The relaxation amongst the nonrelaxation and a typical French dinner

A quick update

The last four months have been hectic stressful to put it mildly.  I must say the 2nd year is proving to be harder than the first, luckily I feel we are emerging from the worse of it. Or as Austin and I joke… “Presque y la ‘.  Almost there…  (That is the joke. Also that is improper French…)

 

Almost there… this time.

 

Now as the smoke clears so does my vision and I realize I am stronger and more resistant than ever (like a flu strain ;p).  The first year it was a funny dream not a reality.  Second year you realize the work you really have to establish yourself.  And you get to it! Though sometimes round about…

We are more in love with this city than ever and determined to make it work.  Our french has drastically improved.  And so has life. 🙂

The importance of just sitting

So part of what I have learned in my time in Europe…

Learning to just sit… and relax… quality time.   Sure during the day all is crazy and chaos. But especially at night I have spent more hours than ever in my life around a table… drinking, laughing, talking, eating and eating some more. No TV, no computer, just each other.

Tartiflette… this be mountain food

Especially in Paris, the café culture of sitting on a terrasse (café patio) and philosophizing with an apèro (pre drink) is amazing, though not always great on the wallet. ;p  Luckily “happy-hour” borrowing from the english term is also popular.

Or in the case of summer time: “pique-nique” and laughter on a bridge, along the seine, in the park.

Picnic on the Seine
Paris Shoreside à la Seine with a good friend and one legged man

This is where relationships are formed, movements made (impressionism for example) and smoking habits are procured!  Plus, odds are it’s a bit too tiny in your apartment for guests… In a way this is the Parisian form of the American sitting on your porch with a beer, chewing the fat and watching the grass grow (if we had a porch or grass).

The Average French Diner

Is long.

I have gotten used to scheduling at least an hour and a half for dinner, but have surpassed this up to three plus drinks.  This is something that I got so used to that upon returning to the US, I was stressing over having a 1 hour dinner with friends before an event as I thought it just wouldn’t be long enough.

  1. Apèros – a Kir (sweet wine), a martini rouge, a small beer or perhaps a Ricard (licorice old man drink).  Sometimes drinks come with some olives or peanuts so you don’t pass out.
  2. Ordering – Order all in one go (barring digestif and dessert).  Most places offer a formule or formula where you get a better price on the culinary gauntlet you are about to run. At this point you order a carafe or bottle of wine.
  3. Entrées – A small dish such as a hard boiled egg and mayo, some paté with bread or escargots
  4. Plats – Main dish usually soaked in butter plus some raw protein
    Austin ready to eat a whole lot of cheese… This is Raclette a main dish from the mountainous regions. Yes, that is a big melting slab of cheese.

    Yes… he and our friend whimped out at the end. But still… he ate his head’s weight’s worth.
  5. Cheese platter? – It could happen.  Cheese is for afterwards to nibble on.  Just be sure to cut the cheese correctly and respect the rind to cheese ratio!
  6. Digestif – a shot of liquor or coffee.. or both

    Digestif after math
    Digestif aftermath
  7. Dessert – Usually combined with the last step
Follow up drinks are possible… See a pattern here?
Aftermath from one of my favorite French family dinners I had.

Dinners in Italy can be even longer…

I am not the best but getting better

I can’t say that I am the best at relaxing… A constant planner with wheels always turning am I!

But with the help of long dinners and new found friends I am learning to sit back and laugh at the day.

And this is the essence of Expat-hood.  

No one country or person has it all figured out.  But often it takes a move and a new perspective to really learn more about yourself, where you come from and where you are setting out next to explore (because seriously who actually knows where they are going?)

To the moon next! Or Mars… In Vars Summer 2012

Strong Better Slower Frencher – 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

 

NOM-wegian Shocker Salad of Nom – Fried Potatoes A Top

Austin calls it the Shocker (don’t sue us Dane Cook) because it’s shockingly good.  I call it the Nom-wegian.  But here is Austin and I’s take on the popular Norwegian Salad served in a lot of restaurants in Paris.  Norwegian Salads are usually denoted by a plethora of seafood on top of the salad, where our version just has succulent smoked salmon atop (one of the principles of frenching it up.)

Sorry I need to take better pics…  Trust me it looks as good as it tastes.  Also, this picture is pre-dressing.

This salad was one of our first attempts to make a Parisian salad.  I encouraged Austin to put potatoes on it and he said IT CANNOT BE DONE.  And I told him I DON’T TAKE “IT CANNOT BE DONE” FOR AN ANSWER.  Result = NOM and Austin being wrong (SEO that).

Ingredients for One

Gonna try to make these measurable but I am one of the type of cooks that cooks by the heart and with no scientific reasoning.

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup of cubed potato (Half one of those brown ones?)
  • Half cup of diced onion (Quarter of a big yellow onion?)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper (This best be ground pepper!)
  • Diced half of one dried chili peper (Best thing in my arsenal! You MUST get a bag down at the asian marke. So cheap and lasts for ages and can/should be put it in EVERYTHING!)
  • 1 tbsp aioli sauce 
  • 3 tbsps Balsalmic Vinegar
  • 2 cups roquette or preferred lettuce/mixed green
  • Half of an avocado cubed
  • Half of a tomato cubed
  • Strip of smoked salmon (even better if its the kind with herbs on the outside)
  • Quarter cup of small cube feta cheese
  • Optional but delicious: Poached egg

The Nitty Gritty

  1. Heat up a pan and when hot put in the olive oil.
  2. Add the potatoes and onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook slowly on low for 20-30 minutes (longer for bigger chunks, done when a fork easily pierces the potatoes).  Mix often. This is the majority of/the only cook time. PRO TIP: Add Srircha sauce and diced garlic.  
  3. While this cooks cut up the rest of your veggies.  
  4. Have a beer.  
  5. Ten minutes before your done cooking you can start building your mega salad.  
  6. Dressing: Add in a small bowl your dried pepper, balsalmic and aioli and mix well.  It will be clumpy… so may have to whisk that baby.
  7. In a large bowl (make it big!) add your washed roquette or preferred greenery.
  8. Add your tomatoes and avocado.
  9. Slap your fried potato onions on there.
  10. Salmon on top of that.
  11. EGG
  12. Sprinkle with feta.
  13. Drizzle on the dressing.  Start with a little because you may not need much.
  14. NOM
Voíla! – S