Expat Voices: Judith Dunn on living in France
American photographer Judith Dunn spent four years in Paris and considers it a privilege to have lived there.
Name: Judith Dunn
City of residence: Tallahassee, Florida ( France: 1987-1991)
Date of birth: January 14, 1941
Civil status: US citizen
Reason for moving to France: Eurodisneyland construction
Lived in France: January 1987 – August 1991
What was your first impression of France?
Love at first sight and bite! We were there because my husband was the lead architect on the gateway hotel at Eurodisney. I loved every minute of my stay in France. It has been 20 years since we lived there, in the 7th arrondissement, and I would return permanently if I could afford it! Every day was a wonderful adventure for me in Paris, and on the weekends we traveled everywhere we could. Our son was 14 when we moved there and he loved the freedom of travel without a car!
What do you think of the food?
I love to cook, so shopped like a Parisienne, each day, and cooked with the seasonal offerings. I found the fresh fish, produce and fruit fabulous… and of course the chatting with shopkeepers honed my French each day. The boulangeries, patisseries and other shops were ‘icing on the cake’, as it were, for any meal… simple or elaborate. We lived on rue Cler and it was fabulous during the holidays!
What do you think of the shopping in France?
I found everything I could have ever wanted or dreamed of in Paris. With Marks & Spencer to round out the ‘non French’ items, there was never a thing missing on any list. Printemps, and Gallerie Lafayette and Bouchara were my haunts along with the small boutiques on the side streets. Weekends we would seek out brocantes for fun and attend country markets.
What did you appreciate about living in France?
I loved the adventure of it every day when I went out exploring on the bus in Paris. Each day was a learning experience in terms of history, culture, mores, localities. I loved meeting people and practicing my French with them. Everyone was always very patient and kind!
What did you find most frustrating about living in France?
I was only frustrated when I could not speak as fast as others, and when I had to struggle for the correct grammar… other than that I can truly say I loved it, each day it was privileged to live there. We return ever 2-3 years to Paris and Provence for a month as we simply love the country and the people!
What puzzles you about France and what did you miss when you moved here?
I never missed a thing about the USA and Los Angeles in particular, as I never tried to replicate my life in France. I wanted total immersion from day one! I am now only puzzled by the fact that France’s social system is failing due to not ‘closing the immigration’ doors. That aspect of their country will lead to their ruin, I fear.
How does the quality of life in France compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
We have had the good fortune to have lived all over the world, including Hong Kong, Honolulu, and Anchorage, Alaska. Although the last two are not separate countries, they might as well be! Living in Hong Kong from 1977-1981 was an incredibly fascinating experience!
Again, I loved the opportunity to live the experience, not just ‘visit’ there. Our quality of life in HK afforded us servants and many other company perks, although the downside of life there was the fact that you lived on the head of a pin with six million other people! France was not as densely populated and offers unrestricted travel as opposed to Hong Kong.
If you could change anything about France, what would it be?
More affordable housing in the small towns and villages throughout France. Restrictions on immigration, as their social services are suffering from the open door policy!
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Carpe Diem! Let every day be an adventure and you will never be disappointed in what you discover! Don’t be afraid to ask questions and converse with people, you will be amazed at how nice they are!
Mind your ‘Euromanners’, as they have a sense of reserve which is somewhat ‘foreign’ to Americans! Research the countryside and travel all over.
As you may have guessed, I am a Francophile 200%! I love the country. I cried when I knew we were moving back to LA, as I would have loved to have spent the rest of my life there.
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