26 September 2016

Daisy de Plume - Expat in Paris, France

Daisy de Plume - Expat in Paris, France

We’ve had the chance to talk to Daisy de Plume, 43, an American expat who has moved to Paris with her family. Mrs. de Plume who has been living there for 12 years, is the founder & creative director of THATMuse (Treasure Hunt at the Museum, which started out au Louvre as THATLou).

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: New York – the West Village specifically.


Q: What made you move out of the USA?

A: I didn’t move, I took a sabbatical from my job after a sad period (my grandmother had died) and rented a flat in Paris for three months. I was so happy that I went home only to quit my job, get a tenant and then hot-footed it back to Paris.


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

A: Well my home is on Faubourg St Denis, in Paris’s Trendy Tenth, but for the moment we’re expanding the business to London. So I guess Eurostar is my home?


Q: How long have you been living in France?

A: 12 years.


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

A: With my family -- I met my husband in Paris, and our two sons were born here, at St. Felicite in the 15th Arrt. Our family was created as expats, so there was no adjusting.


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

A: I miss my family and friends, so we call each other. I don’t miss NY; My NY (it’s changed considerably since I grew up there) is in my blood, inseparable so there’s nothing to miss.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: I love the French. Their focus on life, food, holidays, time off while being more productive and efficient workers than most nations deserves my respect. It is the country I’ve chosen to have and raise my kids and a culture I want to influence them more than any other, so clearly my respect for them is boundless. Of course, there are plenty of bad points to any people – my overall opinion of the French and France is thoroughly tested on those days I’m at the Prefecture extending my titre de séjour!


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: I was lucky because I had a few good friends who were Parisian when I moved here. I don’t think I had an expat circle till 2012, when I started my company, THATLou, and got involved in social media to promote museum treasure hunts. But the expat community has been wonderfully supportive, and I feel very much a part of it. Many of us have businesses like mine geared toward tourism, like the Marais cooking school La Cuisine Paris, the Montmartre-based vacation rental Perfectly Paris, to design companies like Kasia Dietz Handbags and Square Modern. The tight-knit community has been indelible and can compare notes on the boring process and keep up to date with what’s going on in the city.


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

A: Flats are far more expensive in NY than Paris, but the rest seems more or less comparable (although the tip and tax in NY always throw me, so perhaps NY is more expensive).

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: About the same.

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

A: Incomparable if you consider quality. The average restaurant in France that doesn’t cost much is far cheaper than an average restaurant in NY.

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

A: Comparable

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

A: wine can be cheaper than broccoli in Paris, something I thought was very funny when I moved there. Wine – decent wine, nothing special – is absurdly expensive in NY, which makes sense as I prefer French wine so I have to pay for the import.


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

A: Have patience and diligence. And bring every document you can think of (photo ID, EDF bill, visa, etc.) every time you go (till it’s done). Likewise for when you close that account. Fun stuff!


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

A: Diabolical. There’s nothing I hate more than visa runs. But I suspect it would be so anywhere. I had plenty of French and English friends in NY who had to pay tens of thousands of dollars to get their work visas processed. I went to boarding school in Rome where the student visa was a mess to get. Just to be able to work in London for the year my visa application is 167 pages that they’ve asked us to print ourselves!


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

A: Yes, absolutely. You tend to go to the Centre de Santé in the areas where you live, so I only know of places in the areas where I’ve lived. Getting the Carte Vitale (your social security card) is a total mess – An Ernst & Young lawyer put my dossier together for the Carte Vitale application (because of an office job, who’d sponsored my work permit) so there were no holes, yet it still took 14 months to receive and endlessly nag. However, once it came through, the medical system is great.


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: Yes, see above.


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: I didn’t choose a mover, I just stuck everything I have in storage. On this, I recommend having a storage space outside of Manhattan, as it’s been the price of a second mortgage that I only solved recently! There’s a great concierge company called Savoir Faire Paris (SFP) who can help with expats moving to Paris from moving and movers to visas and schools, etc.


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

A: Starting a company in France is no easy feat! It is not an entrepreneur’s dream country what with all of the paperwork involved. If only I could move the Louvre to a Gibraltar!


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

A: There’s both good and bad anywhere you live, but Paris’s uniform beauty is softening the bad! We all know the bureaucracy is a big yawn.


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

A: I’ve enjoyed writing about my neighbourhood in plenty of blogs, such as Misadventures with Andi, Expat Edna and Lost in Cheeseland.


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

A: As per the above, being in London for the expansion of our museum treasure hunt company is a sort of move, I guess. But my heart belongs to Paris.


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

A: Enjoy your time there! Museums are free the first Sunday of the month. There are patrimoine weekends where buildings that aren’t typically open have open doors. 


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

A: Yes, plenty! For e-zines, I’ve had a ball writing for Bonjour Paris, HiP and Girls’ Guide to Paris. In terms of blogs I love reading Out and About with Mary Kay, Is Paris Always a Good Idea? And 52 Martinis is great when I want to know where to go for a fancy cocktail!