Parisian Living

Living vs. Making a Life: An American in Paris

by Erin Dahl

A woman living in Paris and laughing, while standing on her balcony looking out onto a leafy square.

As part of a volunteer program at a former corporate job, I was asked to share a story about a personal decision – big or small – that had changed my life in some way. The audience was a group of inner-city high school students and I tried to find something relatable, eventually going with deciding to take French as a foreign language in 7th grade.

A man at a table and a woman walking passed the doorway in a beautiful Parisian apartment with parquet floors and a marble fireplace.

At the time, the choice was an easy one and my 13-year-old thought process simple: “Latin’s dead; I don’t like the way German sounds; all the boys are taking Spanish; if you take French you can go to Paris in high school.” I didn’t realize then, but choosing that language would shift the course of my personal and professional life indelibly.

A young red-haired woman with a jacked slung over her right shoulder who loves living in Paris.

French, France, and Paris were always interests. Like any good Francophile, I listened to yé-yé and read Balzac for fun. “But this is strictly personal,” I thought. “Certainly not something that could lead to the kind of career I want.”

Living in Paris is about enjoying the quaint bistros in each neighborhood.Living in Paris is about knowing how to get around like a local, which means on a scooter bike, like this young red-haired woman carrying a helmet.

After landing an out-of-college job at a major PR firm in New York, I was certain I was on the #girlboss path I’d long dreamed of. Except something was off. It took over a year to figure out what that was, but after freelancing for HiP Paris and being offered a job with Haven In, it was obvious: I missed Paris and wanted it to be more than a part-time area of interest.

A young man and woman living in Paris and talking in their apartment which has wooden floors and a window that opens onto a balcony.

I had the great fortune of spending some time in Paris for work over the years that followed. And on one of those trips, I met a Frenchman (and thus became one of the loveliest clichés). Fast-forward several years and a career change later: I now live in Paris full-time, which is something of a feat. The visa woes are real and the French administration is maddening, to say the least. And like everywhere, there’s a genuine difference between visiting a place and making it home. People are more laid back, but service suffers as a result. Life is slower. It’s nice most of the time, but it also means everyday tasks take twice as long. Who knew receiving and sending packages could be so complex in 2018…

A young man and woman living in Paris and sat in a typical Paris bistro with wood interiors.

But one of the greatest feats of all has to be creating Content Coopérative, the communications agency I co-founded with the boyfriend-turned-business partner. Being an entrepreneur anywhere is trying. Doing so in France is even tougher. And doing it full-time from home with your significant other… Well, let’s just say we’re both pleasantly surprised this thing is working. But it’s more than that… The business is inherently French and American; our work straddles both of my homes and all of my interests. It feels like a professional representation of this new Franco-American identity I love assuming.

A young expat woman who loves living in Paris and stands in front of a blue door.

Related Links

  • Another expat recounts her experience learning the art of la bise.
  • Traveling with a baby? Read about one mom’s adventures with a baby in Paris.
  • For the trials and tribulations of moving to France, head to The Local.

Written by Erin Dahl for HiP Paris. All photographs courtesy of Scott Lowden. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, Tuscany, Umbria or Liguria? Check out Haven In.

A young woman who lives in Paris and is having coffee at the counter of a typical bistro.

Written By

Erin Dahl

Erin's had a whimsical affair with Paris since her first trip as a wide-eyed teenager. She finally made the big move and is former Editor for HiP Paris as well as Co-founder of Content Coopérative, Paris's first English-native content agency. View Erin Dahl's Website
Photos By

Scott Lowden

Scott is a compulsive photographer who carries his camera everywhere. An avid team player, he consults both sides of his brain to bring concepts to life. He’s an award winning photographer with over 20 years in the business shooting for some of the biggest brands including Bose, Kodak, Coca-Cola, Delta, and AFLAC, just to name a few. He spent the first chapter of his career specializing in still life, a few years directing for TV and creating some festival worthy short films, and has been combining all the varied experience to concentrate on lifestyle photography for the past 15 years or so. Shooting worldwide, he currently calls Atlanta home with his wife Wendy and Sophie the dog. View Scott Lowden's Website

2 comments on “Living vs. Making a Life: An American in Paris

Hats off to Erin who realized her dream!!
I have huge respects to anyone who does not give up and go straight forward to make their dream come true!!

Peppermint Dolly

Such a brave move!

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