An American in Paris

What it’s really like to move to the City of Lights.

In late 2017, Mulu Araya left the sunny shores of California to start a new life in Paris, France. She partnered with Hanami International to find a role that would suit her background as an Audit/CPA professional, and a year on, Hanami caught up with her to get her advice on moving countries, learning new languages, and eating cheese!

Hanami International – What attracted you to Paris?

Mulu Araya – Well for me, it’s a combination of things. So first I have always been international. I was born in Ethiopia and moved to the US when I was young, so I’ve always had this desire to work internationally. It has just always been in the back of my mind. And then I met my husband, who is French and American. He also had the same desire to work abroad, and as he was born in France, he thought it would be a great place to start. I always wanted to learn French and in the end it all worked out!

HI – Amazing! You moved over from California, landed in Paris, I imagine it was a big culture shock. What did you notice to be the biggest cultural difference as an American in Paris?

MA – That’s a tough question because everything is different. But, I think I was mentally prepared because I knew it was going to be different. I think if I had to say one thing that I didn’t anticipate, is that to get things done in France, you go through people. Being from San Francisco, and the US in general, which is very tech orientated, you are used to doing everything online. Whereas in France, you have to have a banker to handle your banking, which is a very different experience. It has its positives, but you have to prepare your time to work around this.

HI –What about finding somewhere to live?

MA – I think all round, you have to do things in person. There are so many processes where the phones aren’t answered so you have to go into an office or see a realtor, so I think those processes move a little bit slower. I had to adjust myself to move at the same pace of Paris; long lunches and coffee breaks for example! It’s nice and there are a lot of positives; change certainly isn’t a bad thing.

HI – That leads really nicely to what I was going to ask, what have you found the real benefits to life in France to be? What have you noticed that is a positive change from your old life?

MA –Being able to learn and understand the culture. I think you can hear a million things about a country or a city like Paris, but working and experiencing it, is very different and an exciting way to learn and develop yourself. You have to adapt to a specific culture because your way of thinking and approach to situations or problems have to be different. To me, that’s a really big positive. I’m learning through new experiences, like learning the language through everyday interactions. It really opens your mind and broadens your perspective. The daily fresh smell of baguettes through my window is also a perk!

HI –I think that would be my best bit as well, the wine and the bread! You don’t need anything else do you?

MA – And the cheese, oh my God… It’s dangerous living here!

HI – Dangerous to the waistline! You know these two-hour lunch breaks, is everyone just in the gym all the time or something?

MA – No, people really do the sit down for lunch and get the salad, the main meal and then the cheese: it is very nice! I’m used to working in the US, where in audit you grab your lunch and sit at your computer whilst you work away. It’s really refreshing here, for sure.

HI – That sounds like a really nice change. Any advice for future candidates of Hanami considering going to Paris but don’t have those advanced French language skills yet? Is there anything that would be useful for them to know?

MA – Honestly, enroll in classes. I know it’s probably the most obvious answer but take courses consistently and don’t give up. The language is the most important part of feeling integrated. Keep at it and eventually, it will happen. Being in a class where you are learning and then applying it in your life immediately after, that will really motivate and propel you. I came here with no French at all, so I was just getting settled in and I started taking classes to get exposed to a lot of French as soon as possible. It’s also a great way to meet new friends

HI – Any final thoughts, experience or advice to any future international mover?

MA – Definitely use Hanami! I’m not just saying this, but every auditor I speak to I’m like ‘are you looking for a job abroad? Because Hanami work internationally’. You did a really good job, I was reluctant to start looking for a job because sometimes you can look in the wrong places and get discouraged. When I came into the market where I didn’t have the knowledge, you made it so, so easy for me, and you guys are really great at what you do.

HI – That’s very sweet!

MA – Also, I’d tell anyone ‘don’t isolate yourself’ and really make an effort to embrace all your new city has to offer!

For information about opportunities in Paris, speak to either Matthew Harrison (Commerce and Industry) or Adam Nelson and Andrew Bell (Professional Services) on +442070487880