Transatlantic Connection: Recent grad shares experience in France

So the whole thing started like this: I was sitting in Gannon University’s  International Student Office, and I was handed a brochure for a company called Intrax.

After a phone call with its representative, I was set up with interviews with several French companies via Skype. I spoke to a man who was the CEO of FenceStat/e-loue, which was a start-up tech company in the heart of Paris. This man was also an internationally renowned, Olympic-caliber fencer named Alexandre Woog.

He wanted me to help him with updating his product for English speakers, getting on fencing forums and selling the product internationally to investors in Silicon Valley. I was on board. Next thing I know, only a short few weeks after my ISO meeting, I landed in Paris.

In the beginning, the stereotype seemed to hold true as everyone was strolling with a baguette in one hand, cigarette in the other. The buildings are all majestic and seem to fit the Parisian identity perfectly. Every culture and way of life is on every street corner in much the same way as New York.

However, I noticed that a lot of preconceived notions I had evaporated within minutes. I saw more American flag T-shirts just in Porte d’Orleans (where I lived) than I have ever seen in the States! All I ever heard was how much these Frenchmen wanted to visit New York. I sat there thinking, “Dude, you live in Paris. Why would you be this adamant about going to New York?” Not only did they seem intrigued that I was American, they were fascinated.

There are too many awesome experiences to go into full detail about each. In short, sipping champagne on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower or sitting on an artificial beach with the entire skyline of Paris in plain view – these were my images of the good life. Not to mention casually taking strolls along the Seine River and huge international icons would pop up out of the periphery like the Louvre and Notre Dame. Visiting Musee d’Orsay or the Palace of Versailles were normal weekend excursions.

While working with FenceStat/e-loue, I learned the French business culture, and their social norms in a way no tourist ever can. I played street soccer with kids during my lunch breaks, while learning French slang from passersby who would ask me what America was like. “Do you like 2Pac?” was a common question, and I have found he is still very much “alive.”

The nightclubs were amazing, the people I met were motivated and successful, and the food was freaking incredible. I always thought the French kind of looked down on us, with their fancier ways and higher fashion. But what I found was that I had a lot to learn from them.

They didn’t have this snobby attitude I anticipated. Instead, they embraced American culture. Their style is something revered the world over for good reason. They have a way to party like no other, and the people are some of the best looking you’ll find anywhere.

By the end of my trip, not only did I make unforgettable American and French friends I’ll probably have the rest of my life, but I have memories and a lasting relationship with a country I initially wrote off as snobby.




[email protected]