Posted by Mary Ann Kelly
Earlier this year I noticed one of my colleagues, Rebecca Earley, had made an update to her LinkedIn profile which read:
‘I am also the co-author of best-selling book, “My Paris Story,” a chronicle of 22 women’s stories who took a leap to come live their dream in Paris. Find out more about the book and read the blog where I am a contributing blogger here: www.myparisstory-thebook.com.’
I was so impressed, curious and inspired that I felt compelled to learn more. Rebecca is currently Head of Business Development for OgilvyAmp Paris, and this is her story:
What made you decide to move to Paris?
I studied abroad for a year in the south of France in a town called, Montpellier, when I was a sophomore at UNC Chapel Hill. I fell in love with France during that year and made a promise to myself that I would return to work, and leave on my own time as opposed to being forced to leave at the end of a school program. It was always my dream, therefore, to move to Paris, and I worked seven years to try and find a way to move there. I was of course open to other locations in the meantime, such as NYC, another dream of mine, where I lived and worked for four years before making the leap to Paris.
What’s so magical about the French?
I am not sure that I would call it magical, but one thing that I really admire about the French is their self awareness and their ability to know and protect their boundaries. We tend to make fun of them for this: When we encounter the French waiter who, no matter what you ask him, will always respond with a resounding “no.” Or at their ability to be one of the most efficient workers on the planet while still managing to take seven weeks of vacation. But I actually really admire them for this. (Author’s note: Indeed the French work the least amount of hours in the world!)
I find that us, as Americans, are way too willing to say “yes” to everything and to want to please everyone. At the end of the day this is not possible, and you will wear yourself out trying to do so. The French are real masters at finding and maintaining a good balance, and it’s something that I really try to learn from them.
What differences have you noticed about their work style and pace?
One of my biggest adjustments when I first moved here and started working was getting used to long meetings. The French are not emailers. They are phone callers and face-to-facers who prefer a series of meetings to discuss every possible angle to an equation before making a decision. When I first moved from NYC this could become quite infuriating at times, because you would realize that you spent six hours a day in meetings while still having six hours of work left to do. After a while, however, I started to realize the value of really thinking through a problem as opposed to just rushing to make a decision and “checking it off the list.” Now, two and a half years later, I would say that I have reached a good balance of calling and discussing, like the French, and emailing, like Americans. It’s a balance I hope to maintain.
Any challenges managing non-American teams?
I think managing will always be a challenge no matter where you live. It’s about finding a balance between compassion, discipline, and authority, which I think most of us will admit is a delicate line to walk.
To link my answer to the last question, the French do not respond well to being told what to do. There must be a discussion and a mutual decision reached for you to earn their respect. They also really value the ability to learn new things from one another, so the more you can share your expertise and let them share theirs, the more you grow together. I believe that these are values that none of us could fault them for requiring.
How did you get involved in writing the book?
It’s really quite serendipitous actually. I had already written my chapter two weeks before meeting the lead author, Dawn Z Bournand, and without even knowing that the idea of the book existed. I woke up one Sunday morning with a burning desire to tell my story. I felt that it was my duty to share with the world that I had pursued my one true dream, relentlessly, for seven long years, and it came true.
A week later I attended a Meetup brunch for the Paris Women of Success where Dawn announced the book idea and that the submissions for chapters had already been closed. I rushed up to her afterwards and told her I had a chapter ready to submit, if she was willing to reconsider. She told me I had 24 hours to send it. And 24 hours later I was in. Just like that, in two weeks, I became an author.
Not even one year later in May 2014 “My Paris Story” announced its official launch in Paris, and within 24 hours became an Amazon best-selling book in motivational/self-help and English/foreign books, both in France and in the United States. Pretty cool, huh?
How did you meet the other authors?
After submitting my chapter I was able to meet the authors at one of our monthly book planning lunches. We also came together for the launch to do a flash mob in Place de la République, which was a lot of fun.
They are really incredible, inspiring women from all of the world living their dream, and most of them are entrepreneurs. I think that is what fascinated me the most about meeting them and reading the book. Everyone had a different story of how they came to Paris and what success meant to them. The only thing we all have in common is living in Paris, at some point of our lives, and having the courage to take a leap without a net.
I really encourage you to read the book! It would be a really inspiring read for anyone.
Will you ever return to US?
Never is a strong word, especially for the place that is my home country, so I imagine I will return at some point. For right now I am taking each year as it comes and counting the many blessings in my life while I am here. I remember seeing a quote by Victor Hugo one time that was spray painted on the Pont des Arts which said, “Respirer Paris, cela conserve l’âme.” Or in English, “to breathe Paris preserves the soul.” I would have to agree.