Print Posted By Lost in France on 20 Dec 2011 in Real France - Expat Interviews

An American Magazine in Paris

Lisa moved to France to with her husband to be in 1989, they now live in the suburbs of Paris where they run a magazine.

FUSACWhat made you move to France and how long have you lived here?
I came for love in 1989 my not-yet-husband John had set up here, he was starting a business on a wing and a prayer or more literally a bicycle and friend's computer, an idea he named FUSAC (France-USA Contacts originally). I stay because Paris is where we have our livelihood. In January 2012 FUSAC is celebrating 500 issues and 25 years! There are now 3 delivery vans and half a dozen computers. I've been in Paris all of my adult life. Not quite French, but no longer really American either.

How did you decide to start FUSAC?
John had been back and forth between Paris and the US for quite a number of years. While in Paris he taught English and sought odd jobs. Finding housing was always an issue too. Back then you either posted a note with those little tear-off fringe tabs that had your phone number at the boulangerie or on the pell-mell American Church or American Center bulletin boards. He always thought there could be a better system. In 1988 he read an article about a man who created a baseball magazine using a new technology called desktop publishing. DTP allowed the every man to be able to layout pages, something that was previously cost prohibitive for a start-up because it had to be done by typesetters at print shops. The idea of improving on the cluttered bulletin boards joined the new technology and so he created FUSAC. I joined him at issue 10 in January 1989..

Which part of France do you live in?
We're in Paris and the burbs.

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips Learn French!... Close quote

What is your age?
I'm 45.

Where were you born?
I was born in Buffalo, New York.

Do you work, if so what do you do and how difficult was it to find work or start a business in France?
Think twice before starting a business. It's a real challenge. Start small. Don't grow too quickly or spontaneously. For example don't increase office space until you are absolutely on top of each other and sure that your business is moving forward to sustain paying the new rent for 3-6-9 years that you will be committed to.

The rigidity of the 3-6-9 leases in France and the French labour laws has always been hard to work with. Neither gives a small business much flexibility to change personnel or location as easily as can be needed.

Did you find it hard to integrate or adjust to your new life in France and do you have any tips to help others?
Learn FRENCH! Through FUSAC we have had years of contact with people wishing to become bilingual French-English. Becoming bilingual is a long road that requires attending classes to learn grammar, language structure and vocabulary, but even after years of classroom learning and having mastered these three pillars we are not still really bilingual.

When I first came to Paris I had 4 years of high school French and 4 in college and I felt that even though I could conjugate my verbs I couldn't have a flowing conversation. Language needs depth and color which come with idiomatic expressions. Because these expressions express what is familiar, they are central to everyday language. They are the cultural part of a language. Without knowledge of idiomatic expressions the speaker cannot become completely integrated. To help the FUSAC readers towards their bilingual goal we have published Speak Easy puzzles in each issue of the magazine. The purpose of these games is the translation and the transposition (because they don't easily translate) of idiomatic expressions between French and English. The reader chooses the French word or expression to match the English equivalent. For example in English we say "don't count your chickens before they are hatched" but in French the chicken is transformed into a bear. The French expression is "Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l'ourse avant de l'avoir tuée" (literally you should not sell the skin of the bear before having killed it).

In English we say "It's all Greek to me", but in French the Chinese are the baffling ones (C'est du chinois). By playing the games we learn idiomatic expressions which allow us to integrate cultural references to our language in a playful way. The recently published Speak Easy Puzzles book is a second collection of 68 puzzles with themes to make remembering the expressions easier. The new book is richly illustrated with original watercolors. I can't say I've mastered watercolor, but after starting from zero 3 years ago I'm quite tickled to have been able to produce the book - that was the goal. Now I can just paint for the fun of it (pour me distraire).

A personal favorite is the puzzle using dessert expressions which is illustrated with a slice of cherry pie. The French expression of "That takes the cake" is "C'est le pompon de la pomponnette" is fun to pronounce. The first book in 2007 sold out like hotcakes (s'est vendu comme des petits pains), we hope this one does too!

What's the best thing about living in France?
Glowing Impressionist skies!
The wide variety of regions, so many different landscapes packed into one rather small country. The long long days of summer.

And the worst?
The fact that the French are not risk-takers and do not take initiative other than to complain.
Poorly designed Parking lots.
Winter in Paris, I like real winter with cold and snow.

What do you think?

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