Americans in Paris: Standing Out from the Crowd
No one knows how many Americans there are in Paris. The embassy can tell you how many are registered with the American consulate and the “Prefecture” can tell you how many visas have been issued to Americans, but those numbers don’t take into account those who are not ‘on the books’ or those who spend a part of their year here (which many do — less than 183 days for fiscal reasons). It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 Americans in France, but there’s no telling if that number is true or not. According to the U.S. Embassy, this makes France one of the top 10 destinations for American Expats. And the joke among us is that ‘the number one American dream is to live in France.’
One thing is for sure: Americans in Paris make a difference. There are so many Americans who have come to Paris and contributed something important to all of our lives, that there is no way to count them. I could begin with Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson (who immortalized the words “Every man has two countries, his own and France.”), but these two guys are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Ever since transportation that allowed us to sail the Atlantic, or planes that fly across from continent to continent, Americans have found a way of coming to the City of Light and enlightening it themselves.
Josephine Baker stands out among them (“I have two loves, my country and Paris.”) as does, Thomas Gold Appleton (“Good Americans, when they die, go to Paris.”) and Gertrude Stein (“America is my country and Paris is my hometown.”). Others on the Embassy list (including biographical sketches for each — see france.usembassy.gov/) include James Baldwin, Sylvia Beach, Alexander Calder, Mary Cassat, James Fenimore Cooper, Isadora Duncan, Francis Scott Fitzgerald, George Gershwin, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Lindbergh, Henry Miller, Jim Morrison, Cole Porter, Ezra Pound, Man Ray, John Singer Sargent, Irwin Shaw, Nina Simone, Edith Wharton, James Whistler, Richard Wright, etc., etc., etc.
But I’m not thinking of all those in our past. I’m thinking of those in our present.
Alexander Lobrano (an American himself) talks about “The New American Tastemakers in Paris” stating that “Americans have been eagerly crossing the Atlantic just to gorge themselves in Paris for centuries, but their gastronomic passion has never been even remotely reciprocated, until now. Three of the city’s best new modern bistro chefs are American [Daniel Rose, Kevin O’Donnell, Alison Johnson], and Paris’s first gourmet food truck, Le Camion qui Fume, selling blue-cheese burgers, caramelized onions, frites and more, was recently outfitted by Kristin Frederick, a Californian.” Even in one of the most gastronomic spots on the planet, American chefs are making their mark.
The world of writers in Paris could be the single largest group of Expats. With bookstores like Shakespeare & Co., the first English-language bookstore in Paris founded by American Sylvia Beach and carried on in the same tradition by American George Whitman (deceased December 14, 2011 and survived by his daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman who follows in his footsteps), the American literary world thrives. There’s a list of American writers on Wikipedia.org the length of your arm, but even that’s just a tip on the proverbial iceberg. Those who have inspired us may be humorists like David Sedaris, novelists such as Jake Lamar, poets such as Kathleen Spivack (who is speaking at Parler Paris Après Midi this coming November 12th), journalists such as Adam Gopnik, and the list goes on and on and on. In fact, I think everyone I know in Paris is a writer (or a wannabee a writer).
Then there are the networkers…the ‘movers and shakers’ that have brought people together and solidified the American community — like Jim Haynes whose Sunday night dinners in his 14th arrondissement apartment are legendary, having taken place virtually every week for more than 30 years. And Patricia Laplante Collins, rivaling Jim on Sunday night with her Paris Soirées for almost 20 years, featuring a guest speaker and a chance to tell one’s own story thereby networking effectively to further one’s cause. I’ve always contested that these two individuals have been more responsible for more new relationships than anyone else in Paris — a powerful force in the Expat community.
I haven’t even begun to touch on the American politicians and business leaders that behind the scenes make a change in our lives…or the entrepreneurs, the engineers, the academicians, the musicians, the actors, artists, etc.,…who all came from the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’ to live under the rule of “liberté, égalité, fraternité”…and then to have made a profound mark on the French landscape.
What I have observed is that Americans thrive in this culturally challenging environment. We are so unlike our French brethren in that we can see far beyond the boundaries — of which there are many — take what few ‘seeds’ are presented before us and nurture them until they grow, mature and bear fruit. While the French were studying philosophy and art appreciation, we were studying entrepreneurship, resourcefulness and creativity. These fundamental American ideas allow us not only to take the risk of living in a foreign land, but to believe we can overcome any challenge and really make something happen, for ourselves and for others around us.
When we exert ourselves in these ways while living in America, it’s tough to stand out from the crowd. But in Paris, an American stands out from all others, period.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris & Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC
P.S. Calling all budding biographers! The BIO Rowley Prize for Best Proposal for a First Biography will be awarded for the first time on May 17, 2014 at the Biographers International Organization Conference in Boston, MA. The Prize is named in memory of my friend, author Hazel Rowley who passed away in 2011. For more information and details on how to enter visit Rowley Prize.
P.P.S. AUTUMN NIGHTS: American in Paris for more than 30 years, Peggy Hancock’s “Salon de Thé,” appropriately named “A Priori Thé” in the Galerie Vivienne (number 35, Paris 2nd, Métro Bourse or Palais Royal), is sponsoring “Autumn Nights” — a series of events this month and during November with Americans in Paris in mind! I’ll be attending tomorrow night’s (October 24th) “Hungarian Goulash Dinner” with Madeleine Czigler the kitchen. Dinner starts at 8 p.m., includes appetizer, dinner and wine for 50€. Join us! To reserve, call +33(0) 1 42 97 48 75.
Coming up is:
* “Teatime Halloween Surprises!” (October 31st, of course)
* An Anniversary Party for 33 Years in Paris with an “African
Buffet Culinary Memories” on November 6th
* An Aperitif/Tasting with Guido Gualandi and buffet of Tuscan wines and products on November 15th followed by a Tuscan dinner on November 16th by Guido Gualandi
* Two Thanksgiving Dinner Evenings on November 28th and 29th celebrating “Homemade in Paris Since 1980” with traditional Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings