Why Paris?

People often ask me, why did you want you to move to Paris?

It’s a long answer.

Part of it is from being born to an English-speaking family living in Québec. We spoke English at home, but French was everywhere. At age 4 the idea of actually learning the language completely intimidated me, but in grades 4 and 5 I was in French immersion, and I loved it.

Like virtually all English-speaking families living in la belle province, the Québec separatist movement drove us to Ontario by the time I was in grade 6, but I continued with French right through university.

In 1988 I went to Paris & London on a high school art trip. It was there that I met my first boyfriend and encountered my first true love, Paris. The boyfriend didn’t last, but it was the city I mourned over…the slate roofs! The metro! The cute little restaurants! I even missed the incessant March drizzle. I listened to a lot of Morrissey that year.

In 1992 I was stuck in a dormitory (in)famous for being designed by the architect of the Don Jail. I was lonely. At the same time, my school was looking for more students to enroll in the winter Paris semester – so I did.

Starting January 1993 I got to live at Paris’ Cité Université campus for 3 months. It was everything you hope a semester abroad will be: new friends and foods and clothes. New intoxicating substances. Being able to walk or take the metro everywhere. Skiing in Switzerland for reading week. And the occasional course. Afterwards I did the Eurail backpack thing, confirming I loved travel as much as I dreamed I would.

The next year when back in Canada I saw Vancouver for the first time, and was smitten much as I had been by Paris (This is still Canada?!). I moved there permanently in 1996 and for the next 9 years focused on becoming a west coaster.

In 2003 I met my husband to be, HerrKaa, a German from Hamburg who in ’95 had fallen as hard for Vancouver as I had.

In 2005, thanks to a series of fortuitous events, I was sent to work at my company’s head office in Paris for 3 months….accompanied by my cat and by HerrKaa (as I said, fortuitous) . It was the first time we had lived together. Despite that–or because of it–it was everything you hope that a 3-month trip with paid accommodation and a per diem will be: when not working, we walked, biked, and ate our way through the city’s arrondissements.

Near the end of the second month, things seemingly got even better:  we got the go-ahead to stay a full year! EUPHORIA! Then on month 3 + 1 day, I got a call from French HR: you must leave. NOW.

In the excitement of negotiating the extension, no one remembered that I was there on just a 90-day tourist visa. We were crushed. We felt like just when we’d started to get the hang of things in France only for it to be rudely pulled away!

We spent the next three years figuring out how to get back. During this time, we debated simply staying put: Vancouver was hardly a gulag. We had a nice life: good jobs, great friends, an affordable apartment walking distance from work, beach and Stanley Park, that allowed pets and was overseen by who is seriously the world’s best landlord.

But that was the thing: it was too comfortable, and I wasn’t ready to settle into the comfort groove for the rest of my life. For us, the best way was to move to France where I spoke the language and where HerrKaa (and eventually I) could work. So we persevered.

In November 2008, 20 years after my first love-struck visit, we returned. My now-husband HerrKaa had gotten a new job, one based in Paris. It was a permanent contract with no fixed end date: if we wanted outtahere, it was up to us.

I quit my job, and HerrKaa, myself, and our intrepid tuxedo cat Mats officially became expats in the city of lights.

Pont des Arts in 2008

Our first night in Paris, Nov 4 2008.


2 thoughts on “Why Paris?

  1. Lovely read! Thanks! My boyfriend and I just arrived to Nantes and will be moving to Paris in August. I lived in Van for 7 years and he for 3. We miss it so much but we are excited to be here! If you know any references that can help us get started in Paris we would deeply appreciate it!

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