Expat Interview With Naomi - Reading to Paris

Published: 22 Nov at 11 AM
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Filed: Interviews,France
Four years ago Naomi hopped on a Eurostar and arrived in Paris without an apartment or a job or any kind of concrete plan other than: speak French, drink wine, be happy. Her Parisian life has taken her from a 7th floor garret in the 1st arrondissement to the quieter streets of the 15th and finally to the Canal banks of the North-East. Along the way she’s learnt to love stinky cheese, how to argue like a Parisian and the correct use of the French sounds, “bah,” “bof” and “hop.” And although she’s relinquished fish & chips and nescafé for camembert and espresso, she still can’t eat eggs without baked beans. Her blog, Souslestoits (see listing here), captures her experience of all things Parisian – the good, the bad and the je ne sais quoi.

Sous les toits

Here's the interview with Naomi...

Where are you originally from?
Reading, England

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?
I’ve lived here for four years and I have no current plans to move, but I am interested in either living back in England or in another country at some point in the future, it really depends on the circumstances.

Why did you move and what do you do?
I moved because I fell in love with Paris when I was here on a 6-month work placement as a foreign languages student. When I came back after graduating I didn’t have a job or an apartment here, I just thought I’d turn up and see what happened. Four years later, I’m still here!
Currently I work as a content writer and editor for a website.

Did you bring family with you?
No, I came on my own.

Sous les toitsHow did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
After the initial excitement wore off, it was quite hard. I had to come to terms with the fact that being in Paris for a student work placement and actually deciding to move there indefinitely were two very different things.
Firstly, there’s the practical side. It’s quite daunting, not to mention annoying and boring, dealing with foreign bureaucracy. It took me at least 9 months to get all the basic paperwork sorted. As advice to other expats moving here I’d say, don’t expect to get everything sorted at once, the first year will involve A LOT of paperwork. Just grit your teeth, pour yourself a glass of red wine and get on with it!
Secondly, there’s the social side. My first job was in an English customer services team where most of my other colleagues were there on student work placements. This meant making a lot of “transitional friends,” expats from England and other countries who are only here for a short time. When they leave you have to start again and make new friends, which can be difficult to keep going through.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
At the beginning it was a lot easier to make friends with other expats than Parisian people. It’s definitely easier now to make French friends, but I still have quite a few expat friends here. I’ve not really been to many organized expat events, though I’m not averse to the odd Anglophone poetry evening.

Sous les toitsWhich is your favourite area in Paris?
I love east and north-east Paris. At the weekend they shut the roads to traffic along the Canal Saint Martin making it a fantastic area for a stroll and a coffee or aperitif. Canal Ourcq, which joins Canal St Martin and carries on North-east towards Porte de Pantin, is less touristy and in recent years has been completely renovated with lots of cool and character-ful bars and restaurants. The last couple of summers have also seen the Paris Plage come to the Canal banks with giant sandpits, mist showers and of course, plenty of room for petanque!
As for the other arrondissements, I still can’t resist the charm of St Germain, the old artistic left-bank and the cafés where Hemingway and Jean Paul Sartre use to while away their days. The buildings are beautiful and though I’ve done it many, many times before, I love wandering the narrow streets and pausing to gaze through the windows of tiny art galleries and antique shops. I almost always end up at the curved corners of the Institut de la France before a lazy meander across the Pont des Arts where whichever way you look you’ll see something gorgeous.

Sous les toitsWhat do you enjoy most about living here?
I like that I’m always discovering something new, whether it be a French word I haven’t heard before, a strange French tradition or a writer or comedian that I would never have known about if I didn’t live here.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
You get homesick. I miss family and friends of course and then there are times when having to deal with certain situations in another language, like health problems or complicated administration, just adds un-needed stress.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Accept that getting settled in a new country takes time, so don’t get frustrated when things don’t fall into place immediately, just take your time.

Sous les toitsWhat are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Travel light initially, you’ll be glad you don’t have too much stuff when you’re moving into your 7th floor apartment “sans ascenseur” (no lift).
  2. France loves paperwork, if you want things to move along more smoothly, make lots of copies of your passport, birth certificate and proof of address in France (once you have one)
  3. Get a good guide book and for the first few months of living here use it to pick a new bar, restaurant or area to try out every weekend. It’s a good way to get to know the city initially.
  4. Get your carte vitale (social security number) and health insurance sorted as soon as possible, not in case of emergency, just to get in on all the free designer eyewear! Ever noticed that Frenchies only sport the latest in Prada/Chanel/Tom Ford specs? There’s a reason. Vive la France!
  5. If you think you don’t like red wine, you just haven’t had the right one yet. Persevere!

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Through my blog I’m attempting to show readers how I experience Paris and give them a genuine insight into life as an expat here. It’s my (hopefully humorous) view of the aspects of living here that enchant me, frustrate me and completely baffle me.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Just click on the “contact me” tab on my blog. All messages get sent directly to my email.

Naomi blogs at http://souslestoits.wordpress.com/ which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Sous les toits has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Naomi, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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