Meet Sasha, the next person to be featured in my Expat Living Interview Series. An American now living in Paris, her story will surely inspire the romantics out there (including myself) to make a similar move abroad.
All About Sasha.
Sasha Romary, a native New-Yorker, moved to Paris with her family over a decade ago, has since married her own Frenchman and started her own business.
Savoir Faire Paris is a personal concierge service geared towards expats and anglophones. Sasha loves Paris, everything it has to offer and loves to share her love with her clients, friends and family.
Where are you from?
New York City, USA.
Where are you living now and how long have you been there?
Paris, France for the past 12 years.
Have you lived anywhere else around the world?
I was born in Chicago and spent some time in Roanoke, VA before moving to Paris. I also lived in Madrid for a semester in college.
Do you plan to stay in your current location or move somewhere else in the future?
I would stay here forever if I could! My husband would like to move around the world a little so that might happen some time in the (very far!) future but for now we are quite happy in this magical city.
What’s your personal story? What made you decide to take the big leap and leave home?
When I was 15 my father had a 3-year contract in Paris. My parents thought that if we moved to Paris for the middle year of the 3 years it would be a great experience for me and my sister and make the 3-year contract easier on the family. As a 15-year-old, I thought my parents were ruining my life and I came here kicking and screaming. 4 months into our time here, I had gotten a taste of life in Paris and never wanted to leave – so we never left!
Do you ever miss home? What do you do to cope?
With so many friends and family in the US we end up going back at least once a year. That soothes my US cravings and reminds me why I love living in Paris. What I miss most are my friends in NYC. They are practically family and it is hard being so far away from them. Skype and my free international calling plan help in that regard.
How do you blend in and be accepted by locals?
Blending in with the locals is not easy in Paris. Speaking the language helps but culturally it is not an easy feat. Even after 12 years. This past summer I got married to my fabulous Frenchman. I truly thank him for being able to blend in with the locals. His group of friends are all French and without them I am not sure that I would have made such good local friends.
Did you have to learn a new language? If yes, what? How did you go about learning the language and how long did it take you to become fluent?
It is very easy to live in Paris, with your group of expat friends, and not learn to speak French. I took French here in high school and when I came back after university I dove into a few weeks of intensive French courses. This really did it for me. For my job, I was forced to speak it and the more I spoke it the better I became. I still make many mistakes but as long as you make just a few mistakes and make them confidently, no one really seems to mind!
What has been the most shocking thing you learned about the local culture? Funny stories encouraged!
I think the most shocking (…and frustrating and dreaded!) thing about being an expat in Paris is the yearly visit to the Prefecture de Police for the renewal of the Carte de Séjour (residency card). Any request having to do with French administration is always met with ridiculous amounts of hoops to jump through and phone calls where each time you call different answers are given.
Last year, I was conveniently on the site of the Prefecture de Police two days before my appointment for my CdS renewal and noticed a banner on the website that said that the entire Prefecture would be closed on the day of my appointment (that I had made more than 6 months in advance). I walked into the Prefecture the following day (1 day before my appointment) and explained that I was traveling and that I needed my appointment. The man at the front desk asked me why and I said that I went on their site and saw that they were closed the day of my appointment. He looked at me, puzzled, and said “we are?” …. pause … “oh yes, it is the inauguration of the new head of the police. That is quite impressive that you figured that out.”
After speaking with three different people and finally the supervisor who told me that because of my current visa status she is unable to give me the paper that I need to travel, eventually she pulled some strings and got me my Recepicé. All four people I spoke to that day seemed to be completely shocked that I had come in a day early and that I found out about the offices being closed. They really just expected to have me come in at 8am the following day and be turned away with no hope of a future appointment. Le sigh….
What is your number one tip about how to live life as an ex-pat?
Learn the language. All things in life are easier when you can express yourself.
What do you love most about living abroad?
My favorite thing about life in France and French culture is the notion that people here work to live. Very few people work after 7pm and no one brings their work home with them on the weekend. They believe that everyone, no matter how much money they have, deserves two full weeks of vacation at a time (because you need one whole week to decompress from working and one week to really enjoy vacation) and I think that the French are healthier and more productive because of this.
Did you make the move solo? Or are you with a spouse or significant other, other members of your family, or friend(s)?
I originally moved here with my parents and sister but stayed and married my own Frenchman and we have what we believe is the world’s cutest dog, Gaspard.
What do you do work wise? Did you have a job before you arrived or did you look for work when you got there? If you didn’t have a job, how did (or do) you land work?
Growing up here as expats and meeting so many along the way, I started Savoir Faire Paris, a personal concierge service geared towards expats and anglophones to help others navigate the hurdles of life abroad and help them make the most out of their stay in Paris. Turns out it was easier to get a visa to start a company than it was to get a visa that would allow me to work!
Expat Living Information
If you liked what Sasha Romary in Paris, France had to say about expat Living, then read our other expat interviews from people like Polly Barks in Moscow, Russia or Christopher Allen in Munich, Germany.
If you’re interested in Berlin life, check out my recommended list of things to do in Berlin.