As an expat, there are a few questions I get a lot:
Don’t you miss home?
So you must speak French, right?
How could you leave New York?
Do you get back to see your family much?
Do you think you’ll ever move back?
My favorite, though, actually isn’t a question… and it has nothing to do with me being an expat, not really. Instead, especially as a tour guide, I encounter people who don’t expect me to be an expat, or even American at all. And so when I open my mouth, I get this one:
Wow, your English is great!
My favorite answer has long been a big smile and, “Thanks, I’ve been practicing for 30 years!”
But here’s the thing. It can get kind of old.
I don’t doubt that people who comment on my accent – whether it’s in English or in French – mean well. It’s just that after over ten years here, I’ve started having the same conversations over and over and over… and sometimes, I just don’t feel like it. Sometimes I just want people to ignore the fact that I speak English, and I speak French, and I don’t really have much of an accent in either. I don’t want to feel like a circus act; I just want to feel like a person.
Luckily, when I’ve had it up to here with people calling me out on my accent, there’s a place I can go: O’Coffeeshop.
At O’Coffeeshop, the baristas are Australian, and no one cares if you answer in English, French, or both – no matter your accent. Its location in the 15th makes it more of a neighborhood joint, which is just fine by me: it’s halfway between home and the library and very, very close to my gym, and I rarely if ever have to fight for a spot in front of the giant windows overlooking rue Lourmel.
Also, they make a mean cup of coffee.
There’s something strange about how quickly, upon moving to a foreign country, you start to feel at home, not just with people from your state, like I did at boarding school in Massachusetts, when Yankees fans were pitted against Sox fans, or with people from your country, like I did at college in Toronto, where Americans were “other,” but with people who speak your language. In France, suddenly, Canadians, Australians, Brits… they all offer a piece of something familiar – a piece of home, even if it’s not technically mine. Here, we’re all united by our otherness, and some days, no matter how much I love France, that’s exactly what I need.
O’Coffeeshop – 23 Rue de Lourmel, 75015