Being Prepared to be Unprepared and Joyeux Anniversaire à Nous en France

Look! I remember how to log into this blog! Which really calls more into question my password changing practices and not so much my memory…

So here I am a couple days after our anniversary of arriving in Paris… which let’s have a quick update and reflection:

Paris Season… 5ish…

So since last post:

  • Bought an apartment
That a big key!
That a big key!

I know other things have happened but seriously dudes that made my… year… decade… life.  Super happy in our own chez-nous in Paris. I keep thinking we will regret it when our loan payments come out each month but then. I just. don’t. Because it is friggin’ awesome.

17IMG_0627

Anyway this takes a lot of effort and much of our life has been a bit saturated with home-needs. We started looking last February, our offer was accepted last April, everything was official in September and we have been living here since October.  Since then lots of home projects which eventually I may share with you kind internet blog black-hole.

Other newssss:

  • Still at the same job! I speaka the French every day! And I am now moving into a new position. 😀 In the last year the product I work on has launched in France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Austria! In addition, we have released a major project which was a collaboration with the Irish team. And soon we launch in the UK and Ireland. Boy this past year at work has been… eventful and unbelievable! Lots of stress and responsibility but very rewarding and I have gotten to travel a bit with the job and work with other nationalities which is my favorite part.
  • All our siblings are married off! Which meant 3 trips to the US in the last year.
  • Still teaching dance on the side but not dancing as much as we would like
  • Returning back to Yoga thanks to the awesome Affordable Yoga Fitness.
  • Still loving France
  • Learned how to roll sushi.
  • Family came to visit and we have spent quite a bit of time in Loire lately.  And look forward to more family and Loire in the future! Life is good.
  • Plotting my next adventures thinking to take some time in Spain as I take back up Spanish (because I am loca) and Asia (I know big… but I am open)

Moral of the Story: Being an Expat = Prepare to Not be Prepared (AKA Adultness)

I will not bore you more with my Sheila News of the Year but leave you with a tidbit of reflection (still a high chance of boredom could arise).

Easy for you to say… you are a lion

Being an expat/transplant/immigrant (because let’s get real ‘expat’ is just a white privilege fancy word for immigrant) has ‘gotten easier’ as in I am now used to not being used to things.

Moving to a new country, is relearning everything (when perhaps you had not already figured everything else out in your old country) instead now you must do it again in 1 or 2 years rather than 18.

Imagine:

  • Registering/applying so you may be allowed to live there and work (a bit of the expat birth)
  • learning to speak (in the case of moving to a country with a new language)
  • learning about doctors, police, laws, social rules, where to buy random things that before never were a question like… the metal thing you put in your drain to catch stuff or Birthday cards
  • obtaining your driver’s license
  • Social Security subscription
  • Translation of all documents: marriage and birth certificates to prove you exist
  • Asking yourself questions you never thought you would have to like: ‘Will I be socially shunned if I slice the cheese in this fashion?’
    • The answer is Yes.

Now add a layer of figuring out HOW and WHERE to do the above with the vocabulary of a 2 year old.

This face a lot. Photo by Marilyn Suarez of ME!
This face a lot. Photo by Marilyn Suarez of ME!

I have not learned just how to ‘to be French’ but I have learned HOW to learn.

So I advise you several things:

  • Get used to it… the sooner you accept things will be hard and learn adapting/problem solving skills the better.
  • I know you love your expat friends and they are a great comfort and resource as they know and have done what you have done, but also meet locals! Really just meet as many people as possible. They add to your experience and comfort the blow.

Now on year 4 starting… things feel easier but then BAM! New life experience demands awkwardness/growth (now things that I have never done even back in the US that are just adult responsibility evolutions).  Like filing taxes as a home owner!

Expat Pokemon Evolve! photo thanks to http://blip.tv/gameexchange/the-pokemon-x-and-y-french-connection-game-exchange-6700852
Expat Pokemon Evolve!
photo thanks to http://blip.tv/gameexchange/the-pokemon-x-and-y-french-connection-game-exchange-6700852

And then suddenly Expatness feels a little less a state only for us sorry/masochist types that have immigrated more like just like…

Adult Life

– S

 

 

Finding yourself after Finding Yourself + A Life Update

Life Update

So my life has gone through… changes.  Where am I now, almost a year ago since the last post?

meandaug
On a recent trip to Amsterdam – Photo by Marilyn Suarez
  1. Got a new job nine months ago!  At a French company!  In French!  So my French speaking abilities have gone from “poor” to “workable but still shameful”. ;p  Seriously though it is going very well.  Another new intense challenge but worth it.
  2. Everyone in my family ever is getting married.  Which is awesome.  And that means trips back to the US to see them.  We have another this coming October!
  3. I am in the process of finalizing the buying of an apartment. *fingers crossed*.

Honestly, with how stressful and insecure things were for us for so long in France (whether I shared them on the internetz or not) I was not sure I would ever find this stability again.  And WHAM now after a lot of hard work I am on stable ground. *touch wood – as they say here*

 

Selfie after my last Visa Renewal.  Eiffel Tower in the back, if you squint.
Selfie after my last Visa Renewal. Eiffel Tower in the back, if you squint.

And I am happy.  Obviously we are also planning on sticking around for the long run.

Next Steps – Refinding Yourself

When you move to a foreign country (or anywhere) to find yourself, often you find yourself… in respect to your native country.

Self Questioning as an Expat

For at least the first two to three years you have one line of questioning…

How does this new experience compare to my previous in your old country?  And how should you react?

This post needs more photos, so there you go. Photo by Marilyn Suarez
This post needs more photos, so there you go, me and my husband on a train.
Photo by Marilyn Suarez

You are not finding yourself, but finding who you are as an expat from your native country and who you should be in your new country.  You become a walking stereotype and diplomat.

Then you either go home, move on to a new country or stay.

Moving on to the root question, “Who are you?”

if you stay, it is at this point (which you will reach at least by the 3 year mark as we all know Love Only Lasts 3 Years), where you start to sift through all the noise, stereotypes and confusion to figure out who YOU are and not who your country is (the new or native).

I am there now.

I love my life, my friends, my city and still appreciate my roots.  But I have taken on too much and I also have taken on too much the persona of an ‘Expat’.  Which was useful and necessary for the original transition but now is old and tired.

Photo by Corey Maynard
Photo by Corey Maynard

While being a transplant will ALWAYS affect me.  I do not want that to be me.  When I am introduced I do not want to be, ‘Sheila the American who lives in Paris’.

I want to be ‘Sheila the mobile application designer’ or ‘Dancer’ or ‘Poet’ or ‘Lover of fine cheeses’ or ‘Life Long Learner’. Or whatever I find to be my true focus. It could even be ‘Sheila the woman that loves Paris’

It is not a shedding of my national identity because I am ashamed, it is just not hiding behind it.

Plus it’s too easy

To say… I reason like this because I am American.  Yes, I am sure that is true to an extent.

But why?  Not all Americans think the same.  So why in particular do I reason like this?

Because I am me.

But who am I?

Photo by Marilyn Suarez
Photo by Marilyn Suarez

And that is nothing an astonishing view of the Eiffel Tower or a buttery croissant can tell you.  Unless you find time to self reflect while enjoying them.

– S

Author’s Note:  It may seem contradictory to post this sort of post on an Expat Blog. And you are probably right.

Now where were we? – Paris Life – Season 4?

[Insert another Blog start opening blurb]

Introducing my newly branded (rough-draft) and moved expat blog (albeit in potentially perpetual beta mode). Really only the logo design is done. ;p

oooo look at that logo
Translation: American Flowers in Paris

First you must know that the Learning Machine, still exists but will be solely be professional or nontravel/expat ramblings. While this new little niche shall be my hide out for all the things I find fit to share in my growth as an American abroad in Paris.

While I have not been writing here for months now… I have been digesting and figuring out life in Paris.  It has been a labor of love which I am becoming ready to share.  So we will see how these little writings will make their debut to the world and how often.  But we might as well get started.

Carpé journée.

Life Update

Now where were we? Season 3, looking back at the archive.  I have now been amid what I would consider Season 4 for quite a while.

Austin is in a new job.  We have moved at least two times since last time I wrote, now living in upper 11th of Paris or lower Belleville neighborhood.  We were able to take our first real vacations in years, traveling to the Mediterranean and Sweden.

Stockholm was pretty - August 2013
Stockholm was pretty – August 2013

I took a professional pause to work on my French and some personal projects (including a non-profit dance exchange in Paris which welcomed over 200 dancers from around the world). And now I am back on the “find a job I can be passionate about (preferably in French)” train. Going well despite I decided to board this train in the summer time a.k.a. unemployed deadman’s land.

Still I am optimistic and have been talking with a couple exciting companies that hopefully I will get to announce in the coming months once the living return to Paris.

Overall life as an expat (especially in the last month) has semi-smoothed out, especially due to my gained proficiency in French, seeking stability and simplifying my commitments.

And of course we love Paris more than ever.

Napoleon graffiti agrees (spotted in Paris)
Napoleon graffiti agrees (spotted in Paris)

Though we have not had electricity for the past week and a half… but that is a post for another time.

After School Special

What have I learned so far this Season? Let’s make this semi-educational.

EXPAT LIFE LESSON #121: Hey man, you are already an expat… do not take on the rest of the world as well.

Not a fancy picture but a genuine one. Taken when we decided one night to take a break, picnic on the Seine overlooking the Eiffel Tower, and take a moment to appreciate what we have and why we work so hard to keep it.
Not a fancy picture but a genuine one. Taken when we decided one night to take a break, picnic on the Seine overlooking the Eiffel Tower, and take a moment to appreciate what we have and why we work so hard to keep it.

Simplify, delve into your new life and concentrate on some (read: not all) positive and productive activities!

Because this is not your past life, you have a new obligatory hobby: Figuring out a new culture, language and way of life.

Until the next post – S

 

 

TLDR? – 8 Bits of Advice for Your 1st Year Abroad

This is my summary of what if anything I would suggest to do/or would have done differently approaching my 1st year abroad.

1. Learn the language right away:

Just rip that bandaid off… do it.  You will want to eventually, and its way worse the more you wait… It’s less cute when you have been here a year and you ask your bank representative “Can I have elephant?”. Even for a short stay this is worth your time and in addition will help you understand the culture (as language is often closely tied to cultural view).  This is part of your epic story abroad! I discussed this in my last post… Plus, I like you so much… here jump to the good meaty advice parts about how to approach learning the language. Basically start speaking and learning the language (and only that language) right away, no matter how short or long you will be there.

2. Research living needs, visas & important stuff yourself:

I know its boring… I know you may trust your employer/university/family to help you out with this.  But who is best to take care of your life but yourself?  You can ask for their help but in the end you need to research, double check, & triple check all facts.  Go to the closest embassy (even if the closest is far away) and then call a couple others around your country  until you get conclusive answers (a rare beast!). Contact locals you may find on social networks.  Contact future colleagues.  This is especially important when it comes to visas… living needs… apartment finding… contracts/your rights as a worker… etc. Do your research and peer review it and you will be happy for it.

3. Take care of it before you come:

Austin covered in stuff...
Austing all packed up and ready to move to Paris… wearing 4 layers of clothing and electronics so he does not trip the weight limit.

Piggy baking on the last advice, your life is not permanent here until you have your visa… so know you cannot get settled until then. In addition, there will be important things you need to settle in your home country pre- travel, so just get it done.  Flying back to settle it is expensive or dealing with it abroad sometimes impossible/stressful. So get your visa and important stuff settled before hand. 

4. Come early, give yourself time:

This may not always be possible.  But come early and resist starting work/school right away!  The difference between us and some of our colleagues is we had a month to settle our affairs in the US and then a week once we got here.  We spent that week looking into apartments, settling our bank account, getting to know our neighborhood and recovering from jet lag…  Meaning we had an apartment, where another colleague was staying at a hotel for a couple months…  It will be hard for you to get this stuff done after you start work/school, so give yourself space if possible.

5. Meet as many people as possible: 

Pizza maker in the 11th
One of the friendly locals we have met at the delicious Pizzeo in the 11th. Picture by my mother.

Fraternize with coworkers, talk to your local baker, join some meetups or learn to dance!  You will not feel like one of the people until you meet the people. 

Plus it takes a village to raise an expatriate… 

6. Find connection back home and in your new home:

Weird Cat Judges You
Our first home purchase… We did not feel quite okay until we had a weird cat perched upon our shelf. A creepy family tradition!

Conversely… still take time for yourself.  Nurture both sides: the new one and the old.  You do not want to get to the point where you are burnt out AND homesick.  Take the time to still call home when you can.  Be okay with spending a Sunday in cleaning your house. Even if a temporary home, decorate it some. Basically find some regularity in the irregularity. Dumping a fish into new water will cause shock, same will go for you.

7. Go with the Flow: 

Weird stuff will happen… be okay with it and learn. 95% of all weird/uncomfortableness/confrontations will be due to culture differences.  Observe first before reacting. Once you understand the complete situation then you will know what to expect and when you need to stand up for yourself.

8. Enjoy your time!:

On the Seine at sunset
Us Week 1 in Paris. Sunset on the Seine.
You will be stressed at points… you will be lonely at points… You may think that you will not be able to make it work!  All the more reason to try to just enjoy where you are… right here and now.  This is a once in a lifetime chance for many people… so try to sit back and enjoy it as much as possible.
So… Carpe Expatum!
– S

Life in Paris Season 3 – Living the American Dream in Paris

 

On the Seine - Picture by My Wonderful Mother
Us - Season 3

So here we are!

Parisian life Part/Year Deux.. but we in the Suarez-Flores household call it Season 3, as far as Parisian life changes go.  We have been back around a month now, after our trip to the US, but with the flourish of guests… our work schedule… and settling back in, I have barely had a moment to breath let a lone write.

Season 1 was our first job. Season 2 was the move to unemployment and then quickly luckily into new employment.  Season 3… is what I shall call… actually settling into Parisian life.

But first some reflection and advice… Primarily: Learn the language.

So what is life like?

  • We work a lot.
  • We eat a lot.
  • We walk everywhere.
  • We teach dance weekly.
  • We travel when we can.
  • We fumble around with French.

Really not much different from Season 2… but it feels different.

The Difference

Well, the big difference is where my head is at. I am fed up.

Before, with so much uncertainty, it was okay to be confused at all times… It was okay to frown but accept weird charges on my phone bill.  It was okay, to be at odds at all times. It was okay, to accidentally order three soups instead of two. Why? Because we were new here and this is what we took as the cost of being an expat in a country where the language was not our native one.

My mother and I sont les ignorants.
"Les ignorants voyagent à Paris!" - My Mother and I posing for our favorite inside joke.

In fact, being back in the US for those 3 weeks it felt WEIRD to finally not be uncomfortable at all times  (which is a post for another time).  Not a complaint… but it made me laugh how used I had gotten to being uncomfortable.

And now I am back.. and I no longer want to be uncomfortable… I am sick of being apologetic and akward. I want a “normal” Parisian life (which will always include apology and formality I realize, as is their way).  I want my old confidence back in my surroundings… I want..

I want the American Dream!

The American Dream in Paris is to blend in.  To order wine with ease.  To meld with your sometimes bewildering French colleagues (because trust me… working in a different country is well, different). To be able to complain about the weather with your fellow boulangerie patrons. Perhaps, it is not the dream for some of the famed ugly american tourists, but it truly is for us Expats that have fallen in love, figured out how to move here and now call this mystical/sometimes mythical place home.

We want to be French.

Karma.. Karma... Chinese Lion
Me, as the social chameleon.

Or at least succeed at becoming French for our time here.

And right now, despite the support of my French and international friends I have yet to achieve that comfortability.

And its my fault.

Í have yet to achieve it because I do not know the language fluently.

There are jaded and not so jaded expatriates that will tell you otherwise about achieving this dream of fitting in… They will tell you that Paris is for the French.  That you will never fit in. I have heard this on several occasions.

Well, first of all I do not want to fit in with those types of exclusive Parisians, which I know those exist.  I just want to be able to live my life normally and interact with them if need to but otherwise interact with the awesome accepting/welcoming/funny French/Parisians that I have met.

But I will never feel at ease here until I learn the language…

Until I see a charge on my phone bill and then can call up and speak in French and explain and get although probably begrudging… but at least palpable… assistance to fix it. Or at least understand what they say when they hang up on me.

My cable has been on and off broken now for a year… And I live in fear of speaking to a human to fix it.

This is not I!

So I must learn French… I want to… I always have… but with not working in French, I have not made the effort enough outside of work to become fluent.  I am fine… I can mumble out some food words… or talk to a foreign french speaker.

But that is not enough.  As I live in fear of probably 95% of potential interactions I may have with the populace on a given day.  I need to get this down to at least a solid 25%.  Because it is isolating and damned uncomfortable.

SO THAT IS MY VOW.

So young... so strong...
Us on our Honeymoon 1.5 years ago at Place Saint-Michel - Ready to conquer... So young.

I will conquer you Paris… and your beautiful mystifying and sometimes odd sounding but beautiful language.  I will gnaw on the metaphorical skull that is your language.

And how! No really… how?

I have some tools I want to share in detail later but basically:

  1. Devouring all culture possible in French only.  Bought us an unlimited movie pass for two people for 35EUR a month!
  2. Only French spoken now at home (no joke).
  3. Flashcards… lots of digital flashcards.
  4. Reading fun stuff in French on my kindle, thanks to the help of a french dictionary I installed on it. Should probably switch to a French to French dictionary…
  5. Actually talking to people in French. Like a real person!
  6. Listening to podcasts as much as humanely possible, all in french.
  7. Hope to start journaling in French soon.
  8. Finishing my grammar lessons at home… (also a pending todo)
Really just making myself do it.. And already only a week into it.  There is a difference.
Any way here I go…

Allons !- S

Affording Paris – Setting Your Budget

This is the first part of my three part (at least) series on settling into Paris.  Most importantly finding a roof for your head.

But the first question you need to ask yourself is…

Can I afford this?

 

Or really, HOW can afford this?  If living in Paris is what you desire, depending on your income/savings you may have to make some “sacrifices” in creature comforts to afford what you need.  And although I find it worth it, you will know your own limit.  Life in Paris is in no way a hardship, its just is different from in-particular lifestyles in suburbia USA.  And I am sure these same sacrifices you  need to make to live in other big cities such as NYC and Chicago.

Anyway… let’s analyze the bare minimum of what you should expect to need.

Cost of Living (minus lodging):

I find lots of cost of living sites on the internet misleading (often inflated).  Comes down to how YOU are willing to live (especially with food and entertainment). I recommend thinking about what your core basics are and then research perspective companies that might offer them, to calculate costs.  Also, try to find locals or bloggers on the internet that might be similiar to your situation to ask.

An idea of monthly living costs, as of October 2011 (for a couple):
  • Transportation – 120 EURO for two monthly metro/bus passes
    • Though personally we just walk and buy carnets (books of 10 tickets) for our occasional ride.
    • Add 30 EURO more to the pass if you live outside of the city.
  • Electricity – 50 EURO for 2 people in a 27meter squared one room apartment.  This escalates closer to 70 during the winter, depending on your heating preferences and the age of the building.
  • 2 Phones/Internet/TV – 90 EURO
    • Take 30 EURO off, if you have one phone.
    • Yes, these all come as combos usually.  As in, we didn’t want TV, but it comes with it.
    • We currently are with Bouygues.  Not super impressed… I hear FreeWifi is better and cheaper.
  • Water – 20 EURO?
    • Included in our rent so this is a guess.
  • Apartment Insurance – 12 EURO/month
    • Required to rent.  And you need it before you secure a long term apartment lease.  I went with a local agent, recommended through a friend. But I heard you can secure this via the internet.  Make sure you get coverage for theft & window/glass breakage.
  • Food for Two – 600 EURO/Month or 20 EURO/Day
    • This of course varies.  And this is if you are very good about eating in with an occasional dinner out.
    • Some meals out can cost 7EURO-30EURO per person… so its up to you.  And those on the lower end are not usually bad.  Just have to find the right spots!
  • Misc – 100 EURO
    • Medicine, cleaning stuffs, etc.
This comes out to 992 EURO/month for two people minus lodging.  That’s if you live minimumally.  Which you have to have an iron will to live as such in Paris.
For one person, I would say take off 400 (as couples share most expenses).  So 592 EURO/month for one person minus lodging.
Do not forget the Shiney Things:
  •  Entertainment and inevitable travel (you are in Paris/Europe after all!)… this could be up to 500EURO/person a month… but that depends on you!  But its foolish not to fit some of that into your budget.
  • Shopping? – I do not but… you might want to.  Depends on your tastes, the amount varies you can pay for this.
  • Booze & Other Vices – A beer or glass of wine is at least 8EURO  if you go out to a bar.  Happy hour is pretty popular here and will save you a EURO or two. Cigarettes are 5 Euro a pack.
  • And then of course the expense of traveling to/from whence you came, if you plan on going back to visit.
  • Medical Insurance? – While basic coverage free in Europe, when in an emergency you could still accrue some heavy bills.  Plus dentistry and optometry costs are not covered. If you plan on getting some supplemental insurance, plan at least 50 euro a month for a good plan.

Oh Right… Savings…

Do not forget a buffer!  For example getting locked out of your apartment could cost you from 400-1k (a blog post for another day).  So once again… look back at your budget and expected costs and perhaps cut out some shiney things to ensure you have some savings.  Saving at least 10% of what you make is a good start.

ADDENDUM: Taxes… Oh right!

Working here?  They will take out most of your taxes (up to 25%) BUT I would suggest saving an extra 10% as at the end of the year the government will be sending you a bill for the rest!  (That’s right you report your first year but the following years they calculate it for you!)  Worse comes to worse you save too much and have some to burn on travel at the end of the year!

What about Lodging?

That is actually a separate topic as this can be greatly variable depending on your needs and wants.  In fact I encourage you to calculate the above first and THEN look at what your lodging budget will be (then of course tweak your utilities to fit the space of your abode you desire). And perhaps make some sacrifices on your shiney object budget.

Expect a post shortly talking about researching/gaining lodging.

But if you need a ball park now.  Expect to pay as little as 500 euro/month if you do not mind living in old maids quarters (10 square meters and a bathroom in the hall) to 2000 euro/month for large flat’, 2-3 bedrooms, 60-70 square meters.  We pay 850 euro/month for our 27 square meters one bedroom apartment a little north of the center of the city.

 

Til next time – S

 

Normalcy in the City

Just a quick update for concerned family or curious friends or both.

We are awesome! Days are long.  But it seems no matter how long they are I still am excited to be where I am.  Austin and I continually find ourselves saying, “Wow!  We live here?  I love our apartment/job/new city!”

Mostly days are long due to it being summer (sun sets at 10pm!) but I find the ability to quickly travel around the city and see many new things makes me FEEL like I’m doing more.  Even the walk home is productive and fun.   Reminds me of living in Boston.  Right now, living in a city is perfect for us.

But yet, Austin and I are excited for the moment where things feel more “normal”.  Today we finally got Austin’s debit card in the mail (though mine is still in transit).  Which means we can sign up for internet and a phone!  Small, but when gone, things just don’t feel as comfortable.  Though I’m sure even that we’d get used to.

You don’t really notice the niceness of being able to assume and rely on factors until you live abroad.  When you need assistance from the coworkers just to cook your microwave dinner (close call on that one… Almost started a small fire.)  But yet at the same time, it gives you an appreciation and a perspective.

On Saturday we actually decided to stay in and watch Dexter, due to feeling a little under the weather.  And it was kind of nice just to be “normal”.

It is weird because on one hand we don’t EVER want the newness to wear off.  Much like a relationship!  But at the same point if every time your new lover spoke to you it was in gibberish… after a while you would hope for the day you understood them.  Even if it meant things were more mundane (maybe they were talking about bills all along… or what kind of laundry detergent they bought that day).

And things are more comfortable as time progresses.  It helps that we work in English 10 hours a day (though that hasn’t helped our French tongue).  It helps we have cool coworkers who “speak geek”.  It helps that we have each other.  We feel less on edge now.  And though we love all the new foods we are trying, there are moments where we just want something “safe”.  And some new french foods are starting to feel “safe.”

I suppose what we want is companionship from Paris with a dash of romance.  Perhaps Paris can surprise us with a fun treat once an a while but if we need to know how to unlock our phone… well, it would be nice to become second nature.

Which we finally figured out how to unlock our phone…

I suppose its strange since we have only been here a little over three weeks to want to HURRY up on the normal.  We just know we are setting up our life here.  And we’d like to start to feel like that. 🙂  Finding a cellphone while on vacation is a noneworry. A “Oh well!  I can do without for a week!”.  But not having it when you know you need to call landlords… a different issue.

So life progresses!  And we continue to feel lucky.  We’re gonna make it after all! (Think of Mary Tyle Moore but two people… and without a TV show)

Throws Hat in the Air – S

Expa-t-ools #2: Google Translate is Mana from the Gods

So not hard to see why Google Translate (http://translate.google.com) might be awesome for an expat.  It is ESPECIALLY useful for me in the office, as sometimes some French emails wander into my inbox…

Thanks to Google Translate I have:

  • Found a temp appartment and upkept dialog with a landlord who does not know English.
  • Understood my husband and I’s work contract…
  • Translated WHOLE dance sites so I could figure out where to go dance!
  • Understood work emails…
  • Figured out how to pronounce some French words!
  • Understood French TV! (kinda… its kinda strange)

This is due to these lovely Features:

  • Translate a whole web page – While using Chrome when you a visit a foreign site it will ask you if you want to convert the text to English (whatever you computer’s language is set as).  This uses google translate and well… where was once French is now English.  Sometimes this fails, but I’ve had pretty good success with it.
  • Text Conversion Back and Forth – The usual translation tool, visit: http://translate.google.com copy and paste or type in text and then quickly convert.  You can hover over converted text and it will show you the corresponding word in the source text.  Knowledge++
  • Pronunciation –  Any converted text you can hear!  Just click the little sound icon at the bottom.  Good for practicing!

Plugins!

While I like the main google translate site, I needed some more in browser window translation POWA.  So both in firefox and chrome I have downloaded some plugins so I can #1 have some chrome translation functionality in firefox… and #2 be able to select text and translate right away!

I’m not a hundred percent happy yet with the plugins I found but so far good enough.  As in they are good but I wish I only needed one!  Check out:

  1. Google Translate Extension AutoTranslate –  https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/obgoiaeapddkeekbocomnjlckbbfapmk – Select and Translate
  2. Firefox Add-on Google Dictionary and Google Translate – https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/239624/ – Translate whole pages
  3. Firefox Add-on My Translator – https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/my-translator-google-translate/ – Select and translate

Advice

  1. One suggestion I got is to write what you want to say, convert it and then convert it back.  If it still makes sense then its good to send!
  2. Be wary as always as to ambiguities of language especially with foreign words inserted in the foreign words… I swear that makes sense! EXAMPLE: At work I was converting a document into English from French (a whole page conversion via Chrome) and the document kept on talking about a “Nice looking cat”.  Now we like cats at work… but why would we want to include that in our product?  What the document meant was “Nice looking chat“.  The english word chat was amongst the french.. and in French “chat” is a meow meow.  So in this multinational world… be careful!  Actually at some internet cafe’s the add a t, so “tchat” so that the French pronounce it right!

So to conclude….

I heart Google – Sheila

P.S.  Google if you read this… First, “Hi!”.  Second, please add a copy all to clipboard button for the translated text.  You know we gonna do it any way!

Tired Days… Generosity and Internet Famine

Internet Internet Everywhere but Not a Drop to Surf?

So the lack of updates have been due to well… settling into a new country, and not having steady internet access.

To quickily update you all.

I got a job at Smartdate (that whole floating, rediscovering self thing didn’t last long), which has been exciting (I started May 2nd).  So far I love it.

Got an apartment.  I definitely will be posting in more detail later about HOW to find an apartment in Paris.  SOMEHOW we did it in a week and a half, with basically no credentials.  A new moon record.

And now I’m sick.  But getting through!  We still have to finish up some banking stuffs (debit card ftw!), get internet/phone (need a debit card for this…) and a few house things.  But the end is sight!  And we can finally hunker down and really acclimate.

Reflection

So far its been worth it.  Hard… but worth it.  We love this city.

I’ve had moments of sadness, frustration and tears.  But all and all, due to Austin’s support and the generosity of our new friends things have been going “smoothly”.  As my new neighbor he said, “You don’t look as stressed as most new people moving over here!” Better poker face?

Really I think our success has been our openness to the French culture/people and people in general! This human condition thing, kinda needs human support at times to get through. Every where we turn we have had to rely on good faith and help of others, and we have been shocked at the generosity of others.  Everyone from our new neighbor allowing us to use his internet (albeit it spotty) to strangers stopping us and asking if we were lost and needed directions to a mother stopping and helping us carry suitcases up metro stairs to a dancer friend looking out for us and translating on shopping trips.

Overall the Parisian people have been very sweet and giving.  And part I think is due to us really trying to learn their language, reaching out and showing our appreciation when we can.  From day one you need to accept the culture, no matter what culture it is and be open to it.  Because you are in the thick of it so might as well make the effort.

I am sure more hard times are to come.  But we know we are really lucky so far and are loving life!

Internet Withdrawal

So I have internet now… but not really.  As I said before our neighbor let us use a public wifi account that he got from someone else.  Kinda shadey and not reliable.  Not good enough for skype sadly. But still so nice!

There was about 3-4 days that either the internet was out at our temp place (before our new apartment) or we were at our new one with no internet (until last night). I know that should be a big deal but…

It’s funny how much that makes you realize how addicting and helpful the internet is.  Especially when away from home in your new home… It really helps you feel connected and at no times truely lost.  And was irony is, Austin and I had internet at work!  But of course we could not use it for personal use during the day.  So to come home and not be able to connect, was kinda hard.

And to think 12 years ago I did not even have internet.  And now it has integrated into our lives.  Not sure how others made this kind of move before with out it!

I over and over found myself thinking “I should tweet about having internet withdrawal”.  Yeah…. you get the futility in that statement.  And I didn’t even have a smart phone until recently where I could tweet on the go!

So perhaps its been good though?  Rather than “connected” to the net I was more “connected” to around me.  But I can’t say it still wasn’t on my mind… it wasn’t that long to go through full rehab and recovery. ;p

Anyway… just a musing…  I’m sure I won’t feel right until I have a solid phone and internet line… and not sure what that says about me.  But I have found it an important tool as an expatriate!

This is substance for another blog, another time.

Night – S

 

Expa-t-ools #1: Hide Your IP and Enjoy Community

So I’m thinking of posting some really helpful tools I have found in my new life as an US expatriate.

Block Dat IP

While I’ve had to deal with much more pressing issues than, “How will I watch new episodes of Community?”.  But really, “How will I watch new episodes of Community”?!

So I like HULU and I like Pandora.  But you can only use them in the U.S.  That’s UNAMERICAN! Well, not really but it sucks.

So I installed Hotspot Shield.  It is a free ad based program that blocks your IP.  It will add an ad to the top of your browser, while running, which you can close but reappears when you visit new sites.  You can also pay to get an ad free version.  I’m sure there are more programs out there like this but it works for me and the terms of use seemed legit.

Perks of shielding your IP:

  • Hulu and Pandora and other non-US sites won’t block you because they don’t know where you are!
  • Location sniffers on sites like Facebook won’t work.  Which some people don’t like.
  • Protects other possible invasions of privacy and possible identity theft (though personally this is not the reason I use it).

Cons:

  • If you like location sniffers and tailored locational ads on google and facebook, that won’t happen.  Unless you have your location in a cookie.

I’m sure there are more in both categories so please post your thoughts!

And enjoy… Community – S