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March 2016
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Meet the Angloinfo Expat of the Week

Meet the Expat #90 – Lillian Small from Paris

March 14, 2016

1. Where do you live now, and where did you move from?

I live in Paris, France and moved from Edmonton, Canada.

A photoshoot our friend took for us

2. Is this the first time you’ve been an expat? If not, where have you lived before? If so, what was the leaving process like?

Before this move, I had studied abroad in Sydney, Australia for 6 months in 2006.  But this is the first time I’ve felt like an expat.

3. How do you spend your time? Do you work?

I spend my time exploring Paris and blogging about it.  I coach Crossfit and workout regularly.  I take a variety of courses like French language and culinary arts.  I also do some freelance translating and copywriting.  And I manage the short-term rentals for a private apartment owner.  I do a mixed bag of things mainly to explore new interests and hobbies, develop new skills and fill the days.  

One of many picnics on Champ de Mars

4. What do you miss most from home?

Aside from friends and family, I miss good customer service and how quickly things get done back home.

5. What do you appreciate the most in your adopted country?

I appreciate their culture around food and friendships.  I love how meals at restaurants aren’t rushed.  People take the time over a good meal and wine to develop deeper connections with friends and family.  And the food markets are amazing, especially the quality and freshness of ingredients.  I appreciate the pride and respect people show toward everything related to food.  

6. How did you make new friends in your new home?

I put myself out there.  It started with the wife of my husband’s acquaintance. I met her in Paris when I first arrived and she invited me to a book club.  From there I met other expats, and every time someone invited me to something (a party, a coffee date, etc) I always said yes.  Secondly, I met all my French friends through my Crossfit gym.  We were invited to one of the first social gatherings, we said yes and that opened the door.  From there, we became part of the “group”.  I’ve met people through the classes and courses I’ve taken, through the part-time jobs I’ve had.  I’ll organize get-togethers at home and have coffee dates, even if I’ve only just met them!   

Drink on Champ de Mars before going to the annual Masked Ball at Versailles

7. Have you started learning the language? Any tips on the best way to do it?

Yes, that was my first priority when I arrived.  I researched different French language schools and eventually did 4 semesters.  The thing that worked for me was going to class just 2 hours a day, 4 days a week.  It wasn’t too intensive or overwhelming and just the right amount to learn quickly.  I also did pastry and cooking courses in French even though I wasn’t perfectly fluent.  I went to conversation exchanges, watch movies in French and force myself to speak French to our French friends even if they revert to English. 

8. Do you obviously stand out as being foreign? What’s your experience with this?

Paris is full of foreigners so I don’t feel like I stick out.  However, I do feel like a foreigner when I catch myself smiling too much during casual exchanges with people I don’t know.  Parisians will say ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’ to strangers, but it’s never with a smile.  

9. If you have children, what are your observations on Third Culture Kids?

I don’t have children but my husband and sister-in-law are Third Culture Kids.  I just find their sense of home isn’t as strong as mine.

Diner En Blanc - a pop-up dinner in Palais Royale

10. Any tips for beating home sickness? 

Making new friends and making your new home feel like home helps.  Staying in contact with friends and family back home is so easy these days through Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.  Since I had moved away from my home city within Canada before moving to Paris, it wasn’t such a shock.    

11. What’s the most common question you are asked about being an expat?

“Where/when are you moving next?”  My husband’s work moved us to Paris on a short work contract and they’ll be moving us again to another country.  Other than that, people are curious about what living in Paris is like.  And I always say “it’s amazing.”  I really feel these have been the best years of our lives.

12. How does the cost of living compare to where you were before? Anything that really surprised you as being particularly cheap or expensive?

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 cell phone plans are cheaper and so is champagne!

13. Are you settled here now? Or do you plan to move on one day?

We are settled in and absolutely love living in Paris.  However, we are at the whim of my husband’s employer.  We are starting to look forward to the next adventure which will likely happen sometime this year. 

Night Shot of Notre Dame, along the Seine

14. Would you share something embarrassing that happened to you as an expat (but that makes you smile when you look back)?

Getting used to kissing people hello has been a challenge at times.  Sometimes I don’t time it properly or evaluate the space between us correctly.  I’ll either smash my cheekbones against them or stop short.  One time, while meeting someone for the first time, he came in to do the cheek-kissing thing.  I was sitting down and as I got up, I lost my balance and fell into him.  It was just really awkward.  But if that’s the worst thing that’s happen in 3 years, I think I’m doing alright. 

15. And finally, if you could give one piece of advice to someone considering moving to where you live, what would it be?

Learn the language.  It’s easy to get away with only speaking English because there are so many foreigners here and Parisians also speak a decent level of English.  But once you know the language the doors really open up: daily life and interacting with people become easier, you can take advantage of the rich cultural events, courses and activities, you can make French friends and finally, you just feel more at home.

Keep in touch!

As well as Lillian’s blog The Smalls Abroad you can follow her adventures on social media using these links:

 Connect with Lillian and other AngloINFO users in Paris. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Would you like to be featured? Send us an email to [email protected] with your responses, together with at least four good quality photographs.

by Angloinfo World Editor. Find out more about Angloinfo World Editor here.