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 deciding who to interview this month for our expat life series, I instantly thought of a couple with a very interesting story. Lindsey Kent, a photographer and owner of Pictours Paris, and her husband Justin Kent, a chef, are two Americans who made the move from Denver to Paris in September 2011. While the move was initially temporary (1 year), the couple has found a great deal of enjoyment (and dare I say, success) while building their respective businesses in the City of Light. Both Lindsey and Justin are charming, thoughtful, hardworking, and cholk full of ideas. Here’s what these two are up to in Paris:
What’s your personal story Lindsey? What made you decide to take the big leap and leave home to come to Paris?
Well, Justin’s mother is French and his two older siblings were born in Paris. Just before my husband was born, the family moved to Texas, so Justin was born and raised in the states. However, since he was young, he’d spend summers with his mom’s side of the family in northern France (Lille and Le Touquet).
Ever since we started dating, we talked a lot about his family in France and how he’d want to live here one day, at least for a short amount of time, to get closer with his family here. So, when we were engaged and planning our wedding, we decided to jump on the opportunity while we were young with no children! So, to make a long story short, we planned a big wedding as a send-off, and seven weeks later we landed in Paris!
Can you tell us a little about your business? How it was started, the direction in which you hope it will go etc.
Justin and I both have followed our passions and are enjoying the challenge of owning and growing our own businesses as well! I am the founder and photographer of Pictours™ Paris, and my husband recently founded Picnics in Paris, and also provides private dinners for couples. The story of how our businesses started began even before we arrived in Paris. In Denver, my husband (then fiance) had left his corporate desk job to pursue his love for cooking. He went to a French cooking school in Denver and then worked at our favorite little French bistro in Denver, Ze Cuisine (I think they make the world’s best French Onion Soup!).
When we decided to move to Paris, his culinary career played a large factor: How cool would it be for him to work in Paris and learn from some of the best French chefs?! Luckily, he landed his first job here working at 3 Michelin Star L’Arpege. His dreams were off and rolling right away!! Two years later, he’s gained killer skills while working in three different amazing kitchens (L’Arpege, Agape Substance and Verjus), and has now launched his own private chef business, Picnics in Paris.
For me, my work situation in Paris was a little unclear at first. Having worked in PR & business development for 8+ years in Denver, I knew I wanted to do something different when I moved across the world. But what I wanted to do exactly, I didn’t know. When we first moved here, I worked part time teaching English to advertising executives, and spent the rest of my time taking French lessons and exploring Paris with my Nikon in-hand. Photography was a creative outlet for me, and it wasn’t until we had some friends visit on their honeymoon that the idea for Pictours Paris was born. I toured with them around the city and took portraits of them all week long. At lunch one day, they mentioned how nice it was to have had me around taking photos of them, because most of the time when they traveled, there was always one of them behind the camera, and one in front. That day was when the light-bulb went off in my head, and I had a feeling more couples visiting Paris may be interested in having nice portraits at some of the most iconic Paris monuments.
It’s been an amazing adventure, and now I’m touring couples and families around the city for Pictours Paris photo sessions just about every day! Ideally, I’d like to expand Pictours into other popular tourist destinations, but for now I’m happy and busy in beautiful Paris!
Picnics in Paris grew as an extension of Pictours Paris last summer. Justin was working at Verjus but had weekends off, so just as an experiment, I mentioned to my weekend clients that my hubby was a chef and could put together a romantic and gourmet picnic dinner if they were interested. My clients loved the idea and it gained so much popularity that we decided Justin could focus on building the idea even further, so he left the restaurant world to build Picnics in Paris and gear up for a busy season next Spring, Summer and Fall! We love that we’re able to collaborate and blend our two passions into one with Pictours and Picnics!!
Did you have to learn French? How did you go about learning it and do you think it’s useful for living in Paris?
Oh la la….Perfecting the French language is a constant work in progress, for sure. I’d have to say that I’m lucky to be living in Paris and doing work all in English! However, I do think that fact has also inhibited me from progressing more with my French learning. I can understand 75% of conversations, and am good enough to get by with no problem. Justin, having grown up with a French family on his mom’s side, is conversationally fluent and the French think he’s so charming with his American accent!
What has been the most shocking thing you learned about the local culture?
Where to start?! So many things have been a culture shock moving from the States to France: Nothing’s open on Sundays; the administrative paperwork is never quite finished; the sun rarely shines between October and April; and the French (for the most part) really do love us Americans!
What is your number one tip about how to live life as an ex-pat?
Don’t be shy! It takes a lot of courage to live in a foreign country with a foreign language. My life as an expat has become much more enjoyable once I got over the fear of speaking to people – French people – in French. Make mistakes, ask questions, laugh at yourself, and don’t be afraid to mess up, because we all do!
What do you love most about living abroad?
We love that we’re creating the careers and lifestyle we’ve always dreamed of! And in Paris!
What advice do you have for people who are considering photography or cooking as a career?
Go for it! We are both huge advocates for following your dreams and trying to do what you love as a career. But it’s a ton (A TON!) of hard work, but don’t let yourself get caught up in the work part of it. Make time to continue being creative and keep that passion for what you love alive.