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Caroline Aoustin - Carrières-sur-Seine (Paris)

"As I am going to my residency process, they require a linguistics tests, and you actually receive a certificate for fluency. However, they will provide you with language instruction to bring up to par. I have many regrets about not being more committed to learning the language before I came here to live. My basic understanding is pretty good, which gives me a head start but I have a lot to work on" (CA, June 2011)

  • Interview with Caroline Aoustin

    What is your name, age and how long have you lived in Carrieres-sur-Seine?
    My name is Caroline C Aoustin, and I am 37 years old. I have lived in Carrières-sur-Seine since the end of February 2011.

    Why did you decide to move there?!
    My husband is French, and after eight years of living in New York, he really wanted to come back home. So, when he got a job, we moved here. He also works in Carrières-sur-Seine. Its very convenient.

    What nationality are you and your partner?
    I am American, raised in New York. My parents are both European, my mother is from Malaga, and my father is from Belgrade. My Husband is French, born in Paris and raised in Nantes.

    How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
    We have one little girl, named Jasmine. She is was born in my hometown of Manhasset on Long Island back in 2007.

    Do you work and if so what do you do?
    Back home I was a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, but I am an art therapist by training. Moving here meant giving up that career up for a while. However, I am taking advantage of my time in France to pursue my other interests, such as writing. In New York, I was going to school for fiction writing, and working on a novel. Now I have resumed writing almost full-time, including my book and working on a blog on expat life from a personal point of view.

    What was your experience of relocating to Paris with children?
    My primary concern as a parent, was my daughter. She had so many good friends back home. and moving to France might be a lonely experience for her. I really wanted Jasmine to find other children to play with here. We had only each others company for a while, until I joined a meetup group of English speaking mothers in Paris. Since Carrières-sur-Seine is just a 15 minute train ride in, it was simple. As children usually do, Jasmine made friends quickly. Also, we enrolled her in school. She started about three weeks after arriving, and that has been wondrous. Jasmine still misses much of our family, especially my mother. So the adjustment process is still underway. I think there is a general notion that children adjust easily to situations because they are in fact that, children. I havent found that to be true. Her feelings of loss match my own to a certain degree.

    How well integrated would you say you and your daughter are?

    Jasmine has certainly integrated, especailly concerning the language. School has facilitated that for her. She has her friends as do I. I am less integrated since my French is limited. Hopefully, I will learn sooner than later.

    What language do you speak to your daughter?

    Jasmine & I speak English, although as she learns more French, she tries to speak with me. Sometimes, she gets frustrated because I dont understand her fully. Her teacher recommended that I stick with English since French she will learn at school. My husband also speaks to her in French.

    Do you rent or own a property and how did you find the renting/buying process?

    Currently, we rent, and it was a hassle. We needed assistance from his parents. Since my husband, hadnt lived in France for so long, we were starting with a clean slate. He also had a new job. The property owner demanded many assurances before renting to us. In the end, I am happy with our home. We have good neighbors, and a lot of them are her schoolmates.

    Do you think it essential for someone to speak French when relocating to Paris?

    Yes. Without it, full integration is not possible. As I am going to my residency process, they require a linguistics tests, and you actually receive a certificate for fluency. However, they will provide you with language instruction to bring up to par. I have many regrets about not being more committed to learning the language before I came here to live. My basic understanding is pretty good, which gives me a head start but I have a lot to work on.

    How welcoming have the Parisians been towards you and your family?
    Being a New Yorker, I was ready for city life and the attitude that comes along with it. There is something about living in a great doesnt always bring forth the most polite behavior. Parisians are quick to tell you, a complete stranger, that whatever you are doing is bothering them, even if its not offensive. They complain if a child is too loud, and that includes laughter. They seem irritated when there is not enough room for them to pass on the sidewalk because your stroller/pushchair takes up much of the space. It wouldnt kill them to make the sidewalks a tad bigger. On the flip side, they are helpful when traveling the metro with a stroller/pushchair. It comes in handy with the amount of stairs there are.

    How would you describe a typical Parisian?
    The average Parisian, I find to be indifferent, in a hurry, and focused in their own thoughts, like most city dwellers. The women have this effortless chic about them. And the men are.. well, mostly handsome than not.

    What is your impression of childcare and education in Carrieres-sur-Seine?
    There seems to be a lot of options for working parents versus my experience in New York. There are plenty of Creches, which is daycare center for children under three. Although I hear its difficult to get an opening, and usually its only for full time. Most of my neighbors seem to have shared nannies, especially the part-timers. There are two Ecole Maternelle, one of which my daughter attends. My impression so far is good but I have a lot to learn about the education system and the way it works. An ongoing process.

    What school does your daughter go to?
    My daughter attends the Ecole Martnelle, just a 5 minute walk from our home.

    Why did you choose this school/these schools and are you happy with your choice?
    My husband and I had discussed bilingual schools for our daughter. However, at the age of three, we believed it was more essential for her to learn proper French. So, an all French school was the preferable option for us. And yes, I am very happy with our choice. I got lucky that her teacher speaks English. This way, I am always kept aware.

    Are there any services, activities for kids, day-trips for kids, family-friendly restaurants or kids’ shops you’d like to recommend?

    In Carrières-sur-Seine, there is a municipal music center that offers classes, as well as the local pool offering swimming classes. Since my town is small, and most of my friends live within the city center, I go to Paris regularly. The Pousette cafe in the 9th is great for moms & kids. Jardin dAcclimatation is also a favorite with plenty of rides, and free play areas, although there is a small fee to enter. It is one of my all time favorites.

    What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in Paris?
    This is a hard one to answer. I cant help but think of my own childhood, growing up with foreign parents in a tight knit American community. In the long run, I think the advantage comes in that your children will always be worldlier than others. Theyll have a sensitivity to other cultures that many one cultured family may lack. They may be more open to new experiences in that way. As for disadvantages, I cant think of any. Perhaps time will tell me what they are.

    Is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
    Life in Carrières-sur-Seine is good. They have many resources, many playgrounds, and the town has a lot of children. Its definitely a family oriented community. Can not think of any improvements because Im still exploring what they have to offer.

    What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Paris with children?
    Just to try and make it a smooth transition, as much as possible. Get yourself a light and narrow pushchair. And make sure your child makes friends, playgrounds are excellent and plenty of them. The French got that right.

    What couldn´t you live without in Carrieres-sur-Seine?

    A car.

    June 2011