Sunday, October 11, 2015

Growing A Life In Paris

I get a kick out of meeting Americans and others who are moving to Paris. They are so excited about living the dream. But at the same time, they’re worried. What about health care? Where do I find Cheerios for my two-year-old? A school for my teen? How do I fill this hole in my life—no friends, family, or language?
Last weekend, I met about 150 transplants at a day-long orientation program called “Bloom Where You Are Planted,” now in its 45th year.
I saw myself in their faces. Nearly 18 year ago, I was newly married, following my spouse who had secured his dream job. It was a French honeymoon! We thought we would be here for just 18 months.
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A still from the movie "An American in Paris" (1951)
Except this time, I was volunteering for the program instead of taking part. I was reminded that moving abroad is more than an airplane ticket and a temporary rental apartment. It’s about making a happy life for yourself.
And how to do that? The speakers at Bloom were long on advice—sometimes conflicting. “Don’t mingle with English speakers,” said Simone Zanoni, the Italian executive chef at the Trianon Restaurant at Versailles. He came to Paris barely speaking little French, and it took time for him to win acceptance and acclaim.
Another speaker Melissa Dalton-Bradford, author of “Global Mom,” embraced whatever was in her house or next door. She learned her foreign languages via the friends of her four children, and built her community around a massive dinner table!
As for myself? Immersion is great, if your spouse is French, you’re going to French university or diving into a Franco-French workplace. But, that wasn’t me.
As a “trailing spouse” to a American working in an international organization where English was the working language, I met amazing people from all over the world. Why avoid that? Love the one you’re with!
I didn’t have an opening into the French world until I started working—in an American multinational where the house language is “Franglais”! Here’s a typical conversation: “Tu vas à la huddle sur le way we work?”
After 18 years, my French is horrible (which is English for not too bad) but I am happy.
Happy to have so many American friends that have become family—gros bisous to Shellie, Karen, Helen and so many others!
Happy to belong to American and other Englishy groups for immigrants, exiles, escapees, whatever you call us. Merci beaucoup to Toastmasters, WICE, the American Church, AAWE, etc. where I have learned so much and have met so many amazing English-speaking transplants--and so many fantastic French people!
Call it Bloom Where You Are Planted!