My iPhone has cycled through a good number of utilitarian apps since I moved to France. Here are the ones that have made it through an initial six-month trial and still are proving useful.
iMessages don’t seem to be totally reliable overseas – they’re OK for touching base with in-town friends, but when I’m going on an IM-like session with my besty delays simply can’t do. Whatsapp is fast as lightning, show you a little double checkmark when your message has been sent and seen, and does photos and videos easily. Of course along with Whatsapp with a handful of Americans, I use the Google Hangouts app with my (very Android-heavy) group of French friends, Facebook Messenger with family, and Snapchat with the younger & hipper demo in my friend circle. There really isn’t one messaging app silver bullet, but Whatsapp is pulling its weight. (Free)
For $1.99, you hold your phone up to a menu, or a bottle of hair product, or a street sign, and the app translates instantly in-context. It’s more magical and novelty like than utilitarian I will admit, but it’s worked in a pinch when copy/pasting into Google Translate isn’t an option. Which brings me to…
Hands down the best app on my phone. It will speak French words to you in a French accent, will auto-detect your language if you’re plugging in others, and you can copy/paste really easily. Plus it keeps a recent log of your translations that you can reference easily. (Free)
Metro Paris Subway (link)
While not an “official” Paris Metro app, Metro is a phenomenally useful and well-designed app that lets you put in two Metro stations and spits out the most direct line between them, including travel time and delay information. I use in conjunction with the ever-ubiquitous Google Maps. I haven’t used the official RATP app because this one works great for me, for $0.99.
Yeah I know, we all hate Yelp because it’s corrupt and shady. I don’t write Yelp reviews any more but I have to admit that in Paris (unlike in SF where EVERY establishment has hundreds of reviews already), Yelp isn’t SO prolific that it’s lost meaning. Most reviews are left by tourists it’s true but places usually have between 10-25 reviews tops, so you can easily skim to see the gist of what the place is like. Plus the mapping feature is really handy and while not all places in Paris have accurate information (like open/close times) you still get enough information to help you plan your evening. (Free)
I HATE that Foursquare split itself up into two apps, because saving and sharing lists was one of my favorite things to do on the OG Foursquare. But fine, Swarm is still useful for checking into places that you go to so you can remember them later. Plus when you tie it (and your other social media) to Timehop (link), you get a nice little snapshot of your day, a year later. (Free)
A very nicely designed and monotasking app that clearly and quickly translates Celcius degrees to Fahrenheit and vice-versa, just with swiping. They recently introduced an in-app purchase that trains you to translate C to F yourself so that you eventually don’t even need the app – but my disdain for mathing plus the fact that I don’t NEED to use the app very often makes the free version good enough for me.
A multifunctional app, prettily designed, that lets you convert euros to dollars, km to miles, kilos to pounds, and a whole host of other conversions that you probably won’t need but are nice to have anyway. I used a few different unit conversion apps and this one is the best-designed and easy to use.
Let me know if there are others that are useful for expat life… I’m always looking to make this $600 piece of glass and math work harder for me!
Inspired by this very lovely post on This Is Jackson Riley that helped me a lot – full of more practical advice than what I’m about to shovel out
Disclaimer: This isn’t so much a practical list as it is a sentimental one. But it’s what I’m glad I brought with me. I had the IMMENSE luxury of having my belongings shipped overseas for me, so I could be a little crazy with the packing (like, six Google Express delivery boxes packed unopened, full of little surprises like ranch dressing, Slim Jims and Swiffer wipes).
A stock of all your toiletries. Yes you are moving to France, the land of the beyond sublime beauty section in your neighborhood pharmacy, but give yourself some time to a) learn French so you can read the labels and b) ease into your new Frenchwoman beauty regimen gradually. (SIDE STORY: I have been searching my local Monop’ high and low for some leave-in conditioner spray, when I found a bottle that looked fancy enough to be it. Sans rinçage, I read aloud, thinking okay, no rinse. This is the stuff! and tossed the 11€ add-on among my warm eggs that creepily don’t expire for five months and my Monsieur Propre [my mom calls the Monop', "Target," and you can see why]. I get home and after some confused minutes staring at the back of the bottle in the privacy of my home, I realise that what I actually bought was “anti-fall serum” or something. Shit that keeps your old-lady hair from falling out of your head. So yeah, I wish I had packed an extra bottle of spray-in conditioner.)
Warm clothes. It just dipped to 10° C (50° F) here today with rain and my ten years in California HAVE NOT PREPARED ME.
A little self-care package of your favorite American junk food. My housewarming party menu of fromages, champagnes, and Kraft Mac & Cheese imported straight from my Google Express delivery box was a huge hit! Plus you might meet a man who is as crazy for creamy American-style peanut butter as he is for your bad jokes and incomprehensible puns :)
Your favorite cleaning supplies that smell like home. Not the giant econo-size ones that I mentioned in my last post – just a couple nice ones. They help make your apartment smell and therefore feel like home, too. I brought a couple bottles of this overpriced nonsense because I once bought a six pack on sale at the San Francisco Bed Bath & Beyond on my yearly (yes) sojurn there, and it just became comforting. I can probably get it in Paris, no doubt, but I think the goal of your first six months should be to make the transition as eeeeeasy as possible. No striking out to some far-flung imports home goods store to get your Geranium fix, at least not at first.
Bring the last candle you burned in your apartment (because you had one, you sassy single expat woman you). It will make for a nice little transition.
Allergy medicine! When I first got here all these exotic European pollens were making me crazy – and you need a legit doctor’s prescription to get your hands on some Benadryl or whatever over here. Thankfully my dear friend E brought me a big ol’ bottle of OTC Zyrtec when she came out to visit, I horde that stuff like gold.
LADIES ONLY: If you prefer your time of the month accessories to have applicators, best bring a few months’ supply over as well, until you can get used to the idea of… sans applicators. You know what I’m talking about.
Your own bedsheets. I can’t tell you, after road warrioring it for two months in both SF and Paris before getting my apartment, what a wistful relief it was to sink into a rented bed that was at least outfitted with my own sheets.
Lamps. Floor lamps, desk lamps – don’t think that you can just plug them in with a converter. My popped bulbs and lovely rosewood table lamps which are now in a bin will tell you otherwise. Don’t bother.
Iron. See above.
Giant U.S. – sized cleaning supplies. There won’t be any room in your little kitchen to store them and things here just seem to need less to work – it will take me five years to get through my Family-Sized bottle of dishwashing liquid seeing that my tiny French dishwasher takes a few tablespoons at most.
Pillowcases. I’m sure this is just something weird that I’ve encountered but I’ve really only seen square-shaped pillows here. My rectangles are useless except that I cram the square pillows in anyway.
Blowdryer and other hair accessories. See above again. Although I admit I still use my curling iron with an adapter but I feel like it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Don’t mess with electricity!
Gaming consoles. Even if you purchase a special adapter there is still a chance that the U.S. ones won’t turn on here. Also my Nintendo DS won’t charge when I use the U.S. plug with an adaptor. I bough a European one online and we’ll see how that works.
American credit cards – unless they have no international transaction fees. Make sure! And when you make purchases with them in Europe, don’t let them pre-convert to dollars for you. There are hidden fees and things when you do that plus you may not be getting the best exchange rate.
A friend of mine from San Francisco is on the precipice of the same move that I made six months (!) ago and it’s got me thinking about the way that I handled my goodbyes and exit phase, not that long ago. We text about her nerves and her emotional rollercoaster as she systematically says goodbye to her friends and family in Cali and the states, and I admit that I haven’t been as forthcoming with the insights and advice as I could be save a few “don’t worry!”s and “try to relax!”es that I transmit across oceans to another person who I know is feeling as scared and excited – two emotions that hard to reconcile – as I was.
And boy, was I feeling those. In my sage old six-monther age in France there isn’t a lot that I can say about this move that you (dear reader) would find insightful or surprising, only because I think the way you will deal with your goodbyes is exceptionally unique to your personality. My friend is clearly doing an amazing job keeping her shit together and I’m so excited to see her in Paris next week – so this isn’t a screed about her or any one in general. But I really believe that if you don’t have a healthy attitude about CHANGE in general – if you don’t think of yourself as an adaptable, go-with-the-flow, live-in-the-moment kind of person, then the pre-expatriation farewells will be really, really hard on you.
While I was going through the seemingly interminable process of figuring out if I got the job in Paris or not, I did a lot of honest and painful soul-searching that maybe every 30 year old goes through, except this time with the frame of expatriation to guide me. I wanted to move to Paris and restart my life, I wanted to fall in love and create a community of friends and loved ones around me, I wanted to find a job that I felt challenged and fulfilled at that I could see myself in for a long time. Not because my life in SF or the US hadn’t started, not because I had never been in love or didn’t have a village supporting me – on the contrary, I had a wonderful life that I was lucky to lead. But in its own way, it didn’t fit. I was stuck in my head all of the time. Regretting past decisions, feeling helpless and sad about the way certain relationships – romantic, friendships, familial – had panned out, not sure where my career was supposed to go next – I think it’s fair to say that I was not fulfilling my potential of happiness or success because I didn’t feel like I had earned it. I wrote in another post about how it could be so selfish to leave your people when you move, to another city or state let alone country, but now that I did it I wish I had the sense of self to do it sooner.
My friend is certainly not in the same position that I was when I chose to pursue this life in France, nor am I saying that needing to get yourself out of a self-imposed rut is the only reason to pursue something like this. But for me, the catalyst was to finally feel like the motivated, goal-oriented person I knew that I was somewhere buried under layers of dissatisfaction in where my perfectly sound life choices had brought me. When I made this happen, when I recount the story of the first super scared meetup event I dragged myself to where I ended up meeting not the romantic love of my life, but certainly one of the best friend loves of my life, when I thought today how rewarding it was to hear from my boss how much she appreciated my work and what a good job I am doing, in the midst of my feeling immensely challenged but motivated – I can see that these wonderful things are only happening to me because I finally believe in myself again, as trite as that may be. Because I was dissatisfied with myself, and my life, and I quite literally stepped out of the (San Franciscan) fog and into the (Parisian) lights.
So what I would be saying to my lovely friend, if I didn’t want her to feel this intense satisfaction and sense of accomplishment all on her own:
Just barrel forth, face the (numerous, but never insurmountable) challeneges that stare you in the face and inevitably lie ahead, TRUST in your instincts and fuel the motivation that got you to start this bonkers process in the first place. The rewards are so beyond the cost of the risks that you can’t even imagine… until you’re (just!) six months in and reflecting on it again. Can’t wait for you to get here… and for the next six months, for us both.
I looked around my apartment tonight, and realized that I have run out of a lot of things I brought with me from America.
My toothpaste, bodywash, trash bags, cleaning products, soaps… slowly but surely, Crest, Olay, Glad, Mr. Clean, Ivory, have been replaced with Colgate (with only French text), Caudalie, Monoprix brand, Monsieur Propre, Le Petit Marseillais.
The little things that make up my life are transforming into French things. What a weird feeling.
I’m headed into my sixth month of living abroad (I mean seriously? Half a YEAR, already?). I didn’t have any goals per se coming into six months, didn’t set any milestones at all – if I didn’t love it, I’d have come back, no timeline impositions here. But I have (finally?) started to feel some pangs of homesickness, I’m sure entirely exacerbated by my canceled trip from a couple of weeks ago.
I had tried to predict, back in April, what would be the things I’d miss six months into my life in France. I think I could’ve guessed most of these things accurately but now that I am in the thick of missing them, it’s such a weird and palpable feeling.
- Real Starbucks iced coffee (black coffee, double brewed, ice.)
- Ice. GIVE ME ALL OF THE ICE IN FRANCE!
- American Diet Coke (I love Coke Light, don’t get me wrong, but… I know it’s off)
- An actual cheese pizza. No crème fraîche, oeufs, viande hachée… just greasy cheese and a chewy crust
- Being able to understand everything that is happening around me. Not having to mentally prepare to venture outside and interact with people
- Turning on the TV and just finding some shite reality show rerun and zoning out for a minute. Internet TV is not the same okay!
- The ability to have long and meaningful conversations with somebody face to face. This one is tricky. Because I know that I can (and I have!) told my French friends anything and everything, and they are here for me with love and support (seriously I am so lucky). So this isn’t to say that I can’t have meaningful conversations period. But there is something about the ease of communication that you can have with a fellow native speaker that I miss – and knowing that I am understood just as easily. My French friends, I will say, have made herculean efforts to improve their English and I am proud to say that they all sound more American now than they did six months ago ;)
- Being surrounded by Americans. I honestly feel like I could go for a group hug or a cuddle puddle with thirty jolly loud boisterous exclamation-mark-using Americans right now. Just for a couple of hours. That’s all I need.
- Side story: my boss (American, been in France for four years AND IT’S LIKE HE WAS NEVER AMERICAN, I swear) chided me for using too many exclamation marks in a piece of copy and teased me about how American I was being. HOW DARE HE
And naturally, being in close physical contact with my friends back home. FaceTime, Whatsapp, Hangouts are great but it’s just not the same.
I’m worried that if I post this blah of an entry it’s going to undermine the fact that I am honestly still really happy here. I just know that it was only a matter of time before homesickness crept up and bummed me out for a weekend or two. It’s a happiness hangover, to be honest. These past six months have been the best six months of my life and I’m trying to look at this moment as an equalizer, to help me stabilize my mentality to take me through the next six months (and beyond) of life in France. I think this feeling is something that every expat anticipates and faces eventually, and I’m sure it is different for everybody.
So to end on a lighthearted note, here is a list of things that I do after six months in France that I didn’t guess I’d be doing :)
- Speak in Franglish. Oh yes. Every day. Putting the noun before the adjective, using overly emotional or odd words to describe simple things. I can’t even think of any specific examples because Franglish is slowly taking over my brain
- In the same vein, I pepper my English texts and emails with French words kind of naturally now. I write terrasse so often that it took me a couple of tries to find the right spelling for “terrace” (and that still looks wrong now)
- Pronouncing French colleagues’ names with a French accent even while speaking to Americans (come on, it’s not pretentious, it’s POLITE okay) :P
- Taking a coffee after lunch every day. Espresso (and saying “taking” instead of “having.” There’s that Franglish)
- Pouring drinks from bottles/cans into smaller glasses
- Preferring smaller cups/plates to my giant American glassware. I had some people over one evening and we had ordered some food, and when I brought my plates out I WAS STRAIGHT UP EMBARRASSED. (An American salad plate is the perfect size for a French dinner. An American dinner plate it the perfect size for a French serving platter.)
- Not batting an eye when someone blows cigarette smoke into my face. Or a child’s. Or lights up while eating a meal on a terrasse. Or noticing really. Or even caring. That’s so Parisian of me.
I was really in the camp of, no one is going to look at it, or notice it, it’s a tiny snag in an otherwise perfectly smooth OFII process (except for the fact that it took two months too long), so let’s just say it’s good as-is and move on with our lives! But my HR rep (rightfully so) wanted to take it back to the prefecture since we were already there, and in case anyone at some point cross-referenced my card with my passport and saw the discrepancy, she didn’t know what kind of trouble that could cause.
So back we went.
The prefecture administrators cut up the card and told me to come back in a month, when they’d have my new card. OPTIMISM DASHED AGAINST THE WALL. A MONTH to reprint a card! And they refused to give me a letter stating that in the system, I was all legit – maybe because it was their mistake that the card had a typo. I don’t know. At any case, I then went on a weeklong journey of the heart and soul to try to determine if it would be a good idea for me to take my holiday to California as planned. So I did what any rational totally normal person would do – I did a situational analysis and drew up the potential solutions and any problems with those solutions. Any time I started to tell my mom, or a friend, or anyone that I decided to NOT take my trip to California, the same questions were always asked – can’t you get a letter? Why can’t you just return with your American passport?
- My work visa is a 3-month visa which expired in June. The purpose was to hold me over until I received an appointment at the immigration office to get my carte de sejour, or residency card. That card then allows me to live in, work in, exit and reenter France as I please. Until I get it, my 3-month visa was only good to allow me to stay in France. (Everyone gets 3-month visas when they move here with a long contract (like I did). So it wasn’t a weird situation)
- The immigration office took a long time to process my paperwork so my residency card appointment didn’t happen until just last week
- I went through a two hour ordeal of medical exams, blood work, x-rays, everything at that appointment. I finally received my card and I was so happy
- We noticed that my place of birth was wrong on the card (it said Japan). So we took it back to the immigration office. They cut it up and told me to come back in a month
- We fought and argued and cried but it did no good. The card is gone.
1. Leave the country and come back with my American passport, just as you would enter France.
- Problem with this is that I have an expired visa sticker in there which will raise questions (it’s stuck inside my passport)
- I can always say that I am a tourist (again, as you would do). I’d be permitted to remain here for 90 days.
- Problem with this: If they note on my dossier that I returned (so soon after my visa expiration), then I will be working illegally and my company could get in serious trouble with the government
- This could also create a problem when I go to get my new residency card – if they discover that I’ve left the country and re-entered as a tourist, it could restart the entire process over again
- And of course there is a chance that they wouldn’t look at my papers at all, and all would be well. But it’s a risk
2. Leave the country, apply for a visa extension from the SF consulate, and come back legally
- Problem with this is that the SF consulate has no available appointments (I’ve been in touch directly with the woman in charge of my case there). I’d have to go the first day I’m in SF and apply for an emergency appointment. Then they could or could not grant it to me. Then it could still take up to 2 weeks for my extension to be finalized. I am only IN California for 2 weeks so this is no good
3. Leave the country and re-enter with a letter stating that my residency card is in order and that it was the immigration office’s fault that I don’t have it on hand yet
- Problem with this is that the immigration office refuses to give me documentation about this (probably because the birthplace mistake is their fault)
- Some friends called in some favors and I have the number of the head of one of the immigration officers (not the one my case is assigned to) who said I could call him from the border if I have any trouble. Frankly this feels really scary because he’s a chief of police in Paris and I just don’t think I could do that
At the end of the day, I had to assess whether the risk of not being allowed back in my country and putting my job in jeopardy would be worth the risk that the border officials would look at my papers. I hope writing out the situation above at least helps to illustrate how there is so much cause and effect when you’re dealing with work visas, employers, border agents and residency status – you really need to be looking at how each piece will impact the others.
I think there are many people who would’ve made a different decision – probably not worried so much about the potential outcomes – and maybe I will be more relaxed about things like border control in the future. But for now, this is something that I don’t want to mess with. So in Paris I remain. Happy gray August!
I held the card in my hand.
My carte de sejour… after waiting, blood taking, waiting, chest x-rays, waiting, medical interview, waiting, paper-signing and stamp-sticking, the woman behind the administrative desk handed me my carte de sejour. It was beautiful – my unsmiling photo laminated behind thick plastic, green and purple gradients with holograms flanking a microchip on the front, declaring that I was really, truly, legally a resident of France. For at least the next year. The card that would allow me to return to California for a much-needed reprieve from expat life, to see my dear friends and loved ones, to spend some time in Napa sunshine and San Francisco fog and Los Angeles smog, via my flight that was leaving in a week.
And then it was taken away. Ripped from my hands. Cut into pieces. And I was told to come back in a month to get my new one.
Okay, let me back up.
The OFII appointment went great, really. Again, I was entirely overprepared with the list of paperwork that I noted in my previous post. I am convinced though that when I was brandishing my pink accordion folder in the lines and waiting rooms, the administrators decided that I LOOKED prepared and nervous enough, so it sufficed enough for them not to ask me for my papers at all. That’s right – they didn’t glance at a thing except my passport. I give a lot of credit to my HR department for this, because they pre-filed a lot of the paperwork and my photos as well. Anyway, I arrived with my HR rep at 8:30 for my 9:00 AM appointment, we waited in line with a few others, then when they opened the office doors they wouldn’t let her come in with me despite our best attempts to convince the greeter that I don’t speak any French. When I got up to the medical exam waiting room there were other people of multi ethnicities (like me) there, but I am convinced most of them spoke French much better than I. Regardless, the exams went fine – after waiting for maybe twenty or thirty minutes, I was ushered into a room where my height and weight were recorded, the nurse had me cover each eye and read off of a letters chart (remember you have to recite the letters in French! So “E” is “uh” and “I” is “ee!”) and also had me read a couple of French sentences close-up. Then she took a blood sample (ow) and sent me back to the waiting room. After another fifteen or twenty minutes I was called to wait in a narrow corridor for one of three tiny rooms to open up. Then I was to go in to one of the tiny rooms, disrobe from the waist up (leave your inhibitions in America) and go through the room to the x-ray machine. Take a deep breath, click click click, back to the waiting room. Twenty more minutes. Then a kind doctor ushered me into his office where he asked me questions (in English!) about my medical history, family history, we looked at my x-ray, and he smilingly stamped a paper saying I am a-ok to live in France. Back I go to the admin desk, she stamps some more papers, then I wait in another line for the other admin to pull up my papers (so many papers) where I saw the shiny glint of my already-ready carte de sejour.
I smiled so big when she gave it to me, that she smiled too. Not a common sight in French offices ;)
I took the card outside to my HR rep and we looked at it carefully to make sure that everything was in order. I turned the card around and it said, next to Birthplace… JAPAN.
Life has been peaceful, mellow – summer in France really is what everyone says, that is, everyone jets off on holiday for most of August and the métro is blissfully uncrowded and offices are quiet, Outlook auto-replies appearing by the fistful. Entire businesses close down. “Where are Elisabeth and Sam? Oh they’re on holiday. They’re in Moscow for the next three weeks. And Marine and Mathieu are in the south of France until September. Oh, Sophie? She is visiting her parents in Brittany. Back in two weeks.” It’s magical. I really didn’t know August would be like this, such a lovely “expected” time for vacations, so it was lucky that I was invited to a friend’s wedding in San Francisco for Labor Day weekend. I get to have my own little August jaunt too, only all the way to California, not to Bali or Provence or Rome. But there’s always next year ;)
Anyway, in the languid sunny breezes of summer I’d almost forgotten about my immigration status, that is, I am pretty much a squatter until my carte de sejour is processed. When I received my visa from the San Francisco consulate, it was valid for three months, because the idea was that you apply for and receive your carte (residency card) within those three months. Yeah right. It expired back in June and since then I’ve had to cancel two inter-European trips because I would not be allowed back in the country with an expired visa – I’d have been deported back to the States and would have had to reapply for another three-month visa. No thanks, no way. I definitely wondered why I couldn’t just re-enter France with my American passport and say I’m coming back in for a holiday. The trick is that the visa that is stickered inside my passport is the thing that is expired, and it would be playing a dangerous game of “is the border agent paying attention today.” So rather than take the risk (which I calculated with my HR department, I should add), Barcelona and Stockholm were canceled until further notice.
So why has it taken so long for me to get my carte de sejour? I don’t have an answer for that. But anyway after HR sends in a few forms (side note: we had originally filled the forms out in blue pen. A week after HR sent them to the immigration office, they called saying we needed to resubmit them… in black pen. So, I guess that’s why it’s taken so long… dumb shit like that) before the OFII grants me an appointment at a Préfecture in an assigned arrondissment . Now I’ve read blogs that say you need to just show up at the crack of dawn before the préfectures only take 50 appointments a day, etc. etc., but I have a paper saying I need to be at the préfecture in the 12th tomorrow at 9:00 am so I’m just counting my blessings I guess.
Now before I continue with this I need to give you the #1 most important, and terribly annoying piece of advice for immigrating to France. Advice so obnoxious that if I read it before I made my move I would’ve rolled my eyes so hard that they would’ve fallen out of my head, before deleting this blog from my readers and bookmarks and silently telling the writer to go eff herself. But since this blog is the story of how I am figuring out my shit in France, I need to be honest with you. And I am sorry in advance. But the most important thing I did that is helping me navigate the labyrinthian process of immigration is… I got a French boyfriend. Who has experiences dealing with immigration to France. No kidding. After we looked at the email that my HR department sent me to finally confirm my appointment (for tomorrow!) we realized that there was a lot of information missing… I revisited my favorite blog entry from The Haute Housewife and found time to get all of this paperwork together. What’s more, is that he found a checklist from the prefecture and translated all of the requirements for me. See what I mean? Indispensable! He also kindly accompanied me to a tabac kiosk where I could purchase those weird stamps that you need to buy to pay for things like passport renewals, parking tickets, and residency cards. I don’t know the rhyme or reason but I was told to purchase two batches: one for 19 € and another for 241 €. While he chatted with the tabac clerk in French I was just so, so grateful to have his help, because it strikes me how helpless I would be without French or with just my basic rudimentary French when trying to do things like purchase weird stamps in weird denominations and decipher weirdly formatted lists of all the ridiculous paperwork I need to have with me. (Two copies PLUS the originals!) So yeah – that’s really lame advice, and I don’t really have any advice on how to GET a French boyfriend, but maybe it will happen to you like it did to me. A blog post for another time, though. :)
Here’s a list of all the paperwork I’ve prepared for my appointment tomorrow. Thankfully also, a member of the HR team is coming with me to the appointment. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – how fortunate I am to have the backing of my marvelous company to help me make this move!
OFII PAPERWORK (compiled from the list from the OFII website, as well as various blogs recounting because the OFII site couldn’t possibly be complete ;)
- Appointment confirmation from the OFII
- Visa page from passport
- Each passport page with entry/exit stamps on it
- Birth certificate
- International Assignment letter from my SF HR
- Attestation d’emploi
- Guichet unique (this is a special letter I received from the OFII stating that my carte de sejour application was in process, so I am allowed to reside and work in France for now but it wouldn’t be enough to let me back in the country if I left)
- Demande d’autorisation de travail (this is that document with your picture on it)
- All of my electricity bills (they want 3 months’ worth but I only have one)
- All of my landline/internet/cable bills (same – they want 3 months, I’ve only had service for two) – these are to prove your address
- Rent receipts for the past three months (I just printed out my wire transfer confirmations from my bank)
- My rental agreement (just in case)
- Two self-addressed stamped envelopes
- Four UNCUT ID photos, neutral expression
- A packet of stamps for 241 €
- A packet of stamps for 19 €
- The receipt from the stamps (Boyfriend said they could ask me for proof of payment for them! WAT!)
I think I have papers in there that are not required, but I’d rather go for ALL then risk missing something and having to make another appointment. My trip to California is just next week and I can’t wait to have that carte de sejour in my hot little hands so that my trip will really just be a holiday – because I’ll be a legitimate resident of France. Stay tuned for how the actual appointment goes and wish me luck…!
Quick shoutout to blogs that helped me compile my list! Thank you so much!
…and a note to say that my Frenchman is indispensable for so much more than just immigration and language help too, of course :) <3
The top three questions people ask me:
- What brought you to Paris?
- How long are you staying?
- Did you come with someone?!?!
I acknowledge that it’s daunting to imaging moving across the world without a boyfriend or a husband. And I acknowledge that I was, indeed, daunted. I was looking through my French lessons notebook and came across something I wrote when I had just arrived in Paris that spoke to this, and I want to share it here.
72 HOURS IN PARIS April 1, 2014
It’s only been a couple of days and already I’ve learned a few things about myself.
In all my thirty two years, I don’t think I’ve ever said this definitively: I like who I am. A few times along this journey I’d stop and say to myself how good it is that this experience is happening now and not five years ago, when I was a girl in transition, saddled with so much self-doubt and indecision about what I wanted my life to look like, that just spending an evening at home alone seemed like an exhausting and anxiety-inducing prospect. Maybe it was a function of modern life ennui, maybe it was indecision fraught with options, maybe it was depression, but whatever it was, it wasn’t conducive to being comfortable in my seat and in my place in the world.
When you’re undertaking a huge move and life change by yourself, you’re going to be by yourself. A lot. If you don’t genuinely feel okay with yourself – and generally enjoy spending time with yourself – you’re gonna have a bad time. And there is something so much more reflective about this particular experience of moving to a foreign country than your general traveling jags. You’re making big decisions, saying emotional goodbyes. Taking stock of your things and your memories and your next steps and what you want your days to look like. At the end of the hallway, the turn of the boulevard, the top of the jetway – there’s no one consistently there for you but you. In my readings of expat wife blogs and speaking with married expats a common theme was about how much closer – sometimes surprisingly so – the expat experience brought couples together, and I’d not be completely honest if I didn’t admit that there were times that I called a friend in tears or texted my mom at two in the morning because why should I have to go through this alone? No one to split up the paperwork with, confer with about the tough decisions, pick out a neighborhood with, learn the local scene with, work through this horrendous jetlag with…
But what I wasn’t expecting was how much this experience would get me to value myself more. When I stammer in front of a shopkeep I can giggle it off sheepishly and try again. When I’m on day 2 of my anticipated 9-day jet lag, I calmly buy myself two giant bottles of water and shut the drapes, no guilt and no stress. When I couldn’t get my key to work in my corporate housing with my three suitcases and the fog of nine timezones weighing in my brain, I go into problem-solve mode and get myself to a hotel. When waiters respond to my French in English, I keep on trucking and continue to reply in French. Not only that, but I’ve been able to rely on my friends and loved ones in ways that I never thought I would before. Being with me to help me settle in and find the perfect apartment, keeping a steady 24-hour stream of Whatsapp messages, exchanging dashed-off emails with life updates, furrowed-brow timezone conversions to find a good time to Hangout or FaceTime – this move has made me appreciate all of them, all of you, so much more than I thought I could before. (I love you!)
This move has made me feel: brave, smart, desired, capable, adaptable, resilient, good-natured, open, interested, and most of all, happy. And I love all of those things about myself now. And you know what? I know someone else is going to love those things about me, too, soon. ;)
Paris has already given me so much, but not least of all it’s given me the ability to be proud of the person that I am. For that, and regardless of how long this experience lasts and what future hoops await my jump-throughs, I am grateful to the very core of my being. Life is better on this side of the mirror.