Bryan “Where is Bryan” Pirolli is one of the people you bump into in Paris anytime you’re up to something fun, and then he makes it even more fun. He’s also an incredibly motivated student, teacher, a terrific chef and an expat success story whose life in Paris has evolved around his passion for writing and travel. Another entry into our Expat Life series gives you a glimpse into the life of Bryan and his Paris adventures.
1) How long have you lived in Paris and what brought you here?
I’ve been here for over five years now. I came right after my undergraduate education to work at a study abroad program. I stayed to do my masters and now my doctorate in communications at the Sorbonne.
2) you speak French, how has your fluency progressed over the years and enriched your experience as an expat?
I do indeed speak – and teach at the Sorbonne – in French. Living in the local language as opposed to living a mainly English-speaking life has let me feel like I actually live here. I worked for a year in a pizzeria taking orders on the phone and in person, which really helped improve my ear and tongue, especially with numbers. It’s amazing how joking with a stranger in the street or understanding the double entendre between two Parisians can feel like a huge accomplishment.
3) What is a day in the life of Bryan like?
It usually starts with waking up, and it doesn’t get much more interesting afterwards. I’ll usually go for a run along the Canal. If I’m not teaching or giving a tour that day, I’ll be writing an article or hammering away at my thesis at home. I like to cook lunch and maybe watch an episode of some classic 90s sitcom (working on The Nanny currently). Then after a bit more work, I’ll grab an afternoon coffee to round out the work day, with a bit more work before preparing dinner. If all goes well, I’ll bike over to the Marais for some gelato at Pozetto or a drink with friends somewhere nearby. I wish there were more croissants and trips to the museum to discuss, but alas…
4) Tell me a little about your job, interests, and your neighborhood…
My job is to be a travel specialist, we could say (I think…). I study travel journalism at the Sorbonne, teach it as well, do travel writing on the side and give guided tours to English-speakers. So I practice what I preach, which is a pretty lucky thing for a teacher. But while I do like to travel, I’m not jet setting all over the world. I’m content to travel as far as a different neighborhood on my bike or with my running shoes laced up on a morning run. I am a big fan of sitting, too, along the Canal Saint-Martin where I have lived since my arrival in Paris. I do maintain a blog with (maybe) weekly posts, and I have organized an annual charity event called Cupcake Camp Paris. Think of a giant bake sale with cupcakes and you pretty much get it. We’ll see if another one happens this year. I’m wrapping up my thesis over the next year so that I’ll become a doctor, at least in the eyes of the French educational system, and then I’ll work towards becoming a full-fledged professor.
5) What do you love most about living/working/studying abroad? What do you like the least?
The thing I like the most about living abroad is that even getting a baguette at the bakery still feels like something special. It may be routine, but these experiences are a far cry from what I grew up knowing, and it still excites me. The thing I like the least is that despite teaching at the Sorbonne and speaking their language, I’m a constant outsider. Once they find out I’m American, the conversation shifts, and every French person always asks me if I like Paris. If I didn’t like it, I probably wouldn’t have stayed so long, but I smile and tell them, “Of course.”
6) You always seem to make a loving effort to incorporate American tradition into your French life…what do holidays like Thanksgiving, Halloween and July Fourth mean to you now as an expat?
As an expat, these holidays are one of the things that I can maintain anywhere in the world, and oddities that I can share with local friends. We had a 4th of July picnic once, and my French friend Charlotte was absolutely in awe of grilling hotdogs and hamburgers and eating them outside with a beer. And trying to prepare a Thanksgiving feast each year is a delightful challenge that also exposes the French to the joys of pumpkin pie and stuffing. Without my family here, celebrating these holidays helps alleviate some of the homesickness that can accumulate, and having other expats to join in on the fun helps a bunch.
7) What’s your favorite spot in Paris?
I like the Canal St. Martin preferably with a cup of coffee in hand. It just never gets old to me. There is great people watching, boat watching, and animal watching. We even saw a turtle paddling on once. He was rescued.
8) You’re a tour guide, what’s one of the unexpected places you like to take your guests?
There is a historical center in the Marais with a group of older women who take care of it. They are passionate about history and are adorable enough for a visit just to chat with them. Downstairs they have an old cellar that you can visit that transports you back to the Middle Ages, and it’s pretty impressive. They are restoring the ceiling and columns so you feel like you are in a medieval construction site. It’s something different that most people wouldn’t see on their own.
9) Describe a perfect day for you in Paris
The perfect day would be one when there is nothing to do and I can picnic in the Parc Buttes Chaumont and enjoy some chilled white or rosé wine with a little cheese and charcuterie before biking back home. Of course with a thesis hanging over my head, the whole “nothing to do” part is tough to achieve, but the rest is pretty easy as long as the sun is shining.