Have you ever considered moving abroad? Just imagine, immersing yourself in a different culture and language, meeting new friends, and making a new life, even just temporarily. Personally, I have done it five times, uprooting myself from the comfort of my family in the Philippines to live in the US, Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, and again back to Switzerland … in that order and ALONE! Oh, there was also a short jaunt to Mexico for two months. Despite all the challenges, they’ve been the best experiences in my life!
Meet Carin, who did the same to pursue a dream. She moved to Paris early this year to learn the French language, discover the city and live by herself. She’s sharing her time in La Ville-Lumière in her blog “Paris in Four Months.”
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Carin and I’m from Sweden. I’m in my twenties and decided to move to Paris for a short period of time — four months to be exact. I quit my job as an editorial assistant, left my family, friends and boyfriend at home to pursue a little dream I’ve been having for the last years. And I have no idea where it will take me!
Wow, you decided to move to Paris for four months, how did that come about?
I’ve always thought about living somewhere else other than Sweden. It’s not because I don’t like the country, rather because I want to see more. Paris has been at the top of my mental list for quite sometime now. When I visited it for the third time last spring, everything just felt right and it was a place I wanted to experience for a longer period of time. Since then, I’ve been thinking about moving to Paris to see what it would be like. Perhaps you could call it a “test period” to see if the city and I will agree. You never know if you don’t try it, right? And that’s where I am at the moment.
You’re originally from Sweden, how was the transition to Parisian life?
Well, many things are quite similar to Sweden and it’s not that big of a cultural leap for me as I imagine it could be for others. But at the same time, some things are also very different from what I’m used to. I’m trying to be like a sponge while I’m here, attempting to soak up as much as I possibly can.
One thing that I’m so fond of over here and that’s different from Sweden is the politeness everyone has towards each other (most of the time anyway). For example, you always greet people with a bonjour Monsieur/Madame and when some (that I’ve encountered) leave the bus, often they never forget to call out bonne journée or au revoir to the bus driver. I can’t even imagine the bus driver’s face if I would call out, “Good bye, have a nice day!” in Sweden. It seems like such a small and silly thing, but I really like it. With that being said, of course not everyone is the same. Each person is still different and has his or her own way.
Can you share with us some of your Parisian discoveries? How about things you like to do … for free?
What I like most about the city is to simply walk around. I know that this sounds like such a cliché but I truly love it. Last week, for example, I walked around the St. Germain area, onto the 7th arrondissement and back again. Just walking, stopping whenever I wanted to, visiting small shops, taking pictures and choosing new streets to discover. It’s so relaxing to walk around alone only with your thoughts while getting to know the city a bit better. I think that my uncle gave me the best advice before leaving when he said, “Make time and plans to do absolutely nothing.”
Another thing that I think you should do if you travel or move to another city alone is to learn to eat, sit or just have a cup of coffee all by yourself, especially in Paris! I often find many people here by themselves, just enjoying being alone. To me, this was a scary situation before arriving since I’ve always travelled either with my family, friends or boyfriend. Sometimes, it can still be quite intimidating. But when you overcome that feeling, you often end up having a really great time by yourself.
Four months is a long time, how did you pack?
Well, I didn’t really have a good strategy here I’m afraid … I just packed as much as I possibly could fit into my bags. I’m always trying to pack quite light when travelling so that I can avoid carrying around luggage that I end up not using anyway. But in this case, I did the opposite. It’s also because of the length of time I’m staying in the city. I didn’t want to be sitting in Paris thinking, “Damn, why didn’t I bring this!” etc., etc. So I packed quite a lot. The most difficult thing was also to think about the seasons – I arrived in late January and am staying until June, which means I had to pack for winter, spring and early summer. Phew! It wasn’t the easiest thing.
I actually also have a secret back up plan as well. I’m expecting a few visits from my family while here so perhaps they’ll get a text message with a small “to bring me list” – just if I’ve forgotten something, of course!
What’s your typical Parisian outfit?
I’m not a fashion guru by any means and I can barely keep up with all the trends. I just pick out items that I personally like, and which I think suit me. Normally, I love to wear dresses since they’re so easy and comfortable while still looking appropriate. But in Paris, I actually like to wear pants. I don’t know why exactly. I’ve also never seen so many women wear pants so well as I have here in Paris.
I also prefer to be quite feminine when it comes to clothes. So I like to pair my pants with a feminine blouse or top just to soften up the look a bit. Then I’ll either wear a short jacket or a trench coat. Outerwear is probably one of the most important things in my closet and I don’t mind having several options (that’s why I brought like seven coats and jackets). My argument being as it’s the one piece of clothing that will be seen the most during the day, why not have a few pieces to choose from?
Lastly, what tips can you give those wishing to move abroad for a while?
Do it. That’s my tip. You’ll never know what could happen if you don’t try.
I’m a bit of a freak when it comes to planning and control so this move was a huge leap for me. Some people wouldn’t even think twice about moving and wouldn’t care much since four months is not that long. But for me, it was really a big deal and I’m so glad I did it. I think this will make me stronger and will help me grow as a person. Hopefully I’ll have some great experiences to take with from this.
I also think (surprise, surprise) you should sit down and make a plan for your move and do some reading about the place you’re moving to. This way, you’re better prepared. I know this helped me a lot. I also put a lot of energy towards finding a good apartment to stay in. This was very important to me since I wanted to be able to come “home” to a place I really liked and felt safe in.
In addition, don’t rule out countries from your list just because you don’t speak the language! Many people called me crazy for not learning French before leaving. I didn’t know a single word other than merci and bonjour beforehand. But it’s not that big of a problem when you move to a country where the people somewhat speak English – and yes, the French do speak English. You also pick up local words and sentences every day. In addition, as I’m taking French language classes during my time here, I hope I’ll at least learn a bit before I go back home.
And lastly, learn from other people who have done or are doing the same thing! I followed a lot of blogs by those who either live or have lived in Paris. This is a great way to get a little sneak peek into their lives and into the new city that you’re moving to. You can really pick up a lot of guidelines and insider tips this way!
I’d like to thank Carin for this interview and I hope you enjoyed reading about her experience moving to a new country. As she said, and I couldn’t agree more, if you have a dream of living somewhere, try your best to pursue it. You’ll never regret it!
Until my next post … take care!
* Pictures courtesy of “Paris in Four Months”