

Happy Bastille Day everyone! Joyeux 14 juillet tout le monde !

How did you celebrate today? Feel free to post in the comments section your favorite places to celebrate, no matter which country or city.

I myself am in Washington DC today and among several spots to revel in the celebration, Bistrot du Coin is a local favorite.

In the spirit of transatlantic relations, this NY Times piece is interesting.

Vive la France !

French airport strikes continue, though will likely improve

December 20th, 2011 1 comment

Great news out of France for travelers (including me tomorrow):

Several security service teams working at airports around France are striking to receive more benefits and a pay raise.

This has affected Lyon St. Exupéry Airport, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (Roissy CDG), Toulouse and this may soon expand to Nice, Bâle-Mulhouse (Basel-Mulhouse) and Rennes. Video below.

The Aéroports de Paris website states the following at 3pm today: “Paris-CDG: Industrial action by security companies, 3 pm update Paris-CDG Terminal 2 : 15 mn wait time at security checks, up to 60 mn at peak times. No flight cancellations. Paris-Orly : normal situation.”

Normally the strikes before were also in terminals 1 and 3 of CDG. The Lyon website says strikes should continue to cause delays today but should not result in cancellations. To be confirmed.

Now the French government is looking into having a law obliging airports to have minimum service during strikes. They’ve also named 2 official mediators to try to resolve the crisis.

For the latest updates, call your airline and please check the respective airport websites and France 24 for latest information.

I’ll be writing a bit less during the holidays. Safe travels and Happy Holidays!

Lyon’s Fête des Lumières this weekend

December 9th, 2011 No comments

The annual Fête des Lumières in the wonderful city of Lyon, France takes place this weekend. I’ve been the past four years and will be there again this weekend, along with millions of other visitors (in addition to the local Lyon area population of 1.8 million or so).

For more information on this great event, check out This French Life, The Daily Mail UK’s great article, and of course the official site.

Enjoy!

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