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March 26, 2008

Get Outta Town!

From Beijing to Cairo, five American women tell their stories of living abroad.

pamela druckerman

Pamela Druckerman at La Fee Verte cafe in Paris

Photo Credit: Michel Figuet

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37, author of Lust in Translation, Paris

HOMETOWN: New York City

WHY I WANTED TO LIVE ABROAD: Because the man of my dreams (now my husband) turned out to be an Englishman who lived in Paris. I met him on a business trip and moved here in 2004-I knew no French and no Parisians, and I was a vegetarian, but I came anyway. Ominously, it was around the same time that Carrie from Sex and the City moved to Paris, too, with disastrous results.

WHAT I MISS ABOUT HOME: Wearing workout clothes in public; not being the fattest person in the café; Aveda conditioner; corn tortillas; smiling at strangers without having them think I'm insane.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT LIVING HERE: Foie gras (nope, not a vegetarian anymore); the café on my corner that functions as my office and makes me feel like I'm in a Godard film every morning; the bad bakery across the street (because it's still better than most "good" ones in the U.S.); heated public pools in every neighborhood; hearing my daughter say, "Ooh la la."

HOW THE EXPERIENCE HAS CHANGED ME: I now live entirely without high-fructose corn syrup; I no longer assume that older women lose their sex appeal; I'm not sure where home is anymore.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Nobody warned me that "springtime in Paris" is so celebrated because the five-month stretch from November to March is overcast and freezing.

CRAZY ADVENTURE: Having a baby in a French hospital. I kept shouting "painkillers" in English because I couldn't think of how to say it in French! But I got to stay in the hospital for a week, which is standard-and the in-room wine list was better than in most New York restaurants.

GREATEST CHALLENGE: Suffering through the micro-sneer that crosses even a nice Parisian's face when I forget to use the subjunctive.

HOW YOU CAN GET HERE: Got parents or grandparents who were born in an EU country? You might be able to score an EU passport, which makes getting a job easier (check with the country's consulate to see if you qualify). You could also come visit for three months and poke around for jobs, or look into opportunities at americansinfrance.net or expatica.com.

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