27 October 2016

Elizabeth Vincent Roquoplo - Expat in France

Elizabeth Vincent Roquoplo - Expat in France

We’ve had the chance to talk to Elizabeth Vincent Roquoplo, 28, an American expat who has moved to France with her husband. Mrs. Roquoplo who has been living there for over a year, now works as a content marketing manager.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.

 

Q: Where are you from originally?

A: Boston, MA USA.

 

Q: What made you move out of the USA?

A: My boyfriend at the time (now husband!) was on a visa from France that came to an end. He was unlucky in the H1B visa lottery to stay in the US and continue working, and so the options were split up or figure out how to follow him to France. I was fortunate enough to find a way to continue working and move, so I took the opportunity! I followed a man to Paris, like the old cliché, but I followed my own dreams as well.

 

Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I live in Paris! My husband is French and grew up in the suburbs of Paris, so the city was a natural choice. Plus, I’ve always loved France and Paris is any romantic’s dream.

 

Q: How long have you been living in France?

A: I’ve been here for just over a year now. I can’t believe how fast that year has gone!

 

Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live with my French husband, without whom I don’t think I could have gotten through all the complicated paperwork and bureaucracy it takes to stay here!

 

Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Of course! It’s not always easy to be so far from family and friends and all things familiar. Plus, I became an Auntie for the first time earlier this year, so it is very hard to miss out on all of my sister’s pregnancy and my baby niece’s exciting first months. I call home regularly and I keep a blog to help share my life in France with those back home. I’m lucky, too, to have a new family here in my in-laws, who help me feel at home and supported.

 

Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Parisians both wholeheartedly live up to their stereotypes and completely contradict them all at once. True French people are just as nice and welcoming as anyone else. But out in the streets of Paris, you definitely encounter the rude or cold French everyone complains about. It’s important to remember cultural differences in formality, politeness, and expectations of “smileyness” before passing judgement. It’s all about perspective.

 

Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in France? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: No! It’s not easy! I’ve heard somewhere that the French don’t make friends as adults. They make friends as children and through school, but once into adulthood, they’re set with their social circle. In my experience, this seems to be true! I work with mostly French people, and it’s a slow process to really get to know anyone. No one’s clamoring to befriend new people.

Honestly, my first friend made in France was another American. As someone who leans toward the introverted, it’s hard to put yourself out there. Thanks to social media and my blog, it’s easier to reach out to other expats to commiserate over shared experiences. We’re all looking for friends! Through those (more outgoing) expats, you can often reach welcoming Parisians as well.

 

Q: How does the cost of living in France compared to your home?

A: I find that rent prices are fairly similar to my hometown, though the Boston/Cambridge area is one of the pricier places in that respect. Restaurants are generally more expensive for basic food – especially fast food! – and groceries too seem pricey to me. And for clothing for furniture, it’s hard to cough up the high prices stores charge when you’re used to the American style of always being able to catch things on sale.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: At a café, an espresso is between 2 and 4 euros. A larger cup of ‘American’ coffee is probably 3-5€. They don’t really do coffee to-go.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: Here in Paris, the main course might be 13-18€

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: The sky’s the limit! 3-course menus are common and can often be found for 40 or 50 euros. And, of course, you can find much more expensive options as well!

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: At the grocery store, a bottle of wine can be as low as 3€! No idea about cigarettes, though I’m sure they’re not cheap

 

Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in France?

A: Be patient. It will take a very long time. Be prepared to furnish lots of documents, and do not be surprised if your dedicated banker disappears on vacation for two weeks. It once took me six months just to close an account I was never actually given access to (though they were charging me fees!). Consider yourself forewarned!

 

Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: Exhausting, is how I would describe it. I have spent the better part of two years shuffling through many forms of international and government paperwork. The systems are complicated and French officials are not as warm and helpful as you might like in a stressful situation. It takes a lot of work, a lot of trips to official offices, and a lot of organization.

 

Q: Would you say that healthcare in France is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: I haven’t yet needed to see a doctor myself, but in an emergency for my husband I was very impressed with SOS Medecins! You call the doctor – even on a Sunday when everything is closed in France – and they send a whole team to your house! A team of doctors and firemen make a house call, do tests, and transport you to a nearby hospital if needed.

 

Q: Did you secure a health insurance in your home or France? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: I have health insurance through my work, called Mutuelle. I think expats have a variety of health insurance options from both home and abroad, but I don’t think I’m qualified to give any advice on such a complex topic!

 

Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to France? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: The most memorable thing was just how surreal it was. I packed up everything into 3 categories: coming with me to France, going into Storage, and things to Donate. It was a tough process with hard decisions. I only took 3 suitcases with me to France! I’ve only just started the process of researching international movers, as I’m considering shipping my stuff from storage. We’re buying an apartment, and I want my pots and pans and my favorite chair. If anyone has advice, I’m all ears!

 

Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Feeling lonely is the biggest expat secret. Everyone has a different story, a different situation, but when you move for someone else to a place where culture and language are different, it can be a very isolating experience. It requires courage and effort to put yourself out there and build a community of your own in this new place.

 

Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in France?

A: Pros: The cheese! The wine! The proximity to other amazing European sights! Tons of vacation time! Living in France can be pretty amazing.

Cons: Bureaucracy (they literally invented it). Distance from family. Grey, rainy weather. Lack of Thanksgiving.

 

Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: Everything – it is Paris, after all! One of my favorite things to recommend, however, is the Musée Rodin. It’s slightly less well known than the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, but this museum has a large estate garden full of Rodin sculptures. It’s something different, and a beautiful spot to sit a while. And of course, my other tip is just to soak in the food, wine, and café culture. There’s an art to it, and practice makes perfect.

 

Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: It looks like we’re staying put for the foreseeable future, as we’re currently buying an apartment. Only one year in, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what living in Paris has to offer. Maybe one day we’ll head back to the States, but for now, it’s all La Vie en Rose!

 

Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: You’re not alone. No matter what weird experience or language mix-up you’ve just had, you’re definitely not the first. We’re all in this together, and we’re all making fools of ourselves regularly just trying to go about our daily lives. Reach out to other expats, and don’t be embarrassed if most of your friends in France are not French! Build your community, however, makes you feel secure and supported, because you’ll need it for the next round of paperwork at the embassy or Prefecture de Police!

 

Q: Do you have favorite websites or blogs about France?

A: My own! (https://anotheramericaine.wordpress.com) There are tons of great bloggers out there talking about what it’s like to move and live in France. I am a really big fan of David Lebovitz’s work; I love his perspective on living in France. I also keep an eye on Inspirelle, a site by, for, and about expat women, for the interesting info!