Saturday, June 2, 2012

Why I wouldn't want to live in France again

Père Lachaise Cemetery, 2008
In this post's comments, L wanted to know if I had ever considered moving back to France.

Hanging out at the Rodin Museum
Ha! Ok, that's the short version. The longer version is this: First of all, is someone knocking on my door, ready to  hand me an employment letter, naturalization papers, and keys to my very own Parisian pied-à-terre? Yes? Well then, duh, yes, sign me up! Short of that, however, the answer becomes very long and boring. And yes, ex-pat bloggers abound, taunting us with tales of just how charmed life can be in la belle France, but if you look closely you will notice that almost without exception, they are legally able to reside in France because they are either a) students, b) teaching English in the same assistant program I was in, c) au pairs, or d) married to a French person. There is also a separate category for the independently wealthy or those who are able to do their work from anywhere, i.e. those lucky few who are able to make a living from writing or art. Unfortunately, I am e) none of the above.

Running on the beach with thumbs in Normandy
The assistant program is great, and I highly recommend it as a way for young francophiles to get a visa for 7-9 months, while also getting paid a (very) small (read: not actually livable) stipend--that is, if and when you're lucky enough to get paid at all. I did it twice--once right after college in Grenoble, and again six years later, outside of Paris (examples of which you can find here, here, and here). Even though certain aspects of it were stressful, lonely, or inconvenient, I'm glad I did it. (Twice.) But would I do it again? Technically I don't think that it's even an option. (While there is no age cap, I believe there is a two-term limit, though I'm sure some people have managed to get around that.) But as a young twenty-something, would I do it again? Sure. Would I do it again now? Nope. (Short of the afore-mentioned job/papers/keys from heaven scenario, that is.) I've had my grand adventure and now I'm ready to settle down and hope that I make it back there again someday--on vacation. 

Paris in the springtime, 2009
In the same post, Chrys asked if I keep in touch with Harry/Henri. Actually, his name was/is Hervé, and you can read about him here and here, and about our bittersweet ending here and here. The short answer to Chrys's question is no. The longer answer is we sent a few e-mails back and forth after I left, but as I expected, they dried up fairly quickly. Actually, I think it was my turn to write back, and I just...didn't. And neither did he. It was better that way. Not to sound too...whatever, but I think he was pretty torn up about the whole thing. And I felt bad about not feeling sad enough, and I think it would have just been too painful for us to keep in touch. C'est la vie, eh?

And thus ends my love affair with la belle France. Anything else you'd like to know?     


  1. I love Grenoble! I hiked up to the Bastille for a world music festival during an asthma flare up, making me the out of shape American while all the French people bounded up the 200 flights of uneven concrete steps like fucking gazelles. The sun setting over the city is so absolutely breathtaking.

  2. You forgot f) have an EU passport from somewhere else. Which is awesome, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily all easy going though (says me, currently unemployed). Glad you had a great time and are happy not being there still...

  3. Firstly, I'm sorry I'm commenting on your blog at 4:09 in th morning. I just like saying hi. (Hi!)

    Secondly, I think I've kind of hit the same phase of life you're in. I'm 31. I'm ready to stop fluttering around like a butterfly and try being the plant for a while.

  4. WORD. There are certain blogs out there who even make it sound like it's EASY to live in France. But those blogs fail to recognize that they were paxed for ten years just so that they could get their French citizenship. Ha!! "Just marry a Frenchman!" Seriously, as if it's so easy. (Even the being married to a Frenchman part is difficult! lol)

    1. Which blogs are those? All I ever read about are people complaining how hard it is to renew their carte de sejour (and rightly so, it is a b*tch).

  5. I think this is a realistic viewpoint (which can be hard for dreamers to understand). Moving anywhere overseas requires uprooting your life and truly believing it's going to work out (which can be a little naive). We've discussed moving back to England, or trying our hands at Paris or Rome. The reality is that it would take a lot of discussion and making sure we wanted to leap before doing it. Ahh, the difficulties of getting older and feeling more like an adult.

  6. The Henri/Herve story made me sad. It was so sweet.

    As for the whole France thing, wherever you go there you are. It's not a magical wonderland full of unicorns and rainbows. I'm glad I came and survived, but I'm not so enamored that I want to stay here forever.