In 2013 when I packed up my apartment and put my life into storage I had every intention of not coming back the same person. I barely traveled and worked a corporate job. I was ready for adventure and change. I had no idea how much life would change with one big decision. I returned to the States and I am not the same person that left. If I am completely honest I grew out of a few friendships after my time abroad. Things change and so do people. I have been thinking about this post a lot and if you have ever lived abroad you might be able to relate. If you have any to add please feel free to comment below. I would love to know more about you!
1. I stopped watching TV. You may know the only shows I have watched really since 2013 is “Gilmore Girls” and “This is Us” The best people watching is at a café in Paris. I could spend hours watching and observing from style to behavior. I never had the desire to run back and watch TV. After returning to the States I kept busy and I rarely turn it on. I am actually thinking about replacing my TV with this mirror from Anthropologie. It will get much more use than my dust collecting TV. If you are wondering just how old my TV is I believe I purchased it in 2006? It surprisingly still works.
2. I eat full-fat foods. I used to be a skim/fat-free kind of girl but after living in France those things are hard to find. When you look at the French girls are all eating full-fat yogurt and drinking coffee with regular milk and well we all know “French Women Don’t Get Fat”. So I switched and I can’t imagine drinking skim milk again. It tastes funny! I have had to special request full-fat milk when ordering coffee these days because it isn’t something that is always put out which is so odd to me. I also make my own yogurt. It is easier than you think and just takes a little prep work and this machine.
3. Less is More. I truly believe in the “Fewer Better” idea. One classic bag, a great pair of shoes, and the perfect red lipstick. I used to have a closet full of bags and shoes and would only wear my favorites over and over. It works out better if I buy one good quality item instead of 10 poorly made.
4. My Skincare got a makeover. I was never one that wore a full face of makeup but living in France made it easy to work the natural look. Instead of focusing on what was in my makeup bag my skin care became more of a priority. I am a skincare junkie if you didn’t know.
5. I carry cash. If you take a look at your wallet chances are you are low on cash. I used to charge everything from a quick coffee to a pack of gum. Who carries cash these days? In Paris you can’t buy a baguette with apple pay or a cup of coffee so carrying cash is essential. This also helps me budget a lot better. If I know how much I take out of the ATM and see how quickly it goes it puts things in perspective. I like to give myself a daily budget of cash when I am traveling and try not to use my card because of the extra transaction fee.
6. I notice the little things. Life moves a lot slower in France. Ask anyone that has sat at a café the service is slow amongst many other things. When things don’t move as quickly as they do back home you learn to notice the little things. My favorite days were the ones where I got lost and discovered a new street or completely new arrondissement. This is how I find my favorite photographs for the Print Shop too.
7. I used to hate Sundays when I worked the corporate world. I had to grocery shop and do laundry because I knew Monday was going to be a long one. In Paris, most grocery stores are closed on Sundays. The Bastille market became a tradition for me. With or without friends I love walking the market and picking up what I need. I came up with a whole Sunday routine I enjoy and have actually started looking forward to them. Keep in mind I don’t live the corporate life anymore and Mondays are my busy shipping days. There is always a trade-off.
8. I am not a huge drinker. I currently have a bar cart with unopened liquor! In France, it was easy to order a glass of wine even with Lunch to compliment my meal. This is something I brought home with me and when I cook at home I love to pour a glass of white wine. I really wish wine was cheaper than water back in the States when dining out. It is easy to find a glass for $15 while in France you can find a decent glass for 5 euros.
9. I wish I was fluent in French but I am not…yet! (update, I am working on it) When I am in France my mind switches back from French to English as I absorb as much as possible. There are some words that I completely blank on what they are in English or vice versa. Does this happen to anyone else?
10. I probably walk more than the average person. I have no problem walking to the grocery or if it is a little extra exercise to walk instead of taking a car even on the coldest days. In France, it is normal to walk a lot and an apartment on the fifth floor with no lift is just part of life. I always find it amusing how far you actually walk underneath the metro. If you transfer at a big station like Chatelet you may have to walk pretty far from one line to next. These are my favorite walking shoes for Paris that are a game changer.
11. French Butter. Yes, it needs its own number. If you have ever had it you will know what I am talking about. It is a serious thing for me. I wish we had better options here in the US. I was at the store with my Mom a few years back and I saw European butter and I flipped out and started filling my cart. My mom asked me “What’s wrong with Landolakes?” Last year my family came to Paris to visit so I bought some French butter and a few baguettes. We finished an entire butter in a matter of days. They were only staying another day but I was asked to go get more butter to fill their bellies for one last day. (future post idea my favorite french butter)
12. On the topic of food, let’s talk about French cheese. I grew up on Kraft Mac and Cheese. Don’t get me wrong for a good portion of my life I thought this was pretty fabulous. After moving to France cheese became a big part of my life. There is an actual cheese course. Sign me up! I can easily make a party out of wine and cheese and I am always trying to make the perfect cheese plate.. If you have ever been to a fromagerie you will know there are hundreds of cheeses to try. I won’t ever tackle them all but I can at least try, right? Oh in case you are wondering the stinkier the better! I always have a comte in the house.
13. My style has changed. The first time I lived abroad in Italy I am pretty sure I left half of my wardrobe back in Florence and traded it for European style. It happened to all of us! I wish Instagram was around back then because the photos would have been amazing! I love my Lululemon don’t get me wrong. I wear it everyday to workout. But if I am not working out I will put a dress on in the Summer or a sweater and jeans in the Winter. I would say I am in between the stylish French and the American athleisure trend.
14. I grocery shop almost daily. I am single so it might be easier to meal plan than having a family. My schedule changes daily and I can be out with friends one night and eat at home the next. Since I work from home when I am not traveling I cook a lot. I don’t plan out what I eat so far in advance I am at the grocery the day of thinking what I will have for dinner. My food is fresh and my fridge is rarely stocked. I know the staff at the grocery store and in the Summer I am a regular at the market near my house. I don’t own a microwave and I rarely use the freezer. This is very different from the way I was raised buying a week or month in advance.
15. Don’t take travel for granted. When you live abroad you know how easy it is to book a last minute trip to a different country or city. The same time it takes for me to go from Chicago to Florida to visit my family is the same time you can get to London from Paris via the Chunnel. Train travel is SO easy in Europe and even on a very limited budget, you can explore a whole different culture.
Bonus: Patience is so important. In the US we are so used to getting things done quickly and efficiently. This is not the way things always run in Europe. Even going out to eat can be a lengthy slow process. The first time I dined out solo in Paris, the waitress told me to slow down. Before giving me the bill she put a stack of magazines on my table to read. Life shouldn’t be rushed it should be enjoyed. If that is one take away from living abroad over all the others it is a good one. I can always be reminded of this one.
This post does include affiliate links which helps contribute to my coffee and croissant research. Merci!