Loving the ‘honeymoon phase’—getting settled in France

January 22, 2012

The "center" of Samois-sur-Seine, a village of just more than 2,000 residents, is quite small. But it's charming, as I'm sure this curious beagle would agree!

The "center" of Samois-sur-Seine, a village of just more than 2,000 residents, is quite small. But it's charming, as I'm sure this curious beagle would agree!

Here's the Samois boulangerie where I go for fresh baguettes and delectable pastries. You'd be hard-pressed to find a French town without one ... people need their "daily bread!"

Here's the Samois boulangerie where I go for fresh baguettes and delectable pastries. You'd be hard-pressed to find a French town without one ... people need their "daily bread!"

When you decide to pull up stakes and leave your home country for a much different and far more challenging life on the other side of the world, you’ve already convinced yourself that the move will be a good one. So once you arrive at your destination and start settling into your new routine, you’re psyched. Every errand—whether to pick up a few items at the grocery store, drop off a sweater at the dry cleaners, or pop into the boulangerie for a crusty baguette—is loaded with the excitement of a 3rd grade field trip. (Remember how jazzed we used to get about THOSE?)

Such is the grande aventure of moving abroad. And I’m officially residing in the “honeymoon phase” of my journey, when everything is new and different and COOL.

I landed in France on Jan. 2, having departed Chicago on New Year’s Day (leaving on the 1st sounded apropos to me—what better day to launch one’s brand-new life?). Arriving in the lovely village of Samois-sur-Seine, where I’m living in a charming garden apartment with a view of the Seine River, I’ve begun the challenging task of figuring out just what the heck is going on. Fortunately, thanks to introductions from kind friends-of-my-new-friends and my new neighbors, I’ve already met a fascinating group of international folks—each with his or her own tale about how they landed in France and why they stay.

A few friends and neighbors are talented professional musicians, regularly performing at festivals and in clubs near Samois and on stages within Paris. Some are second- and third-career folks who’ve chosen to create businesses here. Others are housewives who are active in social and cultural organizations that make life richer for expatriates who call this place home. But they’ve all been willing to assist this stranger from Chicago, offering everything from coffee at their homes to assistance when I go to the daunting préfecture, or local police administrative office, where I’ve got to show up within two months of my arrival in order to receive my carte de séjour, or French resident card.

I’m guessing that after this foray into French bureaucracy in the coming weeks, my rose-colored-glasses phase will TRULY be over. This country, while loved for its many contributions to world culture, also is known for rules that seem designed only to confuse its people (not to mention foreigners like me!) and drive them insane.

But having done this move-abroad thing before, I know the honeymoon here in France won’t last. And that’s not me being my fatalistic self—it’s just the way it is. 

I remember how fabulous every single experience felt when I arrived in Florence, Italy, back in 2004. You’d have thought it was the first time I’d ever sipped a coffee, eaten a bowl of pasta, walked across a bridge, seen a museum, heard a note of classical music, experienced a kiss. Maybe it was the Renaissance vibe (or a delayed case of jet lag), but I couldn’t find fault with a single thing in bella Italia. But after a frustrating trip to the TIM mobile store—one that had me seriously doubting WHY in the world I moved to Italy in the first place—the I-love-everything-about-this-place jig was up. (Except that upon leaving said store, I bumped into a fine, Mercedes convertible-driving Florentine ragazzo who asked me out … so the “honeymoon” was back on!)

The reality is that no place is perfect—and adjusting to your new country, imperfections and all—is part of the experience of being an expatriate. You learn to take the good (I’ve already taken two train trips into Paris—one to watch a musician friend perform at a club, the other a daytime trip for lunch and a stroll through the Le Marais district) with the not-so-good (forgetting my français at the local Post Office, but managing to make myself understood, anyway). And you keep reminding yourself—as I did earlier this week when waiting at a quiet Samois bus stop, the peaceful Seine River just across the street—how crazy-fortunate you are to be living your life right now, right here.

And that makes the minor inconveniences TOTALLY worth it. 

Ahhh... La Poste and La Pharmacie, two staples of French life. I have yet to make a trip to the latter ... but I'm sure a linguistic adventure awaits!! (I'm NEVER without my trusty mini-French dictionary.)

Ahhh... La Poste and La Pharmacie, two staples of French life. I have yet to make a trip to the latter ... but I'm sure a linguistic adventure awaits!! (I'm NEVER without my trusty mini-French dictionary.)

I just LOVE this bridge, which crosses part of the Seine River here in Samois. And it's just across the street from my bus stop. What a peaceful view ... I'll never complain about waiting for the bus again!

I just LOVE this bridge, which crosses part of the Seine River here in Samois. And it's just across the street from my bus stop. What a peaceful view ... I'll never complain about waiting for the bus again!

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20 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Sharon  |  January 22, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    I was waiting for this post. Those photos remind me of Saint-Remy. I’m so happy for you. When I get back to France, I’ll strive to get to Samois-sur-Seine. Being in France for 18-days I became very familiar with La Poste for the ATM and La Pharmacie for products I ran out of. The Euro is a little favorable for you at this moment. Good luck and keep posting :)

  • 2. Nancy  |  January 22, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    It is *so pretty*!!! Glad you’re having fun, sweetie.

  • 3. Georgette  |  January 22, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Fantastic pics! I stumbled upon your blog yesterday while searching for an immersion course for the summer. What an exciting read! I was wondering how you were settling in and Voila! A new post!

    I travel to Paris and Florence for work frequently but J’adore Paris! I’m considering moving to Paris and reading posts like this only inspire me more. So merci beaucoup!

    G

  • 4. Melissa  |  January 22, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    How wonderful!! I’m so excited for you and all your adventures.

    No one said that the honeymoon has to end. No matter what happens, keep remembering that wonderful thought about being “crazy-fortunate you are to be living your life right now, right here”.

    Congratulations on the move and keep living life to the fullest!

  • 5. Kelly  |  January 22, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    Ahh, reading this post makes me think back to my first, second and third trips to the questura to get my permesso di soggiorno so I could stay legally in Florence. Talk about a buzz kill! May your honeymoon live on indefinitely!

    Can’t wait to break daily bread with you and have you give me a tour of your village.

  • 6. Jennifer  |  January 22, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    Love living vicariously through your blog. Keep it coming urban travel girl! Buon settimana!

  • 7. Gwen  |  January 23, 2012 at 8:52 am

    Glad to hear you have arrived safely. Is it possible for you to post some photos ?? Love to see them.

  • 8. Gwen  |  January 23, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Thanks. Please continue to share with us.

  • 9. Gina  |  January 23, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Love, love, love this post! I am so excited for you. Enjoy the honeymoon phase. I’m right behind you…moving to Italy this Saturday :-).

  • 10. Gwen  |  January 23, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Glad to hear you have arrived safely and are enjoying your new home. Keep the photos coming.

  • 11. roni faida  |  January 23, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    I’m sorry I didn’t know you were here! I’m in Paris now but I leave tomorrow, I would have loved to meet you. Your new city seems lovely, have you had gallette yet? You can only get it in January and I think it’s delicious. Your local patisserie will have one. Enjoy!!

  • 12. Rhona  |  January 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Oh, I can relate when I lived in Germany. of course, my stay was not as yours will be but nonetheless, the moments of, ‘I cannot believe I am here’ can outshine the lamenting, ‘why am I here!’ But, the ride is so worth it in the end when it is all done. I love your pictures. Reminds me of the small village, Kornwestein, I lived in Germany. I love that quaint homey feel. I did not enjoy Paris but seem to enjoy the outter edges, hence, where you live and Strasbourgh (where I visited).

  • 13. urbantravelgirl  |  January 24, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    MERCI, Sharon!! Yeah, let’s hope the U.S. dollar/Euro balance tilts more in my favor … I’m still earning dollars but spending euros each day. Thank goodness my math isn’t better … I don’t want to get depressed! :-)

    Maureen

  • 14. urbantravelgirl  |  January 24, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Salut, Georgette — glad my little adventure is helping inspire you to DO YOUR THING!! We tend in life to regret the things we DIDN’T do much more than those we did … so don’t be afraid to try!

    Safe travels,
    Maureen

  • 15. urbantravelgirl  |  January 24, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Salut, Kelly — my PATRON SAINT of overseas living and the one whose amazing pre-blog “Postcards” from Italy helped inspire me to make the initial leap into overseas life back in 2004!! I remember reading and hearing about your questura stories and freaking out … but I managed to get through it and stay in Italy legally, like you did. Thanks for all you did to keep me encouraged …. And I can’t WAIT ’til you’re here and we can break bread together in my little village!!!

    A bientot!

  • 16. urbantravelgirl  |  January 24, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Ciao, Gina — e AUGURI on your move to bella Italia this weekend!! How fabulous for you … and I KNOW you’re going to fall in love with Rome!!

    OK, UrbanTravelGirls… be sure to keep up with Gina’s amazing adventures on HER blog: http://www.ginasleap.blogspot.com/

    I’ll have to let you know when I make it to Rome … would be great to meet up in person!!

    Buon viaggio,
    Marina :-)

  • 17. urbantravelgirl  |  January 24, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Salut, Roni! OUI — I have had MANY slices of Gallette des Rois cakes this month, and have loved every one. What a bummer that it’s only eaten in January because of Epiphany … DELICIOUS!!!

    But somehow, I don’t think I’ll have any shortage of fabulous French pastries! :-)

    Au revoir!

  • 18. urbantravelgirl  |  January 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    DANKE, Rhona!! Yes, there’s something so genuinely charming about small towns in Europe … and small towns in SO many places in the world. I’m a big-city girl, but I can totally appreciate what makes these small places tick … and work for so many people.

    Vive la différence!

  • 19. Donna Binbek  |  December 24, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Hello Maureen!

    I met you sometime this year in Chicago at III Forks for a wine tasting event. I LOVE your travel blog as I am looking for a change of pace and plan on finding it in Paris! I recently won round trip tickets for two to any where in the world and I chose Paris and I plan on arriving in August. Your blog is so very interesting and I feel as if I”m taking the journey with you. Gina of Gina’s Leap, I love your blog too, Italy is next on my list to conquer! Keep writing ladies and keep us posted on your travels, I can’t wait to share mine with you all as well!

    Ciao for now!
    Donna B.

  • 20. urbantravelgirl  |  December 29, 2012 at 6:19 am

    Bonjour, Donna — and CONGRATULATIONS on your round-trip air ticket win. That is GREAT news … and I don’t blame you. Paris would have been at the top of my list, too! You’ll have to let me/us know if it’s everything you expect. I’ll bet it WILL be, and then some!

    Happy Travels,
    Maureen

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