When I am in the States, I am often asked, “Why?” Why did I go to Paris? It’s often followed by “My, you are brave.” What I like about expats is that they never ask this question. We are all here because. Just because. Some for family, some for work, but underlying it all is a love for travel and adventure and the Paris/French culture.
Every year I met new friends. Many at the meetups for expats. There is one that attracts a steady following of Paris regulars and people vacationing in Europe for a long stay. Helen from DC has been a friend. When she’s here, we dine together. Through her I ended up having dinner with two other interesting women who were briefly in Paris. When I was in Brighton 4 years ago, a chance conversation with a guide at the Royal Pavilion led to a close friendship with a Brit who dubbed me her American Abroad friend. The friendship started on Facebook.
Facebook, for all the frustrations and fake news and scams (read Snopes, people), has been an excellent way to keep in touch and let long distance friendships grow. Another gal I met at a conference and had maybe a 30 minute chat has become a great Facebook friend. I follow her travels all over the world. I am quite envious of her latest tour to India. I never wanted to go to India, but I would sign up for that tour in a heartbeat. In fact, when I get back to the States and have a better idea of my calendar, I might just do that.
Back to my Brit friend let’s call A. She came to stay with me for two nights a few weeks ago. Because she is an historian and a palace buff (she does work in one), she wanted to see Versailles. This was the first time I took a guided visit there. Worth it. It cost 20 euros over the admission price, but we got special group cut in line privileges and our guide was full of information. The group: Get Your Guide. I should do a Trip Advisor review for them. With A here, we walked over 7 miles every day. We were both woofed.
The Eurostar was a cluster. Perhaps you heard, the French workers were demanding more resources in advance of Brexit, claiming it would cause more work for them. Not sure about that, but it was worth a try. So they decided to work to the rule. Interesting way to basically strike. Instead of 6 x-ray and security machines working, they only opened 1. And there was nothing anyone could do about it. Except wait. Eurostar sent out texts and advised people to not travel from Paris to London. Except if you are here and you live there, there’s not much choice. When I met A on her arrival, the line for Eurostar check in was down the escalator (I never had a line down the escalator) and then down across the train station main floor. News reports were saying the wait was 4 to 5 hours.
So we went at 11:30 for a 4:00 train. The line was quite manageable. No line to the escalator. She actually was able to get on the 3:00 train and even made an earlier train in London to Brighton.
Why this tale in the midst of expat friendships? While standing in line, we started to chat with three people from Seattle. The gal C was heading back to London to get her return plane to Seattle. The two guys, C and G, were staying in Paris for another two weeks. Really. Chance conversation. A and C waited for their trains, chatting. C and G and I also chatted, exchanged emails and phone and became FB friends. C & G and I have gone to a movie at Lost in Frenchlation (they put English subtitles on new French films for special showings), had a fabulous dinner at my favorite souffle restaurant, and rearranged plans for lunch today because of the dang gilet jaune (see above rant). And we have two more meals planned before they return to Seattle.
See. Life in Paris is rich in unexpected friendship. And tomorrow I am having dinner with K, an expat friend from NYC who moved here two years ago. We met at a talk at the American Library in Paris. She sat next to me in the audience and was both fascinated and repelled by the henna covering both my hands. I had just returned from my groundbreaking Morocco by Myself trip. A conversation ensued. Dinner after that. And now we are friends, including both a Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.
Maybe we travelers are just more open? In the states we have our friends already? No need to expand? The language barrier? Well, perhaps not a barrier as I do now speak passable French, but the American openness to just start a chat when you hear English?
Dunno. Just know I like it.