Expat Voices: A Seattleite in Paris

Expat Voices: A Seattleite in Paris

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The anonymous blogger of A Seattleite in Paris admits that living in France has introduced new shopping habits and longer vacation time, though the past seven years has yet to relieve her of frustrations with customer service and inefficiency.

Name: A Seattleite in Paris    
Nationality: American
City of residence: Paris
Civil status: In a relationship
Occupation: Marketing
Reason for moving to France: Graduate school; and I knew the first time I visited Paris I wanted to live here.
Lived in France for: 7 years

What was your first impression of France?
The first time I came to France (it was Paris) I loved it. I knew I’d come back one day, preferably to live, and I did.

What do you think of the food?
I can’t stomach andouillette or the stinky cheeses. The pastries are great, as is fromage blanc. I discovered gratin dauphinois in the Rhone-Alpes region. The list of French food I like is extensive.

What do you think of the shopping in France?
Clothes shopping is not fun since clothes, specifically pants (trousers for the British readers), are not made for American derrieres. That said, I was never much of a clothes shopper in the US.

Food shopping isn’t so bad. since I wasn’t used to outdoor markets, it took me a while to get away from just going to the supermarket. I now live near a covered market, and it has spoiled me. I don’t mind going to the butcher for meat, the poissonnier for fish, etc. The quality seems so much better, and after a while they start to recognise you.

What do you appreciate about living in France?

The many weeks of vacation! One thing I enjoy is the appreciation of what life has to offer outside of work. Here people tend to work to live rather than living to work. People don’t look at you funny if you take the time to enjoy your meal or take a long vacation.

What do you find most frustrating about living in France?
The red tape and the lack of efficiency still annoy me. I don’t get as irritated as I did when I first moved to France, but occasionally it can grate on the nerves. The lack of customer service is also frustrating, but I don’t see that changing any time soon. In the workplace there is a much greater focus placed on the level of education and where you attended school than in the US.

What puzzles you about France and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?

The things I miss about the US are the things that frustrate me in France -- lack of customer service, focus on education and title rather than potential and productivity. I also miss 24-hour grocery stores (on days when I can’t get to the market in time).

How does the quality of life in France compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
The only other country I’ve lived in is the US. I wouldn’t say the quality of life is better here or there, it’s just different. I guess it depends on what the person considers to be important.

If you could change anything about France, what would it be?
- The lack of efficiency.
- The lack of flexibility in the job market.
- Transport strikes.
- Outdated ways of viewing job performance, job history and worth. Just because someone has a certain title and a diploma from a certain school doesn’t mean he or she is any good at doing the job.

What advice would you give to a newcomer?

If you don’t understand something, find a French person or an expat who’s lived here for a while to help you. A lot of information is online, but sometimes it’s easiest to just ask a colleague or friend how things work.

Also, enjoy being here. It’s so easy to get caught up with daily chores and get frustrated by the bureaucracy that you forget to take pleasure in the good things. If you don’t speak the language, try to learn it. Being able to communicate in the local language makes life so much easier.

You can read more about this expat's experiences in France through her blog: www.librainfrance.blogspot.com

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