Expat Interview With Liz - Portland to Paris

Published: 20 Nov at 11 AM
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Filed: Interviews,France
When Liz Cohen’s first child was 8 weeks old, her husband came home and said, “How do you feel about moving to Paris?” Her response was, “I haven’t even figured out how to take a shower yet – how can we move to a foreign country?” Fortunately, they went ahead and moved anyway. Determined to have an expat experience separate from her husband’s career and her son’s playdates, What Am I Doing in France was born. Having mistakenly thought she would simply put up with living in Paris for a few years, Liz has discovered her own love for this city and its never-ending discoveries. Liz blogs at What Am I Doing in France (see listing here)

What Am I Doing in France

Here's the interview with Liz...


Where are you originally from?
I grew up in Portland, Oregon but most recently spent a long time living in and around Washington, DC.

In which country and city are you living now?
Paris, France

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
We've been here over a year; we have another 1-2 years to go.

Why did you move and what do you do?
We moved to France for a career opportunity for my husband. It happened shortly after our son was born
so I took advantage of the opportunity to stop working full time. When not mom-ing or blogging, I'm a freelance consultant in education policy and research.

What Am I Doing in FranceDid you bring family with you?
Yes - the husband (since he was the reason to move) and the son (who was 6 months old when we arrived in France).

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Some things were wonderful (the bread, the parks, the pastries, the excitement of new adventure).
Some things were unexpectedly difficult - finding laundry detergent, getting the dishwasher to work properly, French bureaucracy, not understanding what people say to me. Even after a year, the transition continues, and I regularly learn more about cultural ideas and expectations that I take for granted.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Yes and no. As with moving anywhere, there have been many friend first dates, and not so many second dates. That said, I was lucky to quickly meet a few expat moms in my neighborhood who have become great friends.
We socialize primarily with expats - both because of language and other cultural commonalities, though we are working hard to expand our French friends network.

What Am I Doing in FranceWhat are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
This is what so many of us blog about! Paris is one of the most amazing cities in the world. To future expats heading anywhere, I would say, explore, leave your house every day, and don't be afraid to get lost. In Paris in particular, don’t worry if you’re the only person smiling (Parisians are not known for their cheery demeanor).

What do you enjoy most about living here?
I love how seriously Parisians take the idea of beauty - everything from a perfectly formed croissant to the gorgeous Haussman-era buildings lining the street to art and fashion. But really, it's a tie between the bread and the butter.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
Rent is much higher than DC (more like NY); eating out is crazy expensive. So overall more expensive; on the other hand, it's Paris so really, what can you expect?

What Am I Doing in FranceWhat negatives, if any, are there to living here?
French bureaucracy can weigh down your soul faster than you can say "dossier." The constant gray and rain of the winter can be rough (though since I grew up in the Pacific NW, this isn’t completely foreign to me).

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
If you take a bite of a croissant, and it tastes mediocre, throw it out. There will be a better one on the next block. There's no point in eating a crummy croissant. And if you're coming with kids - that is no reason not to travel as much as possible!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Missing family events, like the birth of my first nephew. And when the elevator broke for 11 days (we're on the 5th floor).

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I think our experience living here will be a major part of our lives for years to come - if for no other reason than because
we know that we can do anything, go anywhere, and have an incredible experience.

What Am I Doing in FranceWhat are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn the language
  2. While learning the language, do NOT be afraid to sound stupid. It's better than saying nothing.
  3. Get out of your house.

  4. Write a blog! It helps put your experiences in perspective, and gives you great motivation for continuing explorations.
  5. Eat new things. Especially if made with French butter. Or French chocolate. Put your American diet concerns to the wayside and live a little!


Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I started my blog, as many do, for friends and family. At this point, it's become more than that - it's a journal of our experiences, but it is also a place for reflection on cultural differences (or absurdities), and it's integral to my identity as an expat. I write about anything and everything, from my current experiences with pregnancy in France, to our travels around France and Europe, to what happens when your toddler dives into the touch pool at the Paris aquarium. It’s a bit of a showcase for my adorable son, and the many delicious treats we've eaten.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can email me at lizcohen12{at}gmail{at}com

Liz blogs at http://whatamidoinginfrance.blogspot.fr/ which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. What Am I Doing in France has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Liz, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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Comments » There is 1 comment

Cynthia wrote 1 year ago:

Liz sounds so adventurous to take on such a great experience with a small baby. Her advice, especially to forget American diet concerns, is great!

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