Canadian Expat Living in France - Interview with Lillian

Published: 16 Mar at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,France
Lillian is a Canadian expat living in Paris for the past 2.5 years and blogs about her new life overseas at The Smalls Abroad, www.lilliansmall.com. She embraces life’s opportunities to find adventure and make unforgettable memories. Not afraid of change, uncertainty and challenges, she wants to help other expats and traveling spouses makes the most of their experience abroad. Photography, traveling, writing, and cooking are just a few of her passions. She has the biggest weakness for French pastries and good wine. Equally comfortable on a sun soaked beach or a snow-covered tundra, Lillian loves to explore the world by immersing in different cultures, languages and cuisine. Her expat life is just starting and she looks forward to what new adventures await her, her hard-working husband and international cat of mystery. Lillian's expat blog is called Les Petits a Paris (see listing here)

Enjoying drink before the annual Masked Ball at Versailles
Enjoying drink before the annual Masked Ball at Versailles

Here's the interview with Lillian...


Where are you originally from?
I am originally from Mississauga, Canada, born and raised. My parents are Portuguese so although I am Canadian, my blood is European. I grew with those traditions, culture and language so I’ve always felt very much at home in Portugal.

In which country and city are you living now?
Right now I am living in Paris, France.

How long have you lived in France and how long are you planning to stay?
I have lived in Paris for 2.5 years. Sadly, we expect to move in the next few months but we don’t know where yet. My husband’s company will move us.

Biggest picnic ever for 14th July Fireworks
Biggest picnic ever for 14th July Fireworks
Why did you move to France and what do you do?
I moved here because my husband’s company offered him a position. It was the opportunity of a lifetime that we couldn’t turn down. So we sold our house and I quit my career as an engineer and became a traveling spouse. That doesn’t mean I sit home all day drinking wine! In Paris, I’ve worked and studied a multitude of different things… I started my blog, I learned French, I take cooking and pastry courses, I coach Crossfit, I taught English, I manage an apartment, I’m a part-time Community Manager at a design agency, I’m the Website Coordinator for an association… I must be missing something. I decided to leave the engineering world and take this opportunity to explore my passions, try different career paths, and enjoy Paris for all it has to offer.

Did you bring family with you?
I live with my husband of four years and our lovable cat. She made the journey from Edmonton to Paris and will keep traveling with us.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The transition to France was quite easy. We had visited Paris before, I grew up with European roots, we were familiar with the language. We had a lot of help from my husband's employer. We took it day by day and made it our home.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I found it quite easy to make friends with other expats. All it took was one person who introduced me to a few people who then introduced me to more. I met people in the activities I was involved in, in my French classes, through Meetup groups… for an introvert like me, it took a lot of courage to move out of my comfort zone and introduce myself to strangers. It took a little longer to meet local Parisians but, once I knew the language, I found it easier to break the ice. I found them to be much nicer and friendlier than the typical stereotypes would have you believe. I’m so lucky to have found a good community at a local Crossfit gym and so now we have a great network of friends.

Diner en Blanc
Diner en Blanc
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Paris is full of wonderful things to see and do. There are countless activities, events and exhibitions every weekend. It's actually quite hard to be bored. There is something for everyone so the best thing to do is sign up for groups, meetups and courses that line up with your interests. For me that mean culinary classes, shopping at the outdoor food markets, going on free walking tours and visiting museums.

What do you enjoy most about living in France?
I most enjoy the food culture. I love shopping at the food markets and experimenting with new recipes. I've come to love new foods I had never liked before like blue cheeses, raw oysters and foie gras.

How does the cost of living in France compare to home?
Cost of living is higher. The price of produce and fresh meat really surprised me. I just had to stop converting back to Canadian dollars. But there are perks like cell phone plans are cheaper and so is champagne! I don't need a car living in the city so we save on those kinds of expenses.

The half marathon in Paris
The half marathon in Paris
What negatives, if any, are there to living in France?
I struggle most with having good customer service. The "customer is always right" mentality of North America doesn't seem to exist. Getting things done like hooking up utilities and applying for other services just takes longer than back home.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to France, what would it be?
Learn the language! It's the key to making you feel at home in your new home.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The hardest part has been trying to use up all the vacation we get! But seriously it's been pretty easy for us and we see the positive in everything. The benefits have outweighed any disadvantages. Since we get help from the company, we've thankfully haven't had to deal with all the paperwork and bureaucracy that plague most expats that come here unassisted.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
We'll continue being expats, moving from country to country as long as can. So years from now, when we repatriate, I think it will be a difficult adjustment. But something I won't worry about until the time comes.

Free cooking lesson at one of the outdoor food markets
Free cooking lesson at one of the outdoor food markets
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn the language
  2. Keep an open mind and say yes to the opportunities that come. Seek out ways to maximize and take advantage of it all.
  3. Create a community of friends (both expats and locals) by signing up for classes, activities, groups. Anything you can.
  4. Say 'hello' every time you walk into a store or place of business. It goes a long way.
  5. Be proud of yourself for thriving in your country. It's not easy and it's a big accomplishment. Celebrate the wins (no matter how large or small) and learn from the failures and mistakes without getting bogged down by them.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
For the past 3 years, my blog has been my little corner of the internet where I share my favourite photographs, stories and advice on life in Paris and travels. The Smalls Abroad (www.lilliansmall.com) gives readers a taste of our expat life life in Paris and beyond. Through the triumphs and failures and all the adventures in between, I share our unique stories, insights, photography and videos. Committed to being authentic and living life to the fullest, we want to inspire readers and whisk them away into a world of wanderlust and discovery. I'm happy to answer any questions and connect with other expats and travelers through the blog.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can contact me through our Facebook page (The Smalls Abroad), Twitter or directly through the Contact page on the blog.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingLillian is a Canadian expat living in France. Blog description: An expat blog about life in Paris, travels around the globe and beautiful photographs to inspire you.
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