Meeting people in a foreign country

Shopping on Champs-Elysees with Jayne, Pau-Lynn, and Christie

The #1 thing I worried about regarding my move to Paris was: how do I meet people in a place where I don’t really know anyone?

It’s been extremely eye-opening to meet people who have moved to Paris from all over the world. There is an instant bond over the love for this city and over our unique journeys that landed us here. Even my outlook on life is slowly evolving as I’m exposed to different people, different cultures, and different places. Per my favorite commencement speech ‘This is Water’ by David Foster Wallace, I’m learning to “reset my default settings” to become “well adjusted”.

I’m still getting the hang of it, but here are a few things I’ve tried so far.

  1. Reach out to your network
    People will naturally offer, but don’t be afraid to ask, “Hey world! I’m moving to France. Anyone know people I could meet up with?” Some of the best connections I’ve had have been through friends of friends of friends. I even found out I had two second-cousins from Tahiti studying in Paris. Whoa.
  2. Join established groups
    There are a TON of resources available if you put your research hat on. American Expats in France, UC Berkeley alumni, groups for every interest imaginable (eg. yoga and museum lovers?), tech conferences, and the list goes on. As I become more comfortable with French, I’ll start attending ones en français too.
  3. Accept ALL social invitations. All of them.
    Even though I lean introverted, I’ve been pushing myself to go out even if all I really want to do is find a cozy cafe to read in. If someone needs help practicing their English, wants a boba buddy, etc… I am SO there.
  4. Be open (yet safe)
    A random (nice-looking) person says “salut!” to you in a cafe or in your neighborhood? See it as an invitation to start a conversation. A girl messaged me, “We have the same last name!!” and I replied, “So… that means you can show me where the good asian food is, yeah?” Now I have a favorite udon shop and a new friend named Pau-Lynn 🙂 I’ve also met up with people I talked to on the Twittersphere or other social media networks.
  5. Don’t forget to pay it forward 
    I’ll never ever ever forget the people who went out of their way to make me feel at home in a new place. No matter how busy the city, the process of building your new life from the ground up can be daunting and extremely lonely at times.When you can, be that person for someone. It may just be coffee for you, but it will mean the world to them.

    In going through this transition again, I’m reminded of the warm welcomes I had in Seattle and want to express my thank yous:

    Joyo: I spent my very first day in Seattle with you. We did the ridiculous Ride the Ducks, pinky-ed up for high tea, and became instant buddies. I remember coming home that day feeling so happy to have found such a sweet, artistic, and thoughtful friend.
    Kaitlyn: You saved me from living in Bellevue 🙂 and convinced me to move to Cap Hill. It was so comforting knowing we lived just a few floors apart in case we ever needed each other. I loved our Bachelor/ette nights at The Heights. Every time I watch Ben (aka Tyler)’s season, I think of you and Olive.
    Bayo (of the Bayolissa): eeeeeek you’re the best. You welcomed me with open arms (literally) on my first day of Microsoft, gave me Vitamin D pills apologizing on behalf of Seattle for the lack of California sunshine, and taught me how to take the Connector bus. Whenever I had a rough day at work, I always went to your (or our) office and you helped me through things.

    Of course there are so many others in Seattle whom I love dearly(!), but these were the people who were there at the start. I’ll remember my first weeks with them for the rest of my life, as I will with those I meet here as I start my life in Paris.

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