You’ll probably read quite a bit of the SSA which is the Spouse Association through David’s company. They have chapters all over the world – pretty much almost every place where the company operates. By the look of it, the one in Paris is large and quite active and being the eager, Type-A person I am, I tried to find out as much about them as soon as we knew of the transfer. They have a variety of activities including, French Beginner and Advanced conversation groups, a gourmet club, a Book club, a quilting club, a walking group, a tour group, a photography club and they host multiple events like coffee get-togethers, charity drives, and paid luncheons. Half of which I’m planning on joining!
My first SSA event was the Annual General Meeting at a Spicy Villa restaurant just off the Champs Elysees. There was about 60 ladies there for lunch and I was lucky enough to randomly sit at a table with some of the nicest and friendliest women I’ve ever met. The four of them (two Brits, a Dane and a Nigerian) were very helpful, willing to share information, advice and answer all my questions. Even though I was the youngest and don’t have children, we still had plenty to talk about. Mainly, the expat life. They all had a good chuckle when I told them I had just arrived on Monday; I sure didn’t waste any time connecting with my only source of local information and support! Between the four of them, they have lived in Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, India, Calgary, Houston, Libya, Malaysia, Denmark, Scotland, Aberdeen and I know I’m missing a few countries. Quite the variety of life experiences. One of the ladies introduced me to everyone she knew that came by the table and had some really good advice. Before I forget it all, I figured I would right it down. Here is some insight into the life that awaits me:
- You won’t save ANY money in Paris (we had already figured as much)
- Whenever you go to someone’s house for dinner, bring flowers or chocolates. Never wine. They don’t want to drink your wine, they want to drink the wine they have bought
- As soon as you move into your apartment, invite your neighbours over for an “apéritif” perhaps just some champagne and some “nibbles”. This is a customary thing to do.
- Reach out to people in the expat community and make fast friends. It will be harder because you don’t have any children but just get out of your comfort zone, be bold and call people up for a coffee
- It will be a challenge at first and you will feel alone, but remember that this whole group of ladies have gone through it before and are here for support.
- Don’t get too upset when the French turn down their noses at you because of your accent or lack of fluency – just keep trying to speak the language
- Attend the Rules of the Road course that SLB offers as well as the Tour and Speaking Groups.
- Don’t bother going to the American Hospital since the doctor’s aren’t necessarily American and the Health Care system only pays 80% for the costs.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some but those are the ones that stuck out.
After dinner, they drew for raffle prizes and being cheap, I only bought 1 tickets for 5 euros. Well, one ticket was enough because my number was called and I had the pleasure of lugging a huge basket of chocolate goodies on the Metro. It contained chocolate, chocolate, chocolate liqueur, chocolate, hot chocolate, chocolate “pills”, chocolate “lipstick” and more chocolate. I also received a welcome tote bag with some great resources and even more chocolate.
On the way out, I introduced myself to a group of 3 younger looking women (a Singaporean, an Indian, and a Filipino) and got lost with them trying to find the Metro. Paris is also just their first (or second) posting and they were all new since we each had the welcome tote. We exchanged numbers and we’ll be getting together for coffee soon!
All in all, it was a great lunch and I learned a lot. Looking forward to all the great activities I’ll get to experience and all the great women I’ll get to know.