Name: Stephanie B. a.k.a ‘La Mom – An American Mom in Paris’
Where are you from: San Francisco
Where are you now: Paris, France
Why did you move overseas: Who says no to an opportunity to move to Paris? I was offered a job transfer to fill in for a colleague on maternity leave. The plan was for me to learn as much as possible about European operations in 6 months then go back to the Silicon Valley and represent Europe at HQ. The problem was that I fell in love (not with a Frenchman!) with Paris and my professional life – flying around Europe, staying at swanky hotels, attending the Cannes Film Festival. I couldn’t face going back to the Valley. It paled in comparison to my life in Paris!
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I’m a mother to two adorable bilingual children who I call my French Fries, married to a Frenchman who I call Big Cheese, I’m a blogger, a volunteer for Dress For Success Paris, speaker at the American Embassy in Paris, marketing professional, and soon to be entrepreneur. I love French food and my guilty pleasure is a Tropézienne cake with café au lait. I am so grateful for everything I have in life. I like to think that if you smile at life, then life smiles back at you.
When you moved, how long did you think you were going to stay for? 6 months originally.
How long has it been? 13 years and some change.
Are you happy with it? Now, yes. Was I always? No. The honeymoon with Paris lasted for about 3 years before I started to seriously think about ‘divorcing’ Paris. I then re-evaluated my life and had to make a choice between Paris or the US. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but Paris ended up the winner. No regrets now!
Do you feel at home: I do now. I really started feeling at home once I got married and had kids. Establishing a family and buying property helped me to do that.
What do you miss the most about the United States: Besides my family, I miss Americans – friendly people, smiles from strangers, easy-going and open attitudes. I also miss American junk food (Pop Tarts!), TV (Oprah!), and sports (SF 49ers/SF Giants!). Oh, and how could I forget the main thing all expats miss – shopping at Target!!
Favorite part of living overseas: Europe is at my doorstep. I can pretty much fly anywhere in one to two hours. In California, I could drive from San Francisco to Sacramento in 2 hours. How exciting.
Hardest part of living overseas: Being so far from home. I can’t pop over to California for a weekend visit. It takes lots of planning, organization, and time.
What have you learned about yourself from the move: I gained so much self-confidence once I made the effort to become integrated in French life. My French vocabulary is rich and I can fight back and defend myself against rude Parisians and bad customer service. It’s quite empowering to know that I’m on a level playing field.
Did you experience a culture shock? It was very easy to live here at first, I was definitely living in an American expat bubble, going out all the time and having loads of fun. Once the bubble burst, it was extremely difficult dealing with Parisians, formal French culture & customs, and the ‘non-dits’ in French professional life. I went through a period where I really questioned where I belonged and wasn’t sure where I fit in. I’d say I experienced a delayed culture shock. I felt (still do, actually) very American in France and very French in the US. That was really hard to manage for a few years and was probably the toughest thing I had to go through while living abroad.
Where is your dream spot to live? I’m living here!
Any advice for future American Expats: It’s an error to think that just because you had a wonderful trip to France you could live here. Visiting is very different from living here and France has a wonderful way of smacking down expats. I’ve seen quite a few expats go home with their tails between their legs thinking life in Paris would be like it is in the movies. It’s not always like that.
Any other thoughts you would like to share with our readers:
I believe Josephine Baker said it best, “I have two loves: my country and Paris.”