Melinda: My Heart in Two Places
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Paris, etc.
I am originally from the Bay Area in California and work as a technical writer for a French software company. In my spare time, I enjoy writing, taking photos, and appreciating my two homes: Paris and Florence.
After graduating high school, I lived with two different families in France for one month each. When I returned to the US all I could think about was how I could go back to France. I was fortunate enough to have been able to do my junior year of university in Lyon, France.
When I graduated with my Bachelors degree in 18th Century French Literature, I decided to search for a job in France. I was immediately hired by a French software company based in Paris to provide technical support for their relational database program to English-speaking countries. I first worked for the subsidiary in Silicon Valley and then moved to Paris where I lived for almost six years. When I quit my job, I moved to England for a couple of years where I worked as an independent database developer.
In 1997, I wanted to learn another language and focus on my writing, so I went to Florence, Italy. I had planned to stay for three months before returning to Paris, but instead stayed in Florence for two years. After a five-year hiatus in the US, I returned to Florence in 2004. At the beginning of 2011, I was hired back at the French software company in Paris and am now living between Florence and Paris.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
Before moving back to Florence in 2004, a friend suggested that I begin writing a blog because he wanted to know what life was like as an expat. At the time, I hadn’t read many blogs, but I decided to start one anyway. My focus for my “Living in Florence” blog was to remain positive, to not judge the city or others, and to write exclusively about my life in Florence.
I enjoy writing my blog and sharing Florence with others so much that in the summer of 2012, I began a second blog “My Heart in Two Places.” In this blog, I write about my life in both Florence and Paris.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Tell us about the ways your new life in Paris differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Before living abroad, I was already open to there being differences. When I first went to France at the age of 17, I didn’t expect there to be many similarities between my home state of California and France. I think that way of thinking prepared me to better accept and now appreciate the many differences that exist between my home country and France.
After having lived most of my adult life in three different countries, I am now better able to appreciate life no matter where I am. I cherish the simple things in life. I enjoy taking in the beauty that surrounds me, connecting with people I meet, and appreciating the experiences and situations that life presents me with.
Now that I have returned to living in Paris, I feel that there are even fewer differences than before. Paris has become a multi-cultured and multi-ethnic city and feels more like San Francisco than the Paris I knew back in 1990.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Paris? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
The first time I went to France, I felt prepared strangely enough because I expected everything to be different from the US. I was open to anything that came my way and appreciated each of the experiences I had.
I wouldn’t change anything because each “mistake” brought me to a better understanding of myself and the world around me.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Strangely enough, I don’t remember any funny experiences or anecdotes. I’m sure some odd things happened to me, but I tend to take the lessons from them and forget the incidents.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Paris?
My three tips to anyone moving to France or anywhere else would be to be open and sincere with the people you meet, to resist judging the locals and the culture, and to embrace any differences that you encounter. I have met some of the most remarkable people in each of my new homes by just being me. People aren’t impressed with titles or money; people are impressed with genuine people who have something to share and something to learn.
Also remember that if you don’t feel comfortable somewhere, it’s not a failure if you return home or move somewhere else. Living in a different country is a bit like dating: each location isn’t always a perfect fit. You have to feel as if the place energizes you and if it doesn’t, you might want to consider changing locations.
How is the expat community in Paris? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There is a large expat community in both Florence and Paris because both cities are quite popular with foreigners. In Florence, it has been rather easy to meet other expats by attending English-speaking events that are publicized in The Florentine, a local English-speaking bi-weekly newspaper. In Paris, I have met expats through colleagues and acquaintances as well as by attending MeetUp events.
It’s great to be friends with expats; however, I would highly suggest meeting locals to enhance your life abroad. Connecting with locals can be a fantastic way to improve your language skills and to better understand (and therefore appreciate) the country’s culture and customs.
How would you summarize your expat life in Paris in a single, catchy sentence?
Every day is an opportunity for me to expand and grow thus enabling me to embrace myself, others, and the world around me.