Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘expat’

Serendipity While Sitting at the Train Station

Perhaps one of the most beautiful aspects about traveling or living in a new place is how– no matter what obstacles or mishaps occur– things always seem to turn out alright.

In the 2nd week of arriving in Paris, (and I mentioned this in a previous post) I managed to take 2 hours to get home. Why? Because my last train home that I had originally planned on taking was cancelled due to a strike.

For a local (and now, even me), this is not a big deal. There are plenty of other ways to get home. You can take a taxi, walk, ride a bike, or take a bus. But when you’re a 23 year old American girl who just arrived in a brand new country with no money, friends, or french vocabulary in order to get home, you start to get a little anxious.

Fast-forwarding through the stumbled, mucked-up Franglish conversation that I had at 1am with the info kiosk, I found the night bus that I needed to take home. However, now I am standing alone at a bus stop at 1:30 in the morning, surrounding by a bunch of people that I don’t know and I cannot strike up conversation with because I can’t say anything beyond “Hello” and “how are you,” let alone, “is this right bus? Would you happen to know which stop I need to get off at to get home?”

And of course, this is the part of story where I manage to meet a very nice stranger named Peterson who speaks English. He asks me, “you’re not from here?” Nope. I’m not. Apparently, it’s that obvious. I probably looked stressed out.

Peterson helps me get on the right bus, and he lets the driver know that I’m foreign and new, and that I’ll need him to tell me which stop to get off from. Meanwhile while at the bus stop, we have good conversation– and he even teaches me some French. Unfortunately, I don’t have a phone, but I figured “Hey! Potential new friend! Can I have your e-mail address? We can strike up a deal for some language exchange.” That night, I am not more indebted to anyone than Peterson, who went out of his way to help me get home .

But sadly, I lost his e-mail address.


Let’s cut to about 7 weeks later. I’m a pro at taking the train, bus, AND metro home. Lost? Psh. Please. I finally know what I’m doing. One night, I am boarding the train home at platform 13 to catch the 22:35 ride back. I sit and sit and sit on this train and it doesn’t move. Also, no one else is sitting on this train. It’s now 22:35– what’s going on?

I look to my left and this is what I see: my actual train leaving from platform 13. I accidentally boarded the train on platform 14 and somehow didn’t notice. C’est la vie. So now it’s time to get off of the train I’m sitting on, and walk back down to the lobby area to wait for the next train home.

How on earth did I manage to miss my train when I arrive 15 minutes before its departure? How did I manage to not deduce from the empty car that perhaps I am NOT on the right train? And how on earth did I manage to read “Voie 14” and I think, “yep, platform 13. That’s my train, right there.”

I will probably never know.

At this point, I am slightly irritated. I am tired and I just want to go home. I sit down on my bench and start at the list of departures waiting for my 23:05 train to announce it’s platform. I have stuffed my headphones into my ears and am listening to some kind of music so that I don’t have to talk to strangers because tonight, I’m not just in the mood.

Apparently the person sitting on the bench to right of me begs to differ.

I can barely make him sight of him, but my peripheries do catch sight of someone waving at me to try and catch my attention. I ignore it.Sorry pal, but tonight is not your night. I’m tired and exhausted from being sick, and I want to go home. Nope, wave all you want; I’m going to continue to ignore you.

Ugh, okay fine. I’ll look and see what the hell you want from me.

It’s Peterson! Nothing could have perked up my night more. 7 weeks later, a lost e-mail, and an absent-minded, unintentionally made choice to sit on the wrong train allowed me to run into Peterson again. What are the odds of that?

Probably higher than I think– but for that moment, the serendipity was too sweet to spoil with statistics.

Photogenics: Père des pigeons

“Only the tourists feed the pigeons.”

That’s what I’ve been told– and yes, it seems to be true– and I’m sure it’s true for other places besides Paris. If I remember correctly, a friend of mine from New York City said they call them rats with wings.

Parisians love to picnic when the weather permits so– or rather, it begs so. So far, Paris in the summer and early autumn is absolutely divine… but pigeons pecking at your baguette or cooing nearby for crumbs can be quite irksome.

However, when I first arrived, I was walking alone the Seine near île de la Cité when I noticed this man feeding pigeons from his balcony. Unfortunately, I did not manage to snag a shot of a pigeon perched on his hand, but I swear this happened. He caught my eye with a pigeon perched on his thumb. To me, I thought he must be  a local living in the high balcony; I presume that there must be some kind of routine involved in being able to entice a bird onto his arm.

Pére des pigeons

I found the moment to be quaint, and it added to the picturesque setting that I was already saturated in, so I had to pull out my camera and try to snap the moment– and furthermore, it’s my proof that not only tourists feed the pigeons.

How to Pack for a Move Abroad: Plan and Prepare

This is a continuation of the previous post re: How to Pack for a Move Abroad

I think the mere act packing for a trip can provide great life lessons and insight to one’s self. It forces you to think: what can I live without and what can’t I live without? Ultimately, that’s the question you’re answering whenever you’re packing for a trip, no matter how long or short of a trip that it is.

1. Research your country.

You should learn some essentials about your new home as soon as possible. In the near future, I’ll write about different way you can research your new home and add a link here, but for now, I’ll briefly advise some essentials to look up and learn:

• The weather.

Is it cold or is it how? How cold or hot? Does it rain a lot? How on earth will you know which clothes to pack if you don’t know what kind of weather to expect? This should outline your intentions about what clothes to pack (and possibly purchase before your departure).

In Paris, I know that their summers are brief and their winters are often rainy—and last much longer than any “winter” I’ve experienced in sunny Florida. However, being here these past few days, I wish I had packed a pair of shorts against the advisement of my friends.

• Their culture and economy—as well as yours.

Are certain items cheap or expensive? Do you plan on having an expendable budget for buying items such as clothes, toiletries, etc.? Do you want to blend in or stand out in regards to your attire?

When I visited China, I could buy many things cheap, but in France everything is more expensive—especially since I’m mentally converted all the euro prices into dollars. I actually just returned from the Monoprix store and found my favorite nail polish for sale for 11.90 € (euros)… that’s almost SIXTEEN dollars for an ounce of polish! Essie nail polish back home is at most $8.00:

So think thoroughly about what your budget will be and what you can and cannot live without, and figure out whether purchasing items in that country will be cheap or too expensive. I need to have contact solution and my fancy shampoo, but I’m not paying $16-20 a bottle when I could’ve stock up and brought it with me for less than half that price.

2. Write down what you need (and want) to pack.

What things MUST you take with you? And what things can you live without or wait to buy there?

Plan ahead and write it down—especially if you’re planning to purchase and pack a supply of something that you don’t want to buy over at your destination.

As a mentioned before, I stocked up on toiletries for the year (contact solution, tampons, shampoo, etc.) I had a friend who lived and worked in Switzerland for a year, and she hated having to spend what little extra income she had on essentials rather than being able to save it for something like going to dinner with friends. I actually just looked up how much it cost for me to purchase my shampoo here in France. The cheapest price was on it’s cost was 60% of my weekly income. Granted, I’m not making a lot of money at the moment, but regardless I can’t spend 60% of my week’s income on shampoo alone, even if I do insist on that particular kind. So for now, I’m glad that I already brought some here.

Writing it down will also make the actual act of packing much less overwhelming. Opening an empty suitcase and thinking “now what?” always leave my mind blank. If that’s something you suffer from as well, then you’ll be glad to have that list.

Packing can be something done in an hour or two– or in my case a week or two. It depends on your personality, but regardless, it’s an essential step in traveling, but it’s significance is heightened when you’re moving to a place rather than just visiting.

Every step taken to a big move abroad is overwhelming. During my final hours back at home before my flight, I had to deal with many errands to complete and qualms to relieve; the last thing I wanted to do was pack, let alone figure out what to pack. So if you’re prepping for move abroad, whether it’s to study, work, etc. the advice from many that I’ve received is to take some time to plan what you can regulate and control– because plenty will be happening that you can’t!

Remember that the space in your suitcase is precious, and shipping things from back home or back to home is expensive. So unless you plan to have many friends and family members visiting regularly to some space to spare in their luggage, you’ve only got one shot at packing right.

Happy Travels,

xx – J

How to Pack for a Move Abroad- Introduction

I’m going to be honest from the get-go here: I love packing.

I’ll plan what to pack, pre-pack, and re-pack until my heart’s content. I’ll usually start planning what to pack for a trip the moment that it’s booked and sometimes even before. However, I know that most other (perhaps normal) people don’t share this passion for packing that I possess.

Although I agree that you can almost always pack for a two or three week trip the night before, there’s no way around the fact that packing for a move abroad must be done thoughtfully and ahead of time.

When I first began drafting this post, I realized that I could probably ramble on for pages—but I’d rather not. Just like packing, remaining concise is key.

Packing for a move— whether it’s temporary or permanent— is much different than packing for a trip. You’re not just visiting for a brief stint, but you’re planning to make someplace your home for a period of time that outlasts your travel-sized bottles of shampoo and toothpaste.

Therefore, I’m breaking this subject into several stages that I’ll post over the next few days. This allows me to still provide all the information that I’ve learned from my experiences, but it also allows you to pick and choose what you want to read.

For this topic, I offer the following:

• How to Prepare

• How to Pack

• Resources that I found helpful for more reading.

For those looking for information on how to pack for a trip and not necessarily a move, don’t worry. I think this should still be helpful and I’ll also provide links that I’ve used in the past for reference. How I packed for my move to France derives from my own lessons and readings from packing for various travel destinations.