I have been interviewing a few French expatriates, to tell us more about their experience and why they moved to the US. Charlotte translated her answers in English to allow everybody to read about her experience and her life in Berkeley California. Her blog is Beyond The Bridge and here are her answers to all of my questions!
- Where are you from? I’m from Colombes, a little town near Paris in France.
- Where do you live now? I live with my family in Berkeley, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Between hills and Pacific Ocean, with a view on the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Where else did you live in the US? This is my first experience of living in another country. I’ve worked abroad, traveled a lot but this is all new for me!
- Which visa do you have and how long does it last? We have a E2 Visa which is for the entrepreneurs who launch a business here. My husband develops his start-up here so he had this great 5 years visa. It allows me to work, which was a condition for me.
- When did you move to the US? We’ve been living in California since July 2015.
- Why did you move to the US? My husband’s job!
- When did you plan on going back to France? Nothing planned! It will depends on how one feels and business, desires…
- What are your projects for when your visa ends? It remains 3,5 years on the visa so we mainly have projects for before its ending! But one of the thing we know: we don’t want to come back in Paris. We want explore, elsewhere… Bordeaux for example 😉
- What did you do before moving to the US? I was a journalist: for french TV and for children printed press. I also was a student (I had resumed psychology studies).
- Is it the first time that you live abroad? Yes! In the past, I worked abroad for TV reports but after a few days of shooting I went back home!
- What are you doing now in the US? I’m a freelance journalist! I work for French medias (TV or press magazine), I have books projects and I launched a site of chronicles related to the expatriation last year: http://www.beyondthebridge.fr/. The idea is to share my experience, give practical advice and embody my new life with curiosity, sincerity and sometimes humor! Expatriation allows me to give more time to writing.
- What are the biggest difficulties that you met when you arrived in the US?
1. Local schedules in the evening: dinner very early, around 5:30 pm-6pm (instead of our snack !) and sleeping at 10pm … I still have not managed to adopt this rhythm!
2. Administrative: forms to fill in to get anything, records to meet doctors’ assistants when you are sick or the many papers to give for a job in an American company… All the paperwork that is more complex in another language.
3. Communication which goes with a cultural shock. We imagine to be a boss in English because we watch television series in Original Version or because we’ve had 15 years of English classes in our life but it is much more subtle. The “Small talks” for example, small simple conversations on subjects like the weather are here primordial … I took time to integrate them.
- What are, for you, the 3 advantages of living in the US?
1. The positive attitude. In the so Californian “sky is the limit” or “make the world a better place” spirit. Here, everybody can be who he wants to be.
2. Space. We’re lucky to live in a very rich natural environment, vast but so close. And of course, everything goes with it: walks, sports facilities, buildings, parkings etc. We often go out and get a strong sense of freedom.
3. The open-minded way of thinking in Berkeley: openness to different cultures and their integration. Berkeley is a city with many religions, communities and customs co-existing well.
- What are, for you, the 3 disadvantages of living in the US?
1. The current political context… I am even not American how stat calm with Trump in power ? Its values are very far from those I have and its decisions affect many friends we have here. Many think Trump = the United States but this is far from the truth.
2. The distance. We are 9 hours away from France on the West Coast, 11 hours flying and it’s a long way. Too far. We’d like everybody to come and go whenever we want…
3. Life cost… I’ve the feeling that everything is expensive. And this is a reality especially in the San Francisco Bay Area which is a corner of the USA’s highest in terms of rent at this time. Recent studies have also passed the city ahead of NYC in terms of cost of living.
- What are 3 things you missed the most from France?
1. Family reunions around a good dinner
2. All the little moments of life shared with our friends
3. Walking hours in Paris
- What are 3 things that you’re going to miss the most the day you will go back to France?
1. Definitely, the positive attitude.
2 Long times watching the Golden Gate Bridge, facing the Baie of San Francisco.
3. The intense and spectacular lights, from the misty tones of summer to the bright sun of autumn.
- Why did you decide to move to Berkeley? Actually, we did not really choose … My husband wanted to launch his start-up in San Francisco because of a few pro relationships, then the rest is random! We found a bilingual school that we liked in Berkeley and that’s it. We knew nothing about the city except the reputation of its university. But the hazard does things well, it has been completely adopted!
- Which city or state would you like to live and why? NYC, in a childless mode to enjoy the electrical and magnetic richness of what this city offers. But hey, we have two little kids, so California is a great anchor! I must admit that few cities attracted me… I am more open today and in the same state, Oakland, Portland, why not! I need openness and diversity. In Berkeley, I feel that we are in the right place!
Now we know a little bit more about yourself, tell us more about Berkeley for those who would like to go there.
- Berkeley in 3 words: Luminous (Bright), amazing and tolerant
- What is positive about living in Berkeley?
1. An ideal location: 20 minutes from San Francisco but in the heart of the Bay and in the wild!
2. An important cultural offer (concerts, cinemas, theaters, performances, conferences, exhibitions …)
3. Diversity & different cultures that flourish in the history of a protesting and free city.
- What is negative about living in Berkeley?
1. You need a car to go easily from a point to another. There are public transports and many bike paths, but the city is big and hilly, so the car is necessary
2. The restaurants close too early. Berkeley is a student city with a huge university but even though, if you’re on the streets at 9 :30 pm, it could be difficult to find a place to eat!
3. The estate market for renting an house is too high and tensed.
- How is the weather in Berkeley? Very temperate all year with no extreme variations. I have a friend who says that there is always a time of day when it is 16 degrees and it is not wrong! Overall, it’s very sunny and nice with a sea breeze. After 4 years of drought, California had heavy rains last year with El Nino. The Bay of San Francisco has many micro-climates but in winter temperatures drop to 10 degrees and in the summer they can rise above 25. We appreciate the quality of the air and this mild climate.
- What is the average price of housing in Berkeley? Too high ! I have even written an article on the blog. For our family, with three bedrooms, in Berkeley, it was a minimum of 4,500 dollars … And we found nothing!
- What culinary specialty is from Berkeley or California? The local cuisine draws much from all over the world. California offers a very interesting fusion of Asian and Mexican food. A lot of mixs, sweet / salty, vegan, a lot of vegetables (here we eat rather good because we find many quality products) and specialties of the sea (crab, oysters …).
- What places should we visit while visiting Berkeley or around?
- The golden Gate bridge, a must. Majestic, impressive in the heart of a superb nature. Pass it and make the road that overlooks it for a breathtaking view or go on a beach like Baker Beach that ends on a unique view on the bridge.
- Alcatraz because you will take the boat in the Bay between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge to reach the island, because it is an exciting visit and because it is that part of the history of the country.
- The Filbert Steps, a hillside staircase that, just minutes from the center of San Francisco and Union Square, allows you to discover small houses overlooking the Bay, see parrots, taste the tranquility of the city and which lead to the Coit Tower, a monument that overlooks the entire city.
- What are your 3 favorite restaurants/bars in Berkeley or around?
The local foodie scene is really exciting… I choose:
1. Commis in Oakland, one of the best culinary experiences of my life! Big budget but new audacious gastronomy, with balanced proportions and explosions in the mouth. Small room.
2. In Berkeley, chez Pannisse. It’s an institution set up by Alice Waters, defender of the slow food movement. Californian cuisine with European touches and very local products.
3. When I want a little dish cooked like home with a brasserie atmosphere, I go to Café Bastille, in San Francisco and I order a “hachis Parmentier” as my Grandma would have prepared it. So comforting.
- Did you easily integrate yourself in Berkeley? Yes ! Our neighbors first welcomed us with smiles and warmth. We were invited by the street network that gradually expanded to my husband’s American colleagues and to the parents of our children’s bilingual school! Many buddies spent time to share their addresses, their good tips, their experiences, valuable assets when we arrived. It was a bit of a honeymoon!
- Are there a lot of French people in Berkeley? Yes … The San Francisco Bay would have a community of 70,000 French… Berkeley is a small town but we can hear French speaking very often, while shopping, in the park or in the streets. Not to mention that the people here are very francophiles.