Today marks 5 years in France

5 years ago today we arrived in Paris. It was the night of the US election. The city was going through a spell of Obama-mania.

Mannequin wearing "I <heart> Obama" t-shirt

I was ThRilLed to be here, HerrKaa, merely lukewarm.

In years 1 and 2 I never wrote an anniversary post, because we were feeling pretty Meh about the challenges of Parisian daily life.

In years 3 and 4, I didn’t post for a different reason: my brain was simply too exhausted from all the learning for my new job (the technology, the work culture, and so many French expressions)  to have energy to email friends, never mind blog. And HerrKaa was preoccupied with training for the Étape du Tour bike race.

5 years after his election, Parisians, along with the rest of Europe, have very different feelings towards Obama.

recent headlines about US spying in Europe, particularly France - Nov 2013

And we have very different feelings about being in France.

Obvious revelation #1: Don’t sweat the small stuff

My initial euphoria has been tempered by a lot of hard knocks to the ego, but nowadays I can relish what we came here for: the food and wine and travel and beauty and incredible art literally, like, everywhere you freakin’ look, and no longer panic over Paperwork Problems. It helped learning from coworkers that the bureaucracy is a real struggle for the French too.

Also, now that I realize how rare it is for expats like me to land a full-time job in their industry at a French company (not a US multinational), I no longer feel so much like the total incompetent that I felt like for the first 2.5 years.

Obvious revelation #2: Learning the local lingo really does help

Meanwhile HerrKaa, initially reluctant to learn French, now is able to do things like comparison shop for new insurance policies, go to all-French bike races in the countryside, and enjoy watching M6’s non-stop apartment search/home staging shows, tout en français.  

Not only does that make HerrKaa feel way more comfortable here, it took a huge weight off me. Now someone else can understand what comes in the mail, or pick up the cat from the vet and discuss when to do the next contrôle du sang (blood test)! Because we do know of couples, who even have kids in the French school system, where only one spouse can communicate in French. When that spouse also has a full-time job, that becomes a serious burden.

(It also makes me wonder….would those Frenchophobes, the ones who only frequent English language libraries, churches, book stores, and live in anglo-heavy neighbourhoods be the same people who complain back home about immigrants who never assimilate? I’m not saying that it’s right, but if an immigrant community already exists it is so much easier to just stay there. Not too long ago I interviewed an American, who has lived here for 14 years and is married to a French woman, but literally couldn’t even handle bonjour.)

Obvious revelation #3: Travel is soooo much easier here

The other major improvement is we eventually found our travel groove, mastering the art of multi-modal travel, usually a combo of train, rental-car and bike. But since I do want to post this today instead of two weeks from now, I’ll talk about that in an upcoming post about visiting Slovenia and the South of France this past summer.

What about you? What milestones have you reached in the past 5 years?