Living Abroad: 7 Things You Should Know Before Moving (From An American in Paris)

As most of my followers and friends know, I recently moved to Paris from New York City. I came over with my husband, Léo, who is French (from Orléans, France). I was fearless and excited, but four months later there are some things I wish I had known. I don’t regret moving at all, but I could have been more prepared.

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1. Save more money than you think you need. This is easier said than done, obviously, and is the number 1 tip for a reason. As a professional baker I’ve had trouble generating income in Paris. Unheard of? Not when your French is lacking. Opportunities come and go. Finding your ideal job is next to impossible, and you should be prepared. French employers often have to prove that they tried and failed to hire a French native before they can hire someone from another country. Don’t be afraid to get crafty and try alternative methods of earning money. If you’re a writer, writejobs.info is an excellent resource for remote, freelance writing work. Craigslist is also surprisingly fruitful if you use a site like searchcraigslist.org to search EVERY city’s database. FlexJobs also has some great remote work. Gumtree is a great resource if you’re in/near the UK. Au Pairing is always an option, but keep in mind that to be an official Au Pair you must meet several requirements: you’re not married, you don’t have children, and you sometimes have to fit in a certain age group.

2. The language barrier is not waist high. It’s much, much taller than you, and it will smash you, scare you, and make you anxious. Don’t be afraid! In 2015, there are great resources for learning languages, and they are growing by the day. A few I can recommend: FluentU and SkillShare. Of course DuoLingo is also great for time spent on the metro. The moral of the story is: learn the language of the place you’re going to! It’s crucial. This has been the most difficult part of my move, hands down.

3. The second you leave your country, you are now an expatriate. Everyone knows that’s a friendly way of saying “immigrant.” You are no longer the main concern of your country, nor the priority of the new country you’ve moved to. You are very fortunate to be living in a country that you were not born in. Be prepared for complications. Have all of your paperwork organized. Do things as far in advance as possible. In France in particular, be ready to make a lot of copies. 😉

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4. You’re going to be lonely. I came here with my husband, and I still find myself feeling really lonely sometimes. The best way to cure this is to make other expat friends. Most expats are also looking for the same thing you are. There are numerous groups on Facebook devoted to Expats from Country X in Country Y. They are an incredible resource for jobs, friends, and general expat info. Example: does anyone know where can I find brown sugar?

5. There will be ups, and there will be downs. You are in a beautiful new place. You are having the experience of a lifetime, exposing and immersing yourself in another country’s culture. These experiences are priceless and will leave you changed forever, but that doesn’t mean every day is going to be rainbows and butterflies. Some of the experiences may not be so good, but you will learn from all of them.

6. Your new time zone may be inconvenient to your friends and family back home. Typically I find myself calling everyone in the US in the morning, which is my evening. This is not a deal breaker by any means, just something to consider. Also, when choosing a cellphone provider, for your own sake please look into their international calling plans. Some carriers offer it free, while some charge more than you could believe. My phone calls back home always end up lasting longer than expected.

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7. There’s no place like home. It’s true! Living abroad is exciting, adventurous, and eye-opening. But that doesn’t change the fact that home will always be there for you, waiting with open arms for a visit, a return, or just a quick message letting everyone know you miss them.

* This post is based solely on my personal experience moving to Paris. My friends have had different experiences. Some have had it easier, some have had it harder. Obviously it all differs from person to person, I just wanted to state that these are my personal opinions.

If you’re interested in following me, you may do so at http://www.facebook.com/thealexanderroberts or on Instagram: alexanderoberts 

http://www.kealro.net/

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A Coffee Date

I’ve seen this “virtual coffee date” on a few other blogs lately. I like the idea, because I can’t have coffee with a lot of my friends and family back home, but I would love to. So, I’m inviting you to have a cup of coffee with me via the internet.

If we were having coffee today, I would mention the abrupt arrival of cold weather in Paris. It’s been in the low 40s and even high 30s at night. I’d probably complain about my careless abandonment of my favorite scarf in New York before I moved here, and I’d probably mention that I’m about to order a new cozy scarf, I am just having trouble choosing the “perfect” one. We would then discuss scarves for at least 5 more minutes. 

If we were having coffee today, and I haven’t seen you in a while, I would probably tell you that French is like, really hard. I can order at a restaurant, say “no thanks, I don’t need a bag” at the grocery store, and ask the man who works in the wine shop if the wine is too sweet or not. That’s about as far as my vocal communication goes at this point. Necessities… The good news is I learn a little more each day, I guess.

If we were having coffee today, I would tell you that I wish I could go home and see my family during the holidays this year. As I get older I’m lucky if I make it for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but this year I won’t make it to either. I miss my dog, my mom, and my grandmothers. The rest of the family too, of course. It’s easy for me to get emotional around the holidays. I will try my best to keep it together, making new traditions and memories with Leo and his family here in France. 🙂

I suppose at this point I would have to offer you another cup of coffee. I’d also offer you a piece of this toast that I topped with ricotta and clementine… It’s probably the most refreshing toast ever.

Half way into our eleventh cup of coffee, I would ask you: what are your plans for the holidays this year? What are you most looking forward to creating and sharing? What’s your favorite thing to eat this time of year? I’m excited to make a beautiful pie and share it, even if it’s just with one person.

Thanks for having coffee with me! 

Pâte Brisée (Pie Dough)

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Brisée and I have had a long, tumultuous, on and off relationship. Simply known to most as “pie dough,” this dough can make or break a quiche or an apple pie. If you know a few basic points about pie dough, you can easily make some at home that will rival the pies of your favorite bakery.

Important Tips To Remember:
– Warmth is your enemy when making this dough. If your dough gets too warm, the butter will melt right out (or right in, making a more dense dough).
– Keep all ingredients cold. Your water (ice cold!). Your flour. Your butter. Even the bowl you are mixing it in should be refrigerated!
– Work quickly and confidently. 

This recipe is versatile and can be used in a multitude of ways. I choose not to add any sugar to the dough, but if you must, you can add a sprinkle. It’s nice to have a bit more sugar if you’re making a sweet pie, but if you’re making a quiche or something similar I would avoid it. 

Making pie dough becomes a lot easier when you have the correct tools, such as a bowl scraper or bench knife. This recipe will make enough for two 9 inch pies, or one double crusted pie.

Ingredients:
400 grams all purpose flour (3.25 cups)
200 grams butter (2.25 sticks)
1 teaspoon of salt
Approximately 150 grams of ice cold water (½ cup)

1.  Measure out all of your ingredients and refrigerate them until they’re nice and cold. Cut the butter into small cubes, or slivers. Add the salt to the flour.

2. Work the butter into the flour using a fork, pastry blender, your fingers (quickly!), or a bench knife on a work surface. You want small, scraggly pieces of butter in the flour – not big chunks, but not completely invisible either.
Once all of your butter is blended into the flour, pour the flour out onto a clean work surface. Form a circle shape with a hole in the center, like a big donut. 

3. Pour the water into the hole in the middle and using a fork, mix it carefully to combine the liquid with the flour. Don’t let the water out of the center!
Using your hands, press all of the ingredients together gently until it sticks together. Too dry? Add a little water at a time by sprinkling it from your fingertips. You can also add flour if you find your dough is getting to wet. 

Depending on the day and the weather, you may need more or less liquid! You will understand after making the dough a few times.

4. That’s it! Refrigerate the dough overnight, or at least 1 hour until it’s completely cold. Take care of your dough and it will take care of you!

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Serious Note: Do not over mix or overwork. This photo shows right about where my dough is when it’s finished. I only pack it together enough to hold. Remember, this dough is not going to be completely cohesive. It’s going to be scraggly and shaggy looking. It will not be as wet as you probably think it should be, and you may still see chunks of butter. That’s great! It means your dough is going to be beautifully flaky. In the same sense, really large chunks of butter will disappear and leave a hole in your pastry if it’s too big!