Sunday, June 17, 2012

Socially Awkward Expat Goes to a Party

About a month ago I received an invite to a cocktail party from a blogger, Un Homme et Une Femme, who I've been reading for a while. That was flattering, but the best part was she invited a lot of my favorite bloggers. I read all the Paris blogs I can get my eyes on, but the ones I enjoy the most write about the good AND the bad of living in France. The other people she invited were bloggers I hadn't heard of and they all looked fun too.

Like most things I agree to do without really thinking it through (let my sister "temporarily" store a stray black cat in my bedroom, get married..move to France) it seemed like a great idea at the time.

But as June 16th crept closer and closer I got more and more nervous. It's one thing to spout nonsense on a blog barely anyone reads. It's a whole other thing to actually walk into a room full of strangers who know I am hiding a leprosy rash under my sweater. So I emailed my personal stylist AKA my best friend and she suggested a dress. Since, you know, it was a cocktail party. I'm fashionably challenged among many, many other things.

But of course it was fabulous. Broken glasses and the requisite dance party at the end.

No matter how you end up in Paris, to stay like me, on a temporary visa, or on an expat assignment, it's an unsettling feeling. For me, I'm not here on a mini-adventure. I don't get to go home. And for people who are here temporarily, it seems like it would be hard to settle in and make it feel like home, knowing all the time that they will eventually have to leave.

Being surrounded by people who understand what you're going through and more  importantly the words coming out of your mouth, is a warm fuzzy feeling because most days the noises coming in my ears and out of my mouth don't make much sense.

A lot of the ladies have been here less than a year. I wish I would have kept blogging when I got here, but honestly I didn't know if I was going to survive, and I didn't want to have that failure broadcast on the internet.

Before I moved to Paris, I blogged about my David and Maza's budding romance,

Maza never liked anyone but me. Now she sleeps on David's side of the bed and it pisses me off

Or how we liked to take my nephew and my best friends daughter up to David's apartment for the weekend and pretend to be white trash potty mouth parents

Or that time David put a swimming pool in my closet

Doing illegal things with our photo night group

Or how when it was 110 degrees out Maza and I slept with ice packs

But writing about missing my fake kids, being homesick, or being intimidated by all the kids in my class at Sorbonne getting their masters degrees when I hadn't even been to college was neither easy or entertaining.

Everything was harder then I thought it would be and for the longest time I thought it was me. I just wasn't smart enough or strong enough. But now I know it's France. I wanted to hug them all and tell them, that although all our struggles are unique, unless you are a super genius super hero with skin of steel, moving to a different country where the language is not your native tongue is very difficult. And the first year is the worst year. For everyone.

My first 8 months were horrible. In order:

*David's expensive camera disappeared somewhere along the way from Sacramento to Paris

*Someone tried to break into our house right before we left for Lyon for a week so I spent the whole time worrying they would come back and my cat would get out and freeze to death in the snow

*The fridge and microwave we ordered finally arrived.... both didn't work

*Had to find a wedding dress in Paris and squeeze into it after a two month diet of bread and cheese because our boat shipment with our pots and pans didn't come for two months

*Lost my wallet full of all the wedding cash we asked for instead of presents in San Francisco, which is where I had to go back alone for my honeymoon thanks to Sarkozy's new immigration laws

*Lost my wedding ring

*My mom came back from France after my wedding to find her cat crushed by my favorite plant, which I insisted she take because I wanted to be able to visit it

*felt like a complete idiot for my entire semester at Sorbonne and was sure I was going to fail and disappoint everyone who believed in me

*had a house guest (who was not even a friend of mine) from hell who ended up staying with us for A MONTH because her Parisian friends stopped responding to her emails as soon as she booked her ticket to Paris.

And as much as I daydreamed about it, I couldn't go home. My apartment, my furniture and my job were all gone.

It didn't seem fair to David to air our dirty miserable laundry on a blog all our friends knew about. So, as much as I admire the people I met last night for documenting their false steps and bad days, for me, it's probably better that those memories are lost.

Someone asked in the comments for a list of the bloggers at the party, and since I’m currently in the middle of painting our apartment and trying not to get paint on my keyboard, here is a link to the post by Expat Edna who already typed it all out.


  1. In an odd (and comforting) way, this reminds me of when I first moved to SF. (Obviously, that was different/easier in that there was no language barrier, etc.) I just remember that every small-ish thing went wrong: FedEx boxes got screwed up, Verizon account went haywire, I whacked the side mirror off my 4-day old car, problems with my sublet landlady and my new landlord, problems with my new car insurance, on and on..... The accumulation of all those small-ish things was overwhelming. I was ready to throw in the towel and move back to Boston. I had moved a lot in my life, but it had never been this challenging. Along the lines of what you wrote, my other moves had been more like "adventures" -- ie, I was moving to Paris for a year to study abroad, or I was moving to New York for 2-3 years for a job. Those moves were temporary, so I could see the fun/adventure in them and just roll with it. The move to SF was different -- I was trying to start a life here, and to stay long-term. And it was hard.

    1. Yeah, all the little stuff piles up and becomes a big out of control monster that you have to tackle every day and chip away at. It's exhausting.

      The two coasts are pretty different too. California is so laid back (and flaky) compared to the east coast.

  2. Hi there, I'm SO happy that you came to the party!!! It was great to meet you and David in person! And no worries that you didn't air a lot of your dirty laundry... I think we all find these blogs as outlets in many different ways. Although any time you do want to vent, you know you can call me!
    Glad you two had a good time! We're still recovering! -Kristen x

    1. I knew I would have fun, but I didn't know I would have that much fun. Dance parties always make everything better.

      I spent allllll Sunday recovering. Which is the sure sign of a successful party.

  3. That's quite a string of events! I'm so sorry all of that happened within your first 8 months! That's a lot to take it.

    One thing, what do you mean that the cat was crushed by a plant?!

    Anyway, it was so nice to finally meet you! I had a lot of fun with you. We woke up at 2:30 the next day. Geez, we must be getting old!

    Here's to a better next 8 months! xo.

  4. I had never thought about it until I wrote it all down, and except for the ring and the cat, it's not that bad.

    The girl watching my mom's house left that morning and everything was fine. And the first thing they saw when they walked in the house that night was a very heavy plant and a dead cat. Can you imagine coming home from vacation to that?!?! I feel so guilty.

    Your hug made my night. I thought you might be like Kanye West. I love his music but I'm sure he's a total douche in real life. Which would have been fine. I would still read your blog because it's so well written. But you are the sweetest little thing! Even more adorable in real life.

    1. OMG! As a huge cat person, my eyes are watering right now. I'm so sorry you had to experience that!!! Please don't feel guilty. How could you have known? Oh man. That's a tough one.

      LOL! Kanye West! He really is a douche, isn't he? But his music is so damn good, so note to us: let's not be friends with him. Deal?

      I loved how you wanted to dance to "my" theme song. I had so much fun with you and everyone else. I adore our community. : )

  5. But they aren't lost.
    You just told them.
    Bet you have new readers after that bloggers soiree
    Will you tell who was there svp?
    Love Maza hugging the ice pack...
    Is this what I'm looking forward to?
    I shall stop right now.
    Definitely not taking the Sorbonne route..
    I'll mumble thru with my daily infusions of junk French radio(NRG)and BDs
    At least the bus drivers talk to me.
    Who knows?
    Maybe I'll become one, once I learn to drive...

    1. Those are just the highlights (or more accurately, the lowlights). It would be fun to look back and laugh at the small day to day stuff that seemed like huge disasters and gigantic successes (went to the grocery store all by myself today, yay me!). But I didn't write all that stuff down, so the details are lost.

      I don't know why I didn't think of listing the bloggers. What a great idea. Luckily one of the other bloggers there did it in her post.

      I was used to the heat, and I would rather sleep with ice packs than be wearing a sweater at the end of June. I think the Paris weather has finally broken me. I give up on looking forward to being warm and wearing dresses. From now on, if I want to do something like that I will book a vacation far away.

      Sorbonne was an accomplishment I am proud of, but I don't necessarily think it's the way to go if you want to learn how to speak French. It's very much based on writing, grammar, spelling etc in a very proper way.

  6. Plants to not like cats.
    It's a fact much as cats like to destroy plants (is that why?)
    My darling neighbor was helping me get some papers right at the bank and a plant fell on her best-loved cat at home.
    Il arrive.
    It could be a very common event but that doesn't make it any better.
    I felt extremely bad and responsible.

    1. I can't believe this happened to someone else. I can't think about it and mostly just keep the memory buried deep deep down locked in a vault.

  7. Wow, I had no idea that a creature as adaptable and flexible as the feline could be so vulnerable to house plants, of all things. Will be keeping that in mind if I ever pet-sit for a cat friend. I'm glad you went through with attending the party and had a good time! Your comment about how it's always hardest the first year kind of made me gulp a little, since I'll be moving to a new country to stay for exactly one year. Gah. But I think my life will be much tamer than all the details you dealt with and conquered, so perhaps that'll help.

  8. It's totally different if you are just doing something for a year. That's fun, that's an adventure, with an end date, so when you feel like it's too much, you will know it's not going to last forever. But for people who are actually trying to live in a new country it's totally different.

    The first year is also really fun. But for me, it was so much thrown into the mix. Moving in together, getting married, giving up my job, leaving my friends and family behind, going to school. It was a crazy mix of great and horrible.

  9. I just found your blog, and I totally know what you've been through! I moved to Cape Town 1.5 years ago, and we are still recovering. Things that happened to us: hubby lost his wedding ring, became relatively poor and live in a tiny, tiny one bedroom guest house, I haven't worked in the entire time we've been here, had to go to the bank 3 times in one day because of their ineptitude, gotten lost countless times, I got into my first ever car crash in someone else's car I borrowed, and I lost weight on the "Africa diet". It could have been a lot worse, but we still have boxes everywhere and live like pigs in this cramped house. But I'm glad we came. It's my fault we did, so I better like it, right? Next adventure- babies?

    1. It's crazy the amount of mishaps you fit into one year. I can relate to the ring thing. That really sucks. But the other stuff will hopefully make you laugh someday.

      If I had a little crystal ball that showed me what the first year was going to be like, I would have never done it. It's totally worth it though! If you can survive your first year that is.... ;)