19 September 2011

Expat Meltdown

There are good days and bad days in the life of an expat here in Paris.  The good days consist of being able to make the French understand their language.  Or eating an awesome blows-your-mind meal of French deliciousness.  Or scoring that invite to a French friend's party, thus giving you that long-awaited nod of approval that you are indeed trusted enough to grace their inner circle with your presence.  The bad days consist of lost hours battling French immigration.  Or going to try on jeans and realizing that all that delicious French food has made you a bit more *ahem* voluptuous.  Or encountering French people who share their opinion of George W. Bush and how you voted for him.  Even though you didn't.  And he's been out of office for over 2 years now.  I digress.

And then you have the rare but incredibly discouraging day when everything that can go wrong does go wrong creating the most shit-tastic day in an expat's life.  Commence the homesickness and the Ben & Jerry's {insert other comfort food here} splurge.

Photo: The Lobster Pot

I am having one of those shit-tastic moments.  My name is Erin, and you are about to read my French pity party.

It could be immigration, who after 3 months of being married, will not let me replace my work papers with the special visa I need to stick around with my husband before December.  DE-CEM-BER.  This coming from the people who if you even change arrondissements in Paris claim that you need to file an address change in 7 days.  Riiiiight.  Did I mention that when I leave the country or come back in, they don't even check to make sure that I have my work papers?  I'm not saying that I enjoy the harrassment, but I'd like to know that all my frustration, lost paperwork, and borderline homicidal moments at least gives me that moment of pride to show border police that I had the guts to get my laminated piece of Frenchiness.  But no, not only do they deny me the ability to flash that badge of courage, they schedule my visa appointment 6 months after my wedding.  Only to probably yell at me when I show up for not scheduling sooner.  The anticipation is so exhilirating that it's killing me...

Or it could be that we are in full rentrée season.  The relaxed atmosphere of the office full up with people who are zen after 3+ weeks of vacation has now been replaced with stressed people focusing on bidness.  Bring on the attitude.  Instead of the smiles and friendly greetings, you get yelled at by the secretary because you said "Bonjour" instead of "Re-bonjour".  Yes, that actually exists.  You hesitate 5 seconds about what to eat at the cafeteria, and queue the foot tapping and sighing.  And then there is the commute to and from work.  All summer, public transportation worked with few problems.  No delays at all on my lines to go to work.  Well, the bastards that are responsible for late trains or back ups came back.  The 25 minute commute has been replaced with an hour long commute.  It really does baffle me that train signals work so well in August, but then in September, they break down, causing chaos.  You'd think it would be the opposite.  Many places are turned over to interns in August.  Are you telling me that interns at the RATP or SNCF are capable of working signals during heavy traffic more so than trained, experienced professionals?

It could even be that we have a fantastic landlord who loves us very much.  And by fantastic, I mean batshit crazy.  And by he loves us very much, I mean he wants to kick us out because we have a 4 kilos of love and fluff feline.  But he can't because we are protected by laws that don't exist on his made-up planet.  At least his rants and his crazy name make us laugh.  You gotta find entertainment where you can get it, non?

Yes, dear friends, I am hardcore missing home and my own culture.  I miss long talks with the Momma and jokes about stupid hell.  I miss the odor-free environment of my car where I can groove and sing at the top of my lungs with the windows down.  I miss the fiery orange and brilliant gold that paint the mountainsides of Tennessee as the leaves change.  I miss tailgating with friends, porch parties at my Bia's, and late night rendez-vous at Waffle House just because we can.

But then I walk down the street, and I see an illuminated steel structure reflected in the windows of lovely Haussman-era apartment buildings, and I remember why I decided to stay.  Love.  Opportunity.  The ability to grow.

Ok, that's enough mushiness.  There's a pint of melting Cookie Dough that's waiting to be scarfed.


  1. Tennessee misses you as well, and you know this. I just told Man tonight that- after a wonderful day together- we must try to remember *these* times when the unavoidable shitty days come 'round... because the good heartily outweighs the not so good.

    That is exactly what you have done.

    Longing for home is natural and normal. Making a home in a new and foreign territory is tough, but worth it for beautiful reasons. Love. Opportunity. Full potential of happiness.


  2. I hear you, Erin. I'm going through my own version of this at the moment. Maybe it is la rentree, as you say. But hang in there. You have people here who care about you and wish you well. The craziness and chaos will pass and Paris will seem beautiful again. It always does.

    That said, I'm here if you need me.

  3. Oh I HATED those days in Paris. The ones where the boulangère that you go to EVERY DAY pretends she doesn´t understand you when you ask for a baguette, which you ask for...EVERY DAY.

    I´ve just moved to Madrid and my Spanish is no where NEAR my French level, so it´s not like I´m expecting miracles, but apartment-hunting is not going very well.

    But I´ll hang in there, as will you! Courage, ma belle!

  4. Just had to stop and let you know how much I love your blog!! I live in Australia and have always dreamed of living in Paris, and with your blog, I get to to that through you!!

    Thanks heaps


  5. Hi Bek, I'm glad my writing brings a little bit of Paris to you in Australia! Paris is really a gem of a city, even if you have days like I did in this post.