Saturday, January 19, 2008

ExpatInterviews.com

I read this website for so many hours that my eyes started to bleed. What a cool thing! I think I'm going to submit my interview after a bit of editing, but here's what I have so far:

-Where were you born?
I was born in a Pella, Iowa, but was raised in Des Moines and went to University in Iowa City. In a lot of ways I’m a Midwesterner at heart, but who am I kidding, I haven’t been there in like 12 years.

-In which country and city are you living now?
I now live in Metz France, but before that my husband and I lived for 4 years in Thionville France which was really cool cuz it’s just over the border form Luxembourg. Luxembourg Ville was really great because it has such an international feel. You often hear people on the street speaking English. It was nice to go there when I felt homesick. They have a massive grocery store where I bought all my American food products and American books and magazines etc.

-Are you living alone or with your family?
İ live with my really hot French husband who rocks my world. I love the way his eyes go all squinty when he laughs.

-How long have you been living in France?
Ehh, that’s tough to really answer because at first I was flying back and forth so much that I felt like I was on vacation when I was actually in France. But I’ve been a legal resident since 2003 I think. I have the papers to prove it so don’t even try to sick Sarko on me.

-What is your age?
32 going on 85.

-When did you come up with the idea of living in France?
Hmm, I didn’t really. I just knew I wanted to leave the US and then out of nowhere I met a French guy. Luckily, I had taken 4 years of French language classes when I was in Jr. High and High school so I actually knew quite a bit about France and could even speak a bit. I like to think of this as proof that I was somehow predestined to end up in France. Also, I believe in magic.

-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
Nope, I just married a French guy and they gave me one. I didn’t even want one. No way in hell am I gonna work for some stinkin French company. I toyed around with the idea of finding a job in Luxembourg for awhile, but since I don’t speak German and Luxembourgish---that plan got nixed. (Yes, Luxembourgish is an actual real language. It sounds like vomit, but it’s still a language.)

-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
Nope. All problems go bye bye when husband French. In fact less than a year after our marriage I had what would have been a 50 thousand dollar surgery had I had it done in the US.
French hospital bill----- 87 cents.

-How do you make your living in France? Do you have any type of income generated?
I’m an artist. (Did you know that?) So I can work form anywhere. My work is mostly mixed-media paintings and some photography. The best thing about my job is that I can do it from damn near anywhere. Just give me a pencil and some paper and I have a home office. Ok, maybe I’d need some glue as well.

I won a big fancy award for my photography a few months ago and I’m having a show and opening in New York the first week in May. Also two of my photographs will be part of The Amistad Center's exhibition, Double Exposure; African Americans Before and Behind the Camera, which will open at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco in June and then travel to museums in Chicago, Houston, Baltimore, and Washington, DC, in 2009. So I’m working, but I’m not famous yet.

-Do you speak French and do you think it's important to speak the local language? If you live in France and don’t know the language you will quickly become suicidal. That said---My verbal communication skills are good, but I actually can’t write in French. I literally don’t know how to write 75% of the words I use on a daily basis.

Also, since I feel much more relaxed here after 4 years I’ve gotten really lazy about studying and trying to improve my vocabulary. I can tell jokes and tell people off. What more do I need to know? I do think I will spend more time this year focusing on my language skills. One day I hope I can speak in French at least as well as I do in English.

-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Yeah. All the time, but even when I lived in the US I always lived far from “home”. Also my mom always moved around a lot because of her job so every 2-3 years I had a new “home” anyway. I got used to a nomadic lifestyle. Maybe that lifestyle helped prepare me for my move to France.

-Do you have other plans for the future?
Doesn’t everybody? Well, my husband and I are staying here in France. We just bought this Gi-normous apartment with a whole mess of bedrooms so maybe within the next 10 years we may start filling them with little French-American Metisse babies. But until then I’m just going to stay and work here on my art. I would love to find a great gallery for my work in France and Germany, hell why not throw in London while we’re at it. But for now I’m just focusing on my paintings ….and sometimes I even blog!

-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
Well, my FrenchBoy bought our old apartment, but we sold it to buy the new kick-ass double terrace Barbie Dream House. I’m co-owner. We signed the notary papers side by side. And my French tendencies won’t let me talk directly about the amount of money we paid for the Barbie Dream House. We paid for it with drug money our meager savings.

-What is the cost of living in France?
After living in New York City everything seems cheap here. The mortgage payments on our old apartment were about half what I paid for my first apartment in Brooklyn.
Rents in this part of France are between 400-600 euros a month for a 1-2 bedroom I think. I’ve never directly heard people talk about salaries here, but my husband informs me that 2000-3000 euros a month net is kinda sorta average maybe. But a lot of people in our area, including my husband, work in Luxembourg because the salaries are higher, so…I don’t know if that’s the average French salary or if that’s the inflated Luxembourgish salary.

-What do you think about the French?
Can’t we just set them all on fire?
No, in all seriousness, I don’t quite know what to make of them. I'm still an outsider. If we lived in Japan I would be Madame Gaijin. I haven’t broken the code so to speak, and maybe I never will, but at the same time…I’ve met so many wonderful people and there are so many things about the French people that I just LOVE. They love to eat and drink and sing and f……fait l’amour. They have their priorities straight. That part suits me just fine.

One random thing: French people are actually really excited to talk to me when they find out I moved here form New York. They immediately ask me about 9/11. Also they ask me why healthcare is so horrible in the US. (Thanks Michael Moore!) Literally, while Christmas shopping I had all the sales ladies at Sakarina laughing over one of my old stories about not having insurance and needing to go to the dentist. Good times!
So, hey. It ain’t all bad.

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in France?
Ok this is just too hard to answer, so here is my short list.

Positive: Wonderfully complicated language. Excellent quality of life. Good education and good healthcare. Wonderful food.

Negative: Wonderfully complicated language. Customer service sucks and I can’t find peanut butter and cheddar cheese when I need it.

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in France?
I would just say, that it’s harder than I ever dreamed it would be, but more wonderful than I could have ever imagined. Is that good enough?

9 comments:

Le Tigre said...

Haha, fantastically hilarious! A lot more entertaining than the usual expat interview. Is it for expat women.com or another site?

Lola said...

great interview. definitely gives a lot of insight into life in ze France.

Big fan of expatinterviews.com and ge t their weekly emails.

raynaae said...

hi! If you have any other helpful links like these please share them. I'm new to your blog, planning to relocate to Lyon, France in March. Thanks~!

Cuban said...

"...harder than I ever dreamed it would be but more wonderful than I ever imagined" is also true about kids, just so you know! And thanks for another great post.

Anonymous said...

I love your response.It Gives me an insight on life in Frane , since I'll be making the leap by the end of the year.
P.S great sense of humor :)

The Late Bloomer said...

Sounds like excellent responses to the interview questions, and ones that really reflect your personality. Definitely send it in!

BTW, I am SOOOO envious of your Barbie Dream House. Can I say that? Are you beaming now? I'm sure you are! It's just gorgeous (from what I've seen) and sounds so perfect. Ahhhh, maybe someday -- and maybe not. But that's okay. I'll just live vicariously through you!

trina said...

too funny!

i wish there had been such a thing as blogs when i first moved to strasbourg in 1974. i can remember writing a letter to my parents on a roll of what was supposed to pass for toilet paper (and looked/felt more like a thinner version of the paper you make brown bags from in the states). though my parents still talk about it, the original has unfortunately been lost for posterity.

that wouldn't have happened with a blog!

trina

Madame K said...

Le tigre---its the Expatinterviews.com.But I'm warnign you, if you start reading you'll never stop.

Late Bloomer--Our new flat is so cool I can barely believe it's mine. I feel like I just work here or something. And to thing it just fell into our laps.....just goes to show you---ya never know. Maybe the Universe has your barbie dreamhouse on order!

l'air de temps said...

thanks for sharing the interview. it's full of helpful details and insights. where's your exhibit in new york? it would be so cool if i could pop by.

continued success with your art work. sounds like it's the beginning of good things...