Moving to Paris – An Expats tale
By Smriti Chandra
Two of our MLP team members have talked a lot about the challenges of moving from the UK to Paris. But what’s it like to move from a completely different continent for a new life in Paris? We asked Smriti Chandra to tell us about moving her family from India to Paris and she reports for MLP…
Inter-continental move to Paris
Any change in life is always filled with experiences and adventures beyond imagination. My transformation journey began when one fine evening my husband told me that we could be moving to Paris in the next 3 months. He asked me “Are you up for this?” and I replied “yes”. That was it! We were moving continents, Asia to Europe! We knew it would be a different life for us and our two boys aged 5 and 10. As we accompanied my super-excited husband to start a new European life, I think all four of us had questions, doubts and dreams to enter a new phase of life. But our family stood united.
Smiling through obstacles and never losing faith is my most precious Parisian lesson.
Paris has always been a centre of attraction for tourists worldwide so in some ways it was easy to be positive about the upcoming move. Honestly, I did not research much into the potential challenges before moving to the “city of light.” The only preparation was to learn a bit of the French language.
Our initial awe at the beauty of the city
Life came to a standstill the moment I arrived in Paris. I was in awe of the place. The beauty of this historical city amazed me every time I walked along the lush green boulevards. I said to myself that this is the place to be. Soon I realized communicating with busy Parisians is difficult and in English, it is even more so. French people love their language and feel comfortable speaking it. Being an Indian (from Gurgaon), I wondered how people could manage without English. Back home in India, we emphasise that learning English in addition to your mother tongue (in my case Hindi) is important for survival in today’s world. My true test started from setting up the house to helping myself and kids transition to a new country. It was a whole new experience after all!
Moments to cherish
My husband had been the one to go through the initial pain of finding the house and making it functional. We ate home cooked meals before hitting Parisian cafes. We still rejoice in moving around the city like a tourist. To date, we remain super excited to catch every glimpse of the Eiffel tower day or night.
Our roller coaster ride started as days passed by. We started missing our home country and the challenges unfolded in different ways. The language, the weather, the food, the culture, the health system all had to be figured out.
Opening up about the challenges of expat life
Some instances I would love to share. Going to the supermarché was an intensive exercise with my Google translator “on” all the time. I still remember when we bought body wash instead of body lotion and I realised it only while actually taking a shower. Trying to spot Indian veggies and fruits like okra and mango was a delight and kind of a treasure hunt! After all, you miss the food from your home country and you do feel determined to track it down.
Navigating French health system is a memorable experience as I experienced a setback due to a thigh injury after being hit by a motorbike. I had to book all appointments almost two months in advance. It took time for me to get used to the system and I am still learning each day. Smiling through obstacles and never losing faith is my most precious Parisian lesson.
Learning to embrace the city
The major mindset shift happened when I started building a community and figured out ways to enjoy the city. Our international school community and the office ‘family’ became a big support system in this period of transition. Discovering the city with guided tours and participating in the local events over weekends became big breathers for us. Everyone in the house started looking forward to the fun-filled weekends. Enjoying French circus is an unforgettable family experience. Packing up baguette, cheese, fruits and boissons for lazy summer afternoon lunches, are like the icing on the cake. Our shared family love of reading led us to some of our beloved family-favourite places like Shakespeare and Company, WH Smith and American Library in Paris.
Taking French lessons is a core part of survival in the city. It makes everyday life better and allows a smoother integration with the place. I reconnected with a lot of things I used to cherish as a child such as art, music, sports. This city has so much to offer. Being open-minded is the second most treasured lesson for me. So go out and explore.
Becoming global citizens
Our children are growing up in a multicultural environment where learning and speaking different languages is a necessity for survival and adds fun to our everyday life. Experiential learning is something that kids thoroughly enjoy and the fun part is the application of what is written in the books. Our friendship circle is almost like a big family. Relishing different cuisines together is a heartening experience for us. It’s just like home away from home.
The challenges are still there but I am excited to continue this expat life. For me, the most fascinating thing about Paris is that the city keeps buzzing with life irrespective of rain or hail. Who knows what’s coming next in Paris and in life?
A big thanks to Smriti Chandra for sharing your Moving to Paris story!