Julien: an expat in the US (Portland) from Normandy

 1. Hi Julien, where do you come from, and how long have you been an expat in the US?

Hi Little Normandy ! I’m from Caen, France. It’s the capital of Calvados, one of the counties of Lower Normandy and also hometown of William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England.

I’ve been an expat in the US for almost a year and live in Portland, Oregon on the West Coast of the country.

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2. Why did you come to Portland and what do you do there now?

A job opportunity brought me here. A year and a half ago, my current boss contacted me to offer me a position in cancer research. From there, it took a few months to get my visa and I arrived at the end of July 2016. I now work on novel immunotherapeutic strategies for plasma cell malignancies.

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3. What is the main cultural difference between Caen and Portland?

Portland is a really green city with a lot of trees (the city is also called “City of Roses” and there is a well-known rose festival every year). It is surrounded by many mountains (from where I work you can see Mt St Helens, Mt Hood, and Mt Jefferson). I also like the fact that street art is pretty big here but not in a trashy way. You also have a lot of restaurants, bars, shops and fun things to do.

The down side is that, as most cities in the U.S, Portland is like an octopus. It is really spread out and it takes a long time to leave the city limits. The city is poorly designed as the roads weren’t created for such traffic and public transport is really expensive here if your job doesn’t subsidize it. I really miss France for that because in the U.S you can’t do much without a car.

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4. Being an expat in the US means discovering new places: what are your ones in Portland? 

The Alphabet District is definitely my favorite part of town. They have so many restaurants and shops there. But when I think about my favorite place here, it’s actually not in Portland but on the Pacific coast in a town called “Cannon Beach”. It’s roughly a 2 and 1/2 hour drive to get there but totally worth it. It is really beautiful out there and not as crowded as Portland.

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5. What is your favorite memory in Oregon? 

My favorite memory in Oregon is probably the hikes we go on with our friends and their St Bernard dog called “Baby Gus”. As I said before, Portland is not too bad but the state of Oregon is just beautiful. If you are into outdoors activities, there is plenty to do here !

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6. Being an expat in the US must be hard sometimes, what do you miss the most from Normandy?

I miss my family and friends. I have two nieces who are growing up really fast and I only see them on Skype once a week.

I also miss the food. If you want to buy quality food here (and by that I mean organic food so no GMOs and no chemical pesticides), it’s way more expensive than in France. And I won’t even start with French products like cheese … You would pay 2-3 euros for a camembert au lait cru from the farm in France. Here you can multiple this price by 3 or 4 and everything is pasteurized …

And finally, I would say I miss the history of France and Normandy with all of our castles and unbeatable museums. I’m really proud to be French and I try as much as possible to promote French culture everytime I can.

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7. What couldn’t you live without, now that you’re an expat in the US

I don’t really have an answer to this question … I guess everything I need depends on where I live and on my personal and professional situation. So wherever I’ll go, I’ll adapt.

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8. Your favorite american idiom

“Oh my goodness” is probably my favorite expression (according to my colleagues). I also say that everything is HUUUUUUUGE here ! 😀 and my friends make fun of me for that. Last but not least, I tend to use the “F” word quite a bit but I suppose that’s not really appropriate.

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Do you have a story to tell us regarding american and Norman links?

I was finishing my Master’s degree in Paris. One week-end of November, I came back to Caen to visit my parents and spend time with my friend who took me to this Cuban bar. We were dancing when I saw this other guy dancing at the other end of the room. We kept looking at each other all night. At some point, I told my friend about him and she immediately recognized him as he was an American who was teaching English at the school where she worked. We never spoke during this evening but a few weeks later, I got a phone call from him asking me if I wanted to have a drink. Six years later, we got married in Chicago and two years after getting married we moved from France to the United States to start this new chapter of our life together.

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And now the mini quizz!!! 

  • A weekend at Cannon Beach or Cabourg? Cabourg
  • Cheddar or Camembert? Camembert
  • Cupcake or Tarte aux pommes? Tarte aux Pommes
  • Appletini or Pommeau? Pommeau
  • Oregon Ducks or Football with Malherbe? Stade Malherbe
  • Ralph Lauren or Saint James? St James

Thank you so much Julien for this interview!

What about you, have you ever lived abroad? Do you have any questions about expatriation? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

Boujou (the norman way to say XOXO)

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