Today we meet Pamela Balagué, an American expatriate who found love in Paris and never looked back. Here she shares details of how life as an expat can encourage you to view yourself through new eyes, tells us why dogs are not a Parisian’s best friend and advises would-be expats on the need to remain Zen. Pamela also shares details of the tour guide company that she started while living in Paris and offers sound advice to would-be expats who are contemplating their own ventures.
Please tell us where you are originally from and what prompted you to move overseas?
I’m from Annapolis, Maryland, and moved to Paris, France to pursue a Master’s degree in French language and Civilization with Middlebury College. I then met my French husband and we’ve lived here for over ten years.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your life as expat?
Seeing myself and my American culture through a French lens has certainly made me explore my identity, as I think cross-cultural living does for any expat. Albeit challenging, this process towards cultural adaptation is positive. Who knew that living in a foreign culture was the best way to know thyself?
What three things do you like the most about living in Paris?
- The walkability. Every kind of shop is just a few steps or a short metro ride away! What’s more, many streets like the rue des Rosiers and the rue Montorgueil are entirely pedestrian, while parts of the Marais and the Latin Quarter are closed off to traffic on the weekends.
- The food! I’m a passionate foodie and love tasting the inventions and products of the incredible food artisans, gourmet shops, boulanger-pâtissiers, and chefs in Paris.
- The creative energy. Paris reinvents itself every few years, with designers, restaurateurs, artists, and entrepreneurs opening up new spaces and shops. Conservation efforts to protect historic storefronts have produced an interesting blend of old architecture and new activities: a restaurant with the façade of a boulangerie, a clothing store operating out of a former pharmacy, a café in a former convent, etc.
What three things do you like the least?
- Parisians who are harried and depressed (especially during the winter months).
- The hazardous dogs’ droppings left by their inconsiderate owner(s).
- The motorcycles, which create serious noise pollution.
What advice would you give to someone who was relocating to Paris for the first time?
Discover yoga or devise a strategy to stay Zen while living in a densely populated city where you may often hear your neighbors in the apartments around yours. Keep smiling, even if the people in the metro don’t smile back. Try to learn a smattering of French at the very least. Seek out fellow expats: Meetup offers tons of expat groups, and Message is great for support and connecting with English-speaking families in Paris.
While in Paris you started your own tour guide company. Please describe what you do and how it came about.
My company, WalkGeneration, offers guided gourmet walking tours in Paris, and also develops applications for iPhone, iPad, and Android smartphones. I decided to create the company after my concept of a new kind of interactive mobile travel guides won a French competition for innovative business ideas (Idénergie 2010).
Our walking tours and free app 7 La Semaine du Goût app strive to offer tourists and Parisians an opportunity to (re)discover the city through authentic encounters with the talented food artisans and shopkeepers and their savoir-faire, one taste experience after the other…
Our most recent application, Paris for Parents, is the first smartphone guide to Paris for kids ages 0-12 and offers a unique application with geolocated shops, services, activities, and play areas in Paris. The application showcases 2,616 sites and over 600 activities, and proposes 12 walk itineraries for families to (re)discover Paris together. It is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android smartphones.
For questions or comments about our tours or our apps, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
What challenges did you face when trying to get your business off the ground?
Giving a pitch in French was challenging at first, despite my work experience in a French business and French studies. However, the real challenge and fantastic learning experience has been working with my wonderful team of developers learning to debug, problem-solve, and own the technical jargon of app development for both Android and iOS…in French.
What three top tips can you offer to expatriates who wish to start their own businesses in Paris?
- Network with expatriate entrepreneur groups and you’ll meet passionate entrepreneurs who’ve done what you want to do and can offer support, advice, and opportunities.
- Get help: the CCIP (Paris Chamber of Commerce) offers seminars and resources for entrepreneurs and the APCE website offers oodles of info in French and some in English, especially their practical guide to starting a business, which has a nice cost/benefit summary of the types of legal companies you can create in France: http://www.apce.com/pid12741/practical-guide-2011.html
- If you believe in your idea, so will they.
What’s next for you?
In the immediate future, we’ll be busy promoting Paris for Parents. Then we’ll start development work on a project for the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France. Oh, and I’ll continue raising two young Franco-American kids with my husband!
Paris for parents presents 2600 geolocated sites, 600 activités and 12 walk itineraries to (re)discover Paris as a family. It can be found on itunes and is available on both iPhone and iPad at a cost of 2,69 €.
Read the full article: https://itunes.apple.com/lt/app/paris-for-parents/id557135949?mt=8