February 13, 2011

Une Nouvelle Amie

When Amber from Traveling Amber sent me an email requesting we meet up, I was thrilled. Another American blogger living in Lille wants to meet me? Awesome!

We set a date and decided to meet up for tea. We set our rendez-vous for 14h at Republique – Beaux Arts. I knew she would have her little baby boy with her, but other than some tiny pictures of her on her blog, I wasn’t sure what she looked like.

I started getting nervous about us not being able to find each other, as la place de la Republique is rather large. But like two people destined to be friends, I recognized her, with a little help from her stroller, straight away.

Suddenly a new fear gripped me. What was I supposed to do now?

In France, when meeting someone new, you are meant to faire la bise (touch cheeks and make kissy noises). But since neither Amber nor I are French, I wasn’t sure what to do. Should we faire la bise despite being Americans? Should we embrace our Americanness and shake hands? Should I go for a hug as I feel like I already know her somewhat from her blog?

Was I to follow Barack's or Michelle's lead?

While all this indecision was running wild in my head, Amber took charge. She leaned in and went for la bise. I followed suit.

Immediately after the traditional French introduction, we started jabbing away in English at 1,000 words per minute. I hadn’t felt so comfortably American since I moved back here.

When we finally said goodbye, however, we switched back to the French way of life and did la bise again.

This must be what it means to be a true expat. You have to be able to keep your feet in both worlds.

Although I wouldn’t mind if all us Americans in France got together and agreed on how we want to go about greeting one another from now on. Anybody else game?


  1. We should invent a new greeting or bring back an archaic one. Bowing, anybody?? It's funny that you mention it though because I do feel like i'm in two different worlds. Having an American friend in France is having your cake and eating it too :)

  2. This is so funny because I also feel this pressure when I meet American expats here in Spain. I mainly do the hand shaking thing. I should just bite the bullet and do the dos besos thing!

  3. yes!! i want to come to lille so badly. And I would love to meet up! It will have to wait until after the vaca though...gotta save my pennies!

  4. Amber: LOVE the bowing idea! This is clearly destined to be our new greeting ;)
    Totally agree about having an American friend! It feels so great to have a bit of America here in le nord :)

    Kaley: I'm glad I'm not the only one feeling the pressure! It's hard to just go for a cheek kiss with other Americans. Greetings are difficult enough as it is without the addition of European customs!

    Brenna: You should totally come up to Lille! And I can relate to the penny saving. We make very little money as assistants. The teacher who drives me to the school on Thursdays and Fridays asked me how much I make. He was like, "you don't make a lot of money as an assistant, right? It must be like 1,300euros?" I WISH we were so well paid!

  5. I met up with an American here and we double cheeked kiss hello, and then hugged goodbye. But thankfully talked in English the whole evening!

  6. LOL you don't know how many times I've found myself in this exact situation! I always preface the greeting with "american hug!" so my friend knows what I'm going in for. I hate the bises, so I try to avoid at all costs!

    Glad you met up with Amber. I've had the pleasure of hanging out with her for a weekend, and she's pretty great! It was hard for me to find english speaking friends when i lived in the north, but if i ever move back, I know I'll have a few peeps waiting for me :)

  7. Sara Louise: The second time I met up with Amber, we upgraded to hugging! It's so hard to tell what to do.

    Crystal: Announcing yourself is super smart! Although I don't want to like, force a hug on somebody, you know? I don't mind bis-ing, but all the uncertainty totally blows.
    Amber is my first American friend out here! I had trouble meeting Americans that I wanted to be friends with (ie we had more in common than just being from the USA).
    If you come up to visit Amber let me know so all of us can meet up!

  8. Hi! I live in the north too, Roubaix actually! I dont know that many Americans here, and if you guys meet up often, i'd love to take a break from all the french!

  9. Hey Isadora! Feel free to shoot me an email if you want to meet up! laurasviequotidienne@gmail.com I'm always happy to meet fellow Americans!

  10. My daughter just arrive to VILLENEUVE D'ASCQ through AFS-USA for her senior year of HS. I am going to send here a link to your blog. Maybe you girls can meet.


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