There was a balance that seemed absent from the American mentality: Writer Lindsey Tramuta
Originally from Philadelphia, Lindsey Tramuta is a freelance food and travel journalist and an award-winning blogger living in Paris. She speaks to Aerostorie about retaining her American optimism, the benefits of adopting a European work-life balance, and the city she has fallen in love with.
“For the last decade, Paris is home. In many ways, it feels like it was always home but life actually began in the suburbs of Philadelphia where I was born and raised. I left the US when I was 21 to study in Paris and never left. I suppose at this point, wherever I am in France, with my husband and two cats, will be home.
I was a student of French literature in college and fascinated by language. I knew it would be important for my own language acquisition to spend time in France but what I discovered during my initial stay was that I identified with much more than the language.
I was drawn in by the culture, the appreciation and respect for the arts, gastronomy, profoundness of thought, and, above, life itself — there was a balance I observed that seemed absent from the American mentality.
Since I was quite young, when I came to finish my studies and stayed shortly thereafter, I skipped out on the live-to-work lifestyle in the US. Beginning my career in Paris meant that my values are distinctly more French and while earnings are, for the most part, lower, our quality of life soars. I think some people just feel more at ease in Europe and that realization is made all the more clear when I return to the US to visit.
I am a freelance journalist for publications like The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Afar Magazine, Eater and the French magazine Fou de Patisserie. I am also the author of the new book The New Paris: the People, Places & Ideas Fueling a Movement, published by Abrams. I write primarily about French culture, lifestyle, and gastronomy though I occasionally cover other parts of the world.
I have the most fun storytelling about my home country because there is truly so much to capture. I’m particularly drawn to the way the French have nurtured and preserved their heritage skills in handmade crafts, manufacturing, textiles, and cooking because I know it is hasn’t been easy for them as most things in life have gone digital or been handed over to offshore companies.
I may have become quite French in my way of thinking but my perseverance and optimism remind me I am still very much American. Negativity is pervasive — there’s always something that could be better about any situation, in the eyes of Parisians, and locals can easily be pushed to exasperation for the most insignificant things and that gets tiring.
It’s also tiring trying not to fall into those habits. As the world now knows, the rising populism in France has created greater intolerance. Paris remains incredibly multicultural and diverse but I worry it may fall victim to the fear of otherness that has come to define other sets of the French population.
What do I miss most about the US? Convenience is a big one, though I go back and forth between thinking the US. makes daily life too easy and thinking they’ve got the right idea.
During my book tour, I have passed by The Container Store – a shop that carries anything and everything for home and office storage and organization – in several cities and found myself bemoaning the absence of such concepts in France.
“It’s ridiculous that that, of all, shops made me long for US convenience, but it did. That and the 24-hour pharmacies like CVS that sell more than just beauty and skincare products and medicine but home essentials. Forget some milk? No problem, you can make a run to CVS at midnight. That doesn’t work in France.
“Without fail, when family and friends visit, I take them to le 52 Faubourg Saint-Denis because it is by far the best value — incredibly fresh, fare at very reasonable prices, open all day, a lovely atmosphere, and consistent service. Everyone I’ve taken there for lunch or dinner continues to rave about their experience.
I also recommend that people try a mix of old and new but when they opt for “classic”, they book a table at a restaurant that does it right, like La Bourse et la Vie, Bistrot Belhara, Champeaux, or Chez la Vieille. There is so much care and attention put into some of the traditional bistros that they should absolutely make it onto any diner’s itinerary.
For culture, I’d say go beyond the center to the Bassin de la Villette and up to see a performance at the Philharmonic at La Villette. See contemporary art at La Fondation Louis Vuitton, in a Frank Gehry building, and get a different view of Paris from the top. And for pastry, taste a bit of the city’s best at Fou de Patisserie, a sort of concept shop for sweets that carries a few creations from chefs like Cyril Lignac, Pierre Herme, Jonathan Blot and Carl Marletti, all featured in my book.
Almost everything in Paris hinges on dining and drinking. Outings with friends, evenings with my husband, even my own workday. Will I work at a cafe during lunch? Which one? These are serious considerations for me every single day and I find that most of my friends and family in the US focus more on together time, with or without food.
It may be a walk in the park or getting together to watch Netflix but in Paris those very activities come with the knowledge that some sort of nibble will be served. That also means that we don’t rush. Parisians love to say they don’t have time for things but they carve out time in their schedules for coffee dates and meals.
After living this way for over ten years, I can say I feel that I better know how to savor both food and moments with friends and family. It’s the connector that brings us together for more than special occasions.”