Edna Zhou’s transferable skills in journalism and social media marketing have kept her on the move around the world. No stranger to working abroad she had already lived in China and Singapore before a combination of planning and chance landed her in Paris.
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
I’m from York, a small town in Pennsylvania.
And what did you do there, then?
Normal adolescent things. Went to school, worked at the library, watched a fair bit of television and was kind of a nerd.
Have you lived abroad before?
Yep, this is my fourth city as an expat. I’ve lived in Dalian (a city in northern China), Shanghai, Singapore, and now Paris. I’ll stay anywhere between six to eighteen months in each city.
How did you end up in Paris?
I moved here for a job; I’ve never had any romanticized dreams or plans to live in Paris. I decided last year that it might to nice to learn French, so I put my resume on some job sites focusing on Francophone countries (Belgium, France, Switzerland), and just happened to get an offer for a position in Paris.
So what’s so good about Paris?
The café culture is really nice, and I love that the French appreciate food – they really take their time to savor it and everything just tastes better here (French butter? Divine). I also love being surrounded by all these monuments and landmarks that people fly thousands of miles to visit – if I ever want to see the Eiffel Tower, I just have to walk down my street for a few minutes, and I’m directly in front of it.
And what don’t you like?
Eating out is quite expensive. From my years in Asia, I’m used to eating out being cheaper than cooking for yourself, but here it’s the opposite. I’ve had to learn how to cook for the first time; there are now a lot of frozen pizzas in my diet.
Do you feel like an insider or outsider?
Definitely an outsider, if for no other reason than the way I dress. I choose comfort over style so I almost always wear sneakers and blue jeans, and they give me away immediately.
How do you support yourself?
It changes from city to city. In Shanghai I worked in online media and for a tech-start up; in Singapore I was the digital strategist for an Asian reality television show. Here in Paris, I’m a private English tutor and freelance writer.
Any advice for wannabe Parisians?
Dress stylishly, don’t smile too much, exude confidence. Coffee after meals, apéro after work, and everything in moderation.
Is the move permanent?
Not at all. I never know where I’m going next, but things always end up falling in place. The only thing I know for certain is that at some point, I have to reunite with my fiancé (who is currently an expat in Singapore). I don’t want to do long distance forever.
Finally, tell us about something typically Paris
While some stereotypes aren’t true (ahem, beret and striped shirt), the baguette-under-the-arm is definitely something you’ll see, especially around dinnertime. So, if you’re ever lost, ask for directions from someone with a baguette. People buy them from their local boulangeries (no point carrying a baguette on your commute home when you can get one in your neighborhood), so that person likely lives close by and knows the area.
Edna is an American serial expat. She first moved abroad at 18 and left the US for good in 2010, just two weeks after graduating. She has worked in online media and tech in Shanghai and Singapore; she also freelances in international sport, which has taken her to events from Australia to London. She is currently based in Paris and writes about her travels at Expat Edna. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.
Image courtesy rs-foto