I must admit that my lack of consistency on this blog derives mostly from the fact that I’ve become quite unsure about the direction that I want this blog to go in. I love writing, and I love telling my story, especially in regards to traveling and living as an expat. However, I eventually want it to be something more than that, more solidified. So, it thus why writing on here has been much more sporadic than in the past.
Regardless of that, however, I feel it necessary to express my thoughts and feelings on my current situation.
The truth about my life in Paris is that it’s both difficult and easy.
In terms of it being easy, my job is mostly quite easy. I enjoy teaching English conversation classes, for the most part. I have some students who are difficult and lack an interest in actually contributing and trying to improve their English language skills. However, I just try to put my energy into the students who actually want to learn. Additionally, I basically get paid to have conversations with students about varying subjects, most of which I have a great interest in, and only occasionally helping them with their grammar, vocabulary, and their pronunciation. I’m mostly helping them develop better conversational skills and better language strategies. I usually only have to write about 4 to 5 different lesson plans that I can use for two weeks straight, as my classes are on rotation. In terms of grading, I’m mostly grading them based on participation and their progress, which makes grading them quite easy most of the time.
So, it’s not too shabby most of the time, and how many people can say that they’ve taught at the Sorbonne? Not very many, my friends.
Also, I have my routine mostly solidified. I’ve adapted to my schedule and to my apartment. Though I still am not the hugest fan of where I’m living, I’m thankful for a place to live, where I can settle in and be at least decently comfortable. My routine, my 40 minute commute to work included, have become natural habits that I’ve adapted to. I’m starting to find normalcy here in Paris.
I’ve also gotten over my initial and largest hump of culture shock. I’ve even started acting like the locals. For example, I used to find metro culture massively annoying (Well, honestly, I still do), but I’ve started taking on some of the metro attitudes. I used to be polite in my use of the metro: allowing all people to get off before I got on, politely saying excuse me and not pushing too hard while I’m trying to get off, and generally not trying to push myself in at the last minute. However, just the other day, I found myself running to catch a metro that was already mostly full and almost getting caught in the door while it was closing. I thought to myself, “huh, wow, well, I guess I’m becoming Parisian now.” I generally find people who do this annoying, but I guess I’m adapting. Now, I also push using my elbows while saying excuse me while trying to get off a crowded metro. I’ve discovered that sheer politeness doesn’t get you very far in the Parisian metro. You have to be a little forceful.
Life here in Paris is also difficult though. Firstly, though it’s an amazing opportunity to get experience teaching at the Sorbonne, we aren’t paid a salary that allows for much wiggle room here in Paris. With what I’m making, I could live decently comfortably as well as be able to afford to travel a little bit while still paying off debt, if I were living in Laval like I did while working as a language assistant two years ago. However, this is Paris my friends, and everything is so damn expensive. After I pay one third of my salary to my rent, then one third of my salary to bills back in the United States, I’m only left with one third of it to pay for my other expenses here in Paris. In general, it’s fine. I’ve lived frugally without much luxury before, but living in Paris means that even simple things such as going out with friends for a couple of drinks is difficult, as most bar and café prices are twice as what I would have found in Laval, resulting in less time spent wit friends.
My lack of financial flexibility also extends to meeting people. Meeting people in Paris is difficult. Thankfully I’ve been able to meet some people through the Church that I’ve decided to attend as well as through the other lecturers. However, trying to meet people through enjoying some of the activities that I like, such as swing dancing, or trying to find a Meetup group, all have become nearly impossible. Everything costs money here in Paris. Even just going to a Meetup would cost anywhere from 10 to 20 euros. It’s a nightmare. I can’t afford to spend 10 to 20 euros on one night unless it’s for something specific or special. It’s quite overwhelming. Nothing is free here in Paris.
Finding friends is also difficult because French people are quite reserved, and they are even more so here in Paris. Trying to strike up a conversation with a stranger, even one in your own classes that you are taking, is not only difficult because the French people don’t really talk very much to people they don’t know, but some might even consider it strange. People in Paris already have their lives, their friend groups, and their routines. They aren’t necessarily looking for anyone new to add to those or to disrupt them. Plus, honestly, most of my classmates are around 20 or so, which just makes me feel awkward, as I’m 25 and feel the maturity gap. I’m also switching universities next semester, so I feel no drive to make friends at the one I’m currently at.
I also find that trying to make friends is difficult because I am personally difficult. I’ve been open before about my anxiety and my depression and even though much of those weights have lifted immensely, meeting new people and having to put myself out there sometimes gives me great anxiety. I’ll feel overwhelmed even when I have no reason to be overwhelmed. I have difficulty trusting people and opening up to people. So, essentially I’m my own worst enemy.
My studies have also become a source of frustration and difficulty. I explained in an earlier post that I’m taking senior undergraduate level courses, due to schedule conflicts and uncertainty about my level in the U.S. versus my level here in France. I’ve discovered, however, over the course of this semester, that my courses this semester aren’t challenging enough and only sort of can be applied to my Masters degree in the States. In recent discussions with my graduate adviser in the States, I’ve also learned that there’s a slight possibility that my courses this semester might not transfer to my degree in the States anyways. So, now I’m trying to deal with the fact that I might have wasted an entire semester mentally and academically. *sigh* Basically, I’m trying to figure out how in the world to fix this mess.
So, no, life here in Paris is not all la vie en rose.
Sometimes, it feels quite the opposite.
However, all that to say…I’m here, aren’t I? So, I’m trying to figure out how to make the best of it.
I was reminded of the blessings that I have here in France and back home in the States.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving back home in the United States. I was feeling immensely saddened that I couldn’t be with my family. Thankfully though, I was able to Skype with them while they were having their Thanksgiving (and I get to go home for Christmas in a month!). I also got to spend Thanksgiving here in Paris with other expats and French natives. It was a wonderful time to be surrounded by friends, even those whose home countries don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.
I also had a week and a half where I had friends that I had met from while I was living in Laval come and visit me, in addition to me spending last weekend visiting friends in Laval. All of these visits reminded me of how much love I have in my life. Even though my friends are all over and even though I don’t always get to see them or talk to them, they are there, and we have a deep care for one another. So, whenever I start to feel depressed here in Paris, I’ll start to remember that.
So, yes, Paris is a real struggle sometimes, but also, I’m trying to make the best of it, because after all, I still have around 8 to 9 months left here, might as well make the best of them.
Also, there’s still nothing like freshly baked French baguettes. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of those babies.
2 thoughts on “Somewhere in the middle: contemplating my expatriation with Thanksgiving and such”
i enjoyed reading this. it’s nice to read your honesty and revealing that living in Paris isnt always a *dream* but that it can be difficult at times. reminds me that im not alone in the ex-pat lifestyle. bon courage
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Thank you so much for reading my blog and your encouraging comment. I’m really glad that you find my words comforting and can relate. Being an expatriate is not always easy, and it’s nice to know that we have people out there that can relate. 🙂
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