March 25, 2019

A new beginning

Like so many of those who have come before me, and I imagine that those who are newly arrived will one day discover, blogging about my life in France has become more difficult, as it no longer feels like my life in France. It is simply my life.

I am intégrée. Like all good Frenchies, when I go abroad I miss terribly good bread. I eat baguette almost every day.

I sing the Marseillaise at the national team’s football matches.

I know more about cheese than I ever thought there could possibly be to learn. I laughed along with the 20minutes newspaper report on whole food’s map of French cheese that showed *gasp* l’Epoisse comes from Savoy and Camembert from Montpellier (It’s Bourgogne and Normandie, FYI).

(Image from @Mi_ka_L)

Speaking of maps of France, I drew one with twinkle lights for my boyfriend’s birthday party from memory, and did a better job than he did!

My English has become so francophonisé that I don’t always notice mistakes my colleagues make when they write in English. But really, why isn't cited a synonym for said?

I talk to my cat, Léo, in French. I call him mimi, minou, doudou, choupi and all other sort of sweet nothings.

Also he is 3.5 years old now... last time I blogged he was just a kitten!

All this to say that I am embarking on the journey of naturalisation. After five months of my citizenship application missing various documents that were never asked for in this first place (#classic #Frenchbureaucracy), I got the best birthday present ever: the confirmation by mail that my application was considered complete and the 18-month countdown to naturalisation had begun!

So, fingers crossed!!

And a big thank you to all my readers who embarked on my journey of francification with me.


January 31, 2016

Normal conversation

While still on the job hunt, I was discussing the different interviews I had been on in France with my brother. I had gone to job interviews at eight different companies at this point, and at most of these, I was offered a beverage (coffee/tea/water) at the very beginning of the interview.

At interview #8, however, no such offer was made. Eventually, after about an hour of interviewing, the interviewer asked me if I would like to go join everyone for le pause café.

Several employees were enjoying their mid-morning coffee break, and I was able to join in on everyday conversations and really get a feel for the place.

After agreeing that it is an interesting interview tactic, as it allows the employer to observe the interviewee in a social setting, and it allows the interviewee the opportunity to see if they’d be a good fit, my brother asked me, “well, what did you guys talk about?”

“Oh, you know, just normal stuff… mostly about vineyards, different wine producing regions, and champagne caves.”

“Normal? ...that is so French!”

I hadn’t even noticed.

Visiting champagne caves in Reims!

January 3, 2016

First French Christmas

Being unable to re-enter the French territory if I left it due to visa complications, I celebrated Christmas this year in France, with the Frenchboyfriend and his family; my very first French Noël.

Christmas in Paris.

French Christmas is all about family and food, a lot of food, with a little bit of Père Noël thrown in.

The celebrations started on Christmas Eve, with a family dinner lasting from 7pm till 2:30am, with about an hour of that dedicated to opening gifts. The rest? Drinking delicious champagne and wine, and eating several courses, from appetizers to a cheese course, and of course way too many desserts to count.

I learned that in the South it is traditional to have 13 desserts. We didn’t have quite thirteen, but we did have homemade chocolate covered clementines, marzipan fruits, bugnes, gingerbread cake, and bûche de noël, to name a few.

Christmas decorations in a small skiing village next to Frenchboyfriend's hometown.

In between the cheese coarse and the dessert coarse, who to my wandering eyes should appear but none other than the not-very-elusive Père Noël!

France’s equivalent to Santa Claus actually shows up while the children are awake to bring them gifts. While there weren’t any children present, Frenchboyfriend’s grandpa still dressed up as Père Noël and added a bit of Christmas magic to the evening.

French children also don’t need to hang their stockings by the chimney with care, as the French get their gifts directly from the big guy and don’t have stockings at all.

This probably explains why Frenchboyfriend’s family kept referring to all the gifts under the tree as being from Père Noël. There didn’t seem to be the same distinction between family gifts vs. Santa gifts that I have in my family.

Christmas day we underwent the eating endeavor again, only this time with the dad’s side of the family.

But meals didn’t stop there! We continued to have lovely dinners with various other members of the family and good family friends for the next several days. And then what else do you do for New Year’s Eve but eat a big meal?

November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving: year seven.

I waslucky enough to celebrate Thanksgiving twice this year.

For maybe the first year ever in France, I celebrated Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving thanks to a wonderful American friend who came to visit and cooked a wonderful dinner. I also had my traditional Thanksgiving potluck, using my tried and true recipes.

As has become a personal traditional, here are five things I’m thankful for this year:

1. The Frenchboyfriend
This year was the hardest of my life thus far (and I know this means I’ve had a great life). I was unemployed for almost a year. I felt helpless, as after several interviews I was told that my lack of experience is the reason I wasn’t getting the job. I felt anxious, convinced that I would never find a job and end up homeless.

All this to say, I was in a very dark place. What made it a little less dark? The French boyfriend. He supported me through all of this, comforted me when all I could do was cry, and kept up a never ending mantra of “of course you’re going to get a job” and “no one stays unemployed forever” and “you’re not going to end up homeless.”

I am so thankful for him.

2. Léonard

Introducing, Léonard!

After ten years of wanting a cat of my own, for my 28th birthday I gifted myself an adorable rescue 4-month-old Siamese kitten named Léonard. He is more than I could ever have hoped for. He purrs when we get up in the mornings and when we come home from work, he loves to cuddle, he’s super playful, loves to be with people, and best of all he loves to be carried, which was my childhood wish for my childhood cats who of course hated it.

Sleeping on my lap

He’s only been a part of the family for two months, but I already can’t imagine things without him (even if he did eat the fiberoptic cable and destroy a small house plant).

3. Family
My parents have been so supportive of me this whole year. I am so thankful to have parents that encourage me to follow my passion and pursue my life in France. I am also thankful for my brother, for letting me be silly and weird and for always reminding me how much I’m missed back home.

Parents visiting Paris

4. Friends
I am thankful for old friends and new for commiserating with me about how hard it is to friend a job and for helping me forget my troubles. I am especially thankful for the outpouring of love and concern I received following the recent Paris attacks. Thank you all.

5. The New Job
I am so so so thankful to be once again employed. It was a struggle, but the job I have now was worth the wait. I am very excited and interested in the project I’m working on, my coworkers are super nice, my boss really believes in me and shows appreciation for my work, my contract is until May 2018 (the length of the project), and I get ten weeks of vacation a year. What more could a girl ask for?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

August 29, 2015

Bois de Boulogne

The Bois de Boulogne is a large Parisian park found on the city limits. It is twice as big as New York’s Central Park, and yet Parisian’s love to complain about the city’s lack of green space (maybe because if it’s not found in the center it counts less?).

Regardless, the Parisians do love their outdoor space and most weekends the bois is packed with families, friends, and dogs, picnicking, biking, or even rowing around.

Le Bois de Boulogne

On this particular Saturday I had gone to the bois alone to get my fill of Vitamin D and catch up on some reading.

After sufficiently soaking in the sun’s rays, I was walking home, still very much in the park, but a bit separated from the merry makers, when a twentysomething French woman approached me.

Expecting her to ask for directions and feeling proud that, as someone who lives near the park and has spent a good amount of time there, I would be able to guide her, she caught me a little off guard when she asked,

Excusez-moi? Bonjour… so I really need to pee and I was wondering if I went behind this bush, if you wouldn’t mind watching out to make sure nobody goes by?"

“Ah,” I chuckled, fully understanding her predicament, as France is notorious for it’s lack of public bathrooms, “bien sûr, pas de soucis (of course, no worries).” I smiled.

The Eiffel Tower is even visible from the bois.

We walked over to the secluded bush. I turned around to watch for passerbys while she presumably walked behind the bush to take care of business.

It turned out that my presence wasn’t necessary; nobody came close to where we were. There was one man, however, who started off down the path towards us, found a different bush a ways off, saddled on up to it, and promptly started peeing.

I guess I was unknowingly walking down the chemin de pipi (pee trail).


On a side note, there ARE public bathrooms in the Bois de Boulogne that are also free of charge in the jardin de Shakespeare, so don't feel obligated to urinate publically. Considering the park is so big, you might want to plan ahead to give yourself enough time to get there, though.

May 30, 2015

Public Displays of Affection

Compared to America, the French are very pro-PDA. Nobody thinks twice if a couple is canoodling on the metro, or exchanges a quick kiss on the lips for a greeting.

I am a supporter of PDA. I like to partake in cuddling and even small kisses in front of friends or strangers on the street.

That said, I was forced to observe a little bit too much PDA the other day on the metro. This was one of those metro rides where the car is packed and you are sort of stuck looking in a certain direction.

I had a couple right in front of me, and it started out all right. They were holding hands, putting their arms around each other, all in all pretty tame.

Until, with horror, I saw this young man lean forward towards his girlfriend’s face, mouth open, going for a kiss, tongue first.

Then both tongues were out, touching, right in front of my face.

And I thought to myself, “man, the French are a little too okay with PDA.”

March 3, 2015


An important part of any job search is networking, which is unfortunate, as I am terrible at it.

After a time spent responding to job announcements, I finally decided to accept the fact that sustainable development is a niche field where most available jobs are only on the hidden market and put myself out there.

Luckily, living in Paris means lots of conferences open to the public on the subject of sustainable development. I signed myself up for one, and even though I tried to arrive early on the day of, I inevitably got lost.

As soon as I took a seat next to two normal looking women, the introductory speaker began the conference. Despite trying to smile and introduce myself, I was met with unfriendly vibes.

Conference at the Ministère de l'écologie, du développement durable, et de l'énergie.

I spent most of that first session thinking about how stupid conferences are for networking seeing as if you sit next to two unfriendly people you basically just waste the entire day.

The conference broke for lunch, and I broke down in tears.

I fought the urge to simply go home, and accepted the fact that I was a big networking failure who hadn't even networked enough to find a group of people to eat with.

I began searching the near by restaurants for vegetarian options. Walking into an overly crowded pizza place, I saw the lady who was seated in front of me during the conference.

I took a second to gather up my courage and then asked, “vous étiez à la conference, n’est pas? Je pense que vous étiez assise devant moi,” (Weren’t you at the conference? I think you were seated in front of me).

Ah oui tout à fait! Voulez-vous manger avec nous?” (Yes I was! Would you care to eat with us?) she replied.

I was in!

I had a very nice lunch with the lady and her colleague, but somehow only managed to get the contact information from one of them.

After lunch, I took a seat elsewhere in the amphitheater and this time was able to converse with my neighbors, also getting their contact information.

While I wasn't a complete failure, I wasn't exactly a networking super star either.

Hopefully I'll get better as time goes on, although so far each new conference has been just as stressful as the last.

It doesn't hurt that some conferences are held in beautiful buildings such as this one (Hotel de Lassay).

February 5, 2015


I was lucky enough to get to go back home to California for two weeks during the winter holidays.

Christmas à la plage.

I made sure to only put really light weight objects on my x-mas wish list and asked my parents to not gift me anything too heavy, as I was hoping to use the return flight as an opportunity to bring more of my belongings to France.

As luck would have it, the gifts that I brought to CA with me far outweighed the gifts I received (why are wine bottles so freaking heavy?), and left me with some space to bring back beloved objects that up till now were residing in my parents’ garage.

I brought back some old journals, some clothes, my Ewok stuffed animal, and a ridiculous amount of DVDs.

Since the first time I moved to France, I’ve been treating my parents’ house like a Blockbuster. I have a CD case holder that I fill up with DVDs that I then I change out every time I go home.

My Ewok, books, and movie rental hardware.

This year, however, I got some DVDs for Christmas that I didn’t necessarily want to take up space in my special DVD trading case; I decided to take my French film DVDs back to France to share them with the French boyfriend; and I also wanted to borrow my Dad’s DVDs of the original Star Wars films as it’d been too long since I’d seen them and scandalously, the French boyfriend hasn’t seem them since he was a child.

All in all, I brought back a lot of DVDs and left some other treasured objects behind.

Now it’s important to note that Europe and North America are in different zones for DVDs. This means that a DVD made for viewing in America is considered a “zone 1” DVD, and can only be played by North American “zone 1” DVD players*. France, along with the rest of Europe, is in “zone 2.”

This has never been a problem as my computer is from America, and therefore plays zone 1 DVDs. For French DVDs, we use French boyfriend's French computer. Everything works out dandily.

Except that as soon as I got back to France, my laptop’s DVD drive stopped working.

So much for that.

*Apparently DVD players exist now-a-days that can play both zones, but unemployed me is a little too tight on money to purchase one. Also, I’m not sure I believe them.

January 28, 2015

Pole Emploi

The reason most people sign up with pole emploi, the unemployment office, is because they are getting chomage, or unemployment benefits, which are only accessible via this government body. Sadly, having a stage (internship) doesn’t qualify one for chomage, and so I didn’t immediately sign up. However recent graduates frequently do register despite the lack of monetary benefits.

While they do have a service that helps one search for jobs, the types of jobs that I’m interested in weren't usually advertised on pole emploi and so I’d been using other services.

Luckily, a friend of mine told me that if I’d sign up at pole emploi to declare myself à la recherche d’emploi (looking for work), I would receive an unemployment card that would give me free access to most of Paris’ lovely museums.

Suddenly dealing with French bureaucracy seemed worth it.

After signing up online, I received an appointment for about two weeks later to go to the pole emploi offices closest to me.

Knowing how these things go thanks to all my trips to the Prefecture, I brought the documents that pole emploi asked for (ID, pay stubs, CV), plus every other sort of document they could possibly need from me (copy of my birth certificate, proof of having graduated from a French institution, etc.).

I also brought along reading material to keep me busy for at least an entire afternoon, and I showed up to my appointment about ten minutes early.

There was a very, very long line for the accueil (welcome desk) for people without an appointment, and a relatively short line for people with one. Arriving at the front of the line right when my appointment was supposed to start, I signed in without a hitch.

I found an empty chair, sat down, and was starting to pull a magazine out of my tote bag, when my name was called to go back and meet my counselor!

Not only were they super prompt, but my counselor was super friendly, didn’t need random documents that weren’t listed on the official documents list, spent time looking over my general CV and cover letter, and despite confirming that they don’t receive many job offers for the work I’m interested in, gave me a lovely packet full of tips for people in my field.

My crumpled up pass that I keep in my wallet for emergency museum visits

She also gave me my get-into-museums-free pass, and I have been using it up a storm.

January 16, 2015

PDFs and the Prefecture

The process for obtaining the APS visa begins 4 months before the expiration of one’s student visa. After compiling, printing, photocopying, and organizing the various documents required and writing a lettre de motiviation (cover letter), I made my way to the prefecture de police.

After placing the various documents on the counter and saying that I was there to drop off my application for the APS visa, the French man behind the counter said, “On ne prend plus les documents du format papier,” (We no longer accept documents in paper form).

Not being sure I understood correctly, I said, “mais votre site web dit de venir avec tous ces papiers et les déposer à votre bureau” (but your website says to come here with these papers and drop them off at your office).

Ah oui, mais le site web n’est plus à jour,” (Ah yes, well, the website is no longer up-to-date).

Starting to feel a slight panic, I asked the man what I was supposed to do.

He handed me a printed out regular piece of paper (no fancy French flag header or anything) with instructions telling one to send all the various documents I had just spent good money printing and copying as a PDF to an email address that, I kid you not, was a gmail address. Not, not, not, but!

Trusting the process very little, I still did what I was told.

Fast forward 4 months to the day when my student visa expired and I had my scheduled interview with the prefecture de police to hopefully obtain the APS visa. For this particular meeting, I was supposed to have received a document in the mail from my school, but of course I hadn’t.

I called the school and they told me not to worry, that they’d simply email me a PDF copy of the document that I could then print out and take to the prefecture.

Once at the prefecture, I presented them with my documents where it was immediately remarked upon that the school document was not the “original” copy. After explaining that I hadn’t yet received the school’s document in the mail but that they sent me this PDF version by e-mail, I was told, “on n’accepte plus les formats PDFs,” (we no longer accept pdf versions).

Despite the prefecture de police's policy on PDFs doing a 180 in just four months, I was eventually able to get my APS visa.
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