For most people, living in France does not just mean eating croissants and drinking good wine every day. This blog post is a part of our series, An Expat Life, exploring what it is like for an expat to live and work in Paris. Through these profiles of expats who have made their lives here, we will show you the different opportunities that exist in France and the (many) struggles that go along with them.
When Harriet first came to Paris in 2007 as a student at the American University, something clicked inside of her. With the pivotal encouragement from a few professors, Harriet realized that she wanted to write. It was in Paris where one of her teachers told her that, in fact she was already a writer (in the sense of this word as a verb, not a noun: she was already writing). In Paris, her life found a home. Even though she returned to her hometown, Toronto, Canada to finish school, and later went to New York for an internship at Random House, Harriet felt the tug to continue her life in Paris for a second time.
Harriet is one of those fortunate “my parents happen to be European” expats, and has avoided much of the beloved red tape some of us experience so intimately in France. Regardless of struggles to “re-establish” life, she has managed to become the creator and editor of her own magazine, Her Royal Majesty as well as finish her first book, which was recently sent to several publishing houses for review. Her novel has been five years in the making, but the idea, and some of the characters, came to her in one of the writing classes she took during her first year in Paris. “My first story was about an elderly and deranged expatriate male etymologist stalker living near Port Royal – in some ways, he’s just as autobiographical as the twenty-something female characters I write!”
Harriet’s experiences have taught her a lot about the dynamics of integrating into society. “The expatriate community, is somewhat of a double edged sword”, she explains. “The welcoming embrace of the community is something that can’t be challenged. It’s there where connections are made and new possibilities arise – friendships are formed. The downside is, in turn the deep involvement in this community can isolate you from the very thing you came to be a part of. It’s a bit of a catch 22, like many things in Paris.”
It was this very community, however, that propelled her to publish her own magazine, Her Royal Majesty. Her inspiration came during her first year in Paris, she was working at Shakespeare & Co. and was surrounded by artists from all around the world who were creating and developing things around her. She wanted to provide a venue for them to express these creations.
Harriet’s creativity and love of community continues. In every issue of her magazine, she chooses a theme to convey a certain creative flow, similar to the experience of walking through a gallery. The launch of each issue is celebrated with a party, the last of which was shared in 7 cities simultaneously! Not only is the magazine an excellent way to learn about new people and feel even further connected , it’s now a community-driven effort that creates an instant impact.
The idea of moving elsewhere is still a possibility for Harriet. Although, with the flexibility she has to invest time in writing, the various projects she has her hand in and the rich community that has blossomed around her, Paris is home for now. Her story is a lovely inspiration of how life is always waiting to be discovered and molded into something we may never have imagined it could be.