I had the opportunity to interview Mathilde, a French expat from Paris, who left France together with her husband under one condition: It had to be a place very far away. They decided to move to Boston, Massachusetts.
Why did you decide to move to America and what do you do?
My husband was looking for a job abroad, and I was okay to leave my life in Paris only if we moved very far away (I didn’t want just to go to Germany or England, though I really like these countries too).
Was it difficult to land your first job here and do you have any tips for other expats who are job hunting?
I first started to volunteer in an association, and I highly recommended it to people who moved abroad: it’s a great way to start doing things, and meet people.
Then, when I eventually got my authorization of work, I sent my resume to companies I was interested in. It worked well pretty quickly for me. I had a few interviews and started to work in August. I’m not working there anymore, but I’m glad to have experienced a job in an American company.
How did you get your visa?
My husband got a J1 visa, as a researcher, and I got a J2, as a “dependent” of the J1, which allows me to apply for an EAD (authorization of work).
What was the most difficult part of your immigration?
Getting used to a new administrative system was the most difficult part of my immigration. I didn’t find it difficult to immigrate or to get used to a new culture, till I had to fill out my tax return! Generally speaking, filling out all the paperwork is a real chore: finding a health plan, knowing what to do for a retirement plan, taxes, driving license…
What do you enjoy most about living in America, especially Boston?
I like discovering new things, making new friends, seeing new regions… It’s maybe not specific to the US though. Boston is a great city to live in. The food scene is awesome, I can easily do a lot of yoga (it’s way cheaper than in Paris) and running is a new part of my routine – everybody is running in Boston, so why not me too? I enjoy New England too: this region is simply great, and we can take a car and go for a weekend in the country, mountains or close to the ocean very easily.
Is there anything that you miss from home other than family?
I’m not a nostalgic person in general, I would really have to think about it to find something I’m missing. Good bread? Nights out with my friends in Paris?
What techniques worked best for you to learn English?
Talking, talking, talking! When I first got to the US, my level of English was ok, but I definitely needed to improve pronunciation so people could understand me. I worked on that with a conversation partner: she wanted to learn some French, and I wanted to improve my English, we shared one hour of conversation in both languages. I also carry a notebook where I write all the new words or phrases. I read only in English, watch a lot of movies and shows.
Have you found a good source to buy French food in America?
There’s an awesome deli in Boston called “Formaggio Kitchen” where I can find European products. But it’s really expensive, and anyway, I’m not looking for any French food. Maybe just one thing: “cornichons”, or small pickles unsweetened. I found them on any Shaws, so it’s no big deal.
What are the biggest differences between every day life in France and America?
Everything is so different. My life has completely changed.
You just returned from a 15 day trip to the West Coast. What places would you revisit in a heart beat?
Montana was a really great experience. Give me one entire week in Glacier National Park or in Grand Canyon and I’ll leave right away!
You’re an active blogger and you write your articles in both French and English. What made you start a blog?
I was afraid of doing nothing in my first weeks in the US, I thought that writing a blog would be a cool way to talk about our experiences and travels. I started writing it in English as my new American friends were interested in, but I’m not keeping it up to date.
What are your Top 3 Tips for future immigrants? Anything in particular for other French?
Ouh lalala, too much pressure! It depends on people, some like to organize everything or not…
I would just say, don’t come with a tourist visa hoping to find a job. Don’t think that leaving abroad is not for you cause you have kids/you’re too old/have a job which wouldn’t fit.