From the USA to China to Singapore to Paris: Expat Edna
I’m Edna, an American and serial expat. I first moved abroad at 18, then two weeks after graduating university in 2010, I left the US for good. I have lived and worked in China and Singapore, and am currently based in Paris.
1. Why did you move abroad?
Different reasons each time. At 18, I moved to China for a year and a half as a break from my small-town college life and to broaden my horizons. At 21, I moved to Singapore on a whim because I had just graduated and knew that I didn’t want to stay in the US. In January of this year, I moved to Paris to follow an opportunity to further my career.
2. How do you make a living?
In Paris I’m a freelance writer and part-time private English tutor. In Singapore I was the digital strategist for an Asian reality television show; in China I worked in online media and for a tech start-up. I also freelance in international sports; I’ve worked events from China to Australia, and was just in London covering the Olympics.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I don’t communicate with home as much as I’d like, but when I do I use Google Voice and Skype. My family usually “stay in touch” with me by checking my twitter account. I’m not the greatest at calling and emailing but I’m always updating twitter, so that’s how they stay up to date on my adventures and make sure I’m alive.
However, I do always make sure to send a postcard to my parents from each city that I live in and travel to.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Paris?
Being surrounded by so many famous monuments and landmarks. While tourists fly thousands of miles to visit these places, if I ever want to see the Eiffel Tower I can just walk down the street; if I want to go to the Louvre, it’s just a few stops on the metro.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Paris?
People aren’t as carefree and take themselves much more seriously. I love my friends, but they’ve all got families and/or their own businesses on top of a full-time job – it makes it hard to be spontaneous, because to do anything you have to coordinate with everyone’s schedules days or weeks in advance.
6. What do you miss most?
I miss chaos and color -- especially coming from nearly three years in Asia. Parisians are very put together and well-mannered, and the buildings here are mostly monochrome. Yes, order is nice, but sometimes I miss stepping out my front door in the morning and wondering, “What’s going to go wrong today?”
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Twitter is the best place for me to turn to, without a doubt. I’ve tried MeetUp and expat forums, but they’re very hit-or-miss. I find the most like-minded people through Twitter, and in fact have met some of my best friends abroad that way.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Despite being known for having some of the best food and chefs in the world, Parisians don’t like spicy food! I thought I’d be able to get more dishes with a kick here. Friends make fun of me for going to Chipotle when I live in this culinary capital, but it’s one of the few places I can get a proper hot salsa fix.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That the French are rude. In six months I’ve only encountered one rude Frenchman; everyone else in Paris has been very polite and friendly. One time, shortly after arriving in Paris, I was lost in a metro/RER station on the way to the airport. A man noticed how flustered I was and took the time to help me get to the right train. I was pleasantly surprised – Paris has no more rude people than any other city I’ve visited or lived in.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Paris is slightly higher than Singapore – rent is about the same, but dining out costs at least 3-4 times more. In Asia it was cheaper to eat out than to cook for yourself, but not so in Paris. I’ve had to learn to cook for the first time in my life and I rarely go out to eat these days, which means my diet is currently very boring. It’s a lot of frozen pizzas and food from boxes and bags.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Don’t have a superiority complex that your home culture is better than your adopted culture. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I hear a foreigner call a local food or custom “weird” or “disgusting” -- just because it’s something you’re not used to, doesn’t make it any better or worse. It’s simply just different.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
My first blog was a China photoblog that ran from 2008-2010. In late 2011 I decided to revive it and ended up turning it into a travel blog, and expanding my focus from China to include all the countries I’ve traveled to. I also write to prove that travel isn’t as expensive as people think it is, and that as a graduate, you don’t have to choose travel vs. career. You can travel while you’re young and establish a career at the same time.
Edna's blog, Expat Edna
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