I’m sure I’m not the only woman to have fallen madly in love with a French man or the only one so smitten as to give up family, country and career to follow him to the city of love. Nor am I the last one to suffer a broken heart in a foreign city with no one’s shoulder to cry on.
The first time I said goodbye to my Taiwanese mother, aunt, and grandparents was in June 2011. I was 26 years old, determined to seek new challenges and exert my independence to manage my own life. I headed for Hokkaido in northern Japan, a city I was familiar with from my student days where I learned to speak Japanese. During this longer overseas stay, I made a lot of wonderful friends from all over the world: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, the United States, France, Switzerland and New Zealand. Together, we spent many great times cooking and discovering the food and culture of one other.
I also started to learn French.
While searching for work, I received two attractive offers: one as a bus reservation assistant in a local travel agency and the other as a translator for traditional Chinese and Japanese tourist brochures. Both jobs paid very well and allowed me to save money for my next dream destination: France.
I worked hard and also tried very hard to learn French after hours at the Alliance Française Sapporo twice a week. Just as I wondered if my French would ever improve, my new motivation appeared in the form of a charming and energetic French man. I didn’t expect at all that I would fall for him at first sight! He was a backpacker, planning to stay in Japan for only one month. He not only displayed a taste for good food but exuded an alluring behavior that I imagined typical of French people.
He was cultivated and I couldn’t help notice that he often stayed in the living room the entire afternoon with just a cup of coffee and a book. His casual and open demeanor impressed me a lot since it was rare to see this from other people in the house where I was living. He loved reading and cooking and knew well the different cultures in Asia. We quickly became friends and before I knew it, he returned to Paris. But we kept in touch by email. I was determined more than ever to go to Paris after my one-year stay in Japan, to pursue other possibilities in life.
On September 27, 2012, my plane landed at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport; it was my first time in Europe. There are no words to express how excited I was to see my dream life become a reality. Yes, I came to Paris, not only for him but also for my future career. I applied for an MBA program in hotel and tourism management to make good use of my professional experience in Japan. At the same time, I took night courses at Alliance Française. I strongly believed that if I stayed in Paris for at least another two years, the relationship between us could blossom.
But the truth is, I was way too naïve.
Shortly after I arrived in Paris, I realized that what we each wanted was very different. I was looking for a stable and lasting relationship; he was not. He was younger and probably still thinking of the many possibilities with other women. Had I not been warned about dating a French man? Perhaps he felt pressure from me, a crazy girl who came to Paris on impulse but without knowing much about him.
Everything was over by May 2013. I fell into the saddest, most uncertain period of my life, and even started doubting if I had made the right choice to give up everything I knew to come to Paris.
Four years have passed and I am still in Paris. I did not return to Japan. Since that painful heartbreak, I turned my attention to my life in France to cheer myself up. In 2014, I completed my master’s degree and an eight-month internship in a travel agency. I was very lucky that the agency where I worked wanted to apply for a work permit for me. With the enormous growth of Asian tourists nowadays, the French market needs someone who speaks Mandarin, English, Japanese, and French. This new opportunity came at the right time in my life!
Now, in July 2017, I am no longer a heartbroken girl who focused too much on the wrong person, but a woman who is confident in my language ability and my professional experience. My busy life in Paris has brought me real friends. I hang out with people for drinks, travel a lot, attend theater and musical concerts, visit museums, read books and I date guys.
Paris has opened my mind and liberated me, something I never felt when I was in Asia. Despite the occasional emotional ups and downs, I fully enjoy every moment in the city of light. For who cannot love Paris despite its flaws and broken hearts? It is a love affair filled with passion for life.
I like to quote a line from the movie, Inside Out, “It’s ok to feel sad. Joy, sadness, fear, and anger, they co-exist in our mind.”
It’s called life.