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This American went to Paris more than 20 years ago and ended up staying there for good

This American went to Paris more than 20 years ago and ended up staying there for good



While growing up in California, Melissa Regan imagined herself eventually moving to New York, getting a job in finance, and enjoying life in the big city.

But after signing up for a semester in Vienna, Austria and accidentally finishing her studies in France in 1999, Melissa Regan found herself living permanently in another big city, Paris.

It was clearly my destiny to arrive here, Regan told CNN Travel. But I can't say it was planned.

Although she visited the French capital twice as a young adult, France wasn't necessarily one of Regan's favorite places.

However, during that life-changing semester in the south of France, she gained an appreciation for French culture that opened my eyes in a way that changed my life.

In the United States, especially around that time, you meet someone for coffee, and they'll be there, but they'll almost look past you, she says. Because they will be thinking about their next appointment or their next engagement.

And in France, you go for a coffee and it was like the world stopped for hours.

Returning to the United States, Regan enrolled in an international MBA program that would allow her to spend a full year in France.

Upon graduation, Regan was offered an internship with a Paris-based company in 2022, giving her the opportunity to live in the French capital.

I thought it was amazing, she said. And that would be an opportunity that would be foolish to pass up.

As she settled in Paris, Regan became fascinated by its vibrant culture, particularly the city's restaurants and museums, and the fun that could be had there.

She says she had originally planned to live and work in the European city for a year or two.

However, when Regan fell in love with a Frenchman named Julien, whom she married in 2007, her fate seemed sealed.

I had already been in Paris for three years, she adds. So I was really enjoying my life. And at that point, I had a group of friends.

So it wasn't even like I met him and that changed everything. But it became a major component of my desire to no longer want to return to the United States.

She and her husband had two sons, Theodore and Jefferson.

Regan was extremely impressed with the care she received during delivery, explaining that new mothers in the country typically stay in the hospital for a few days.

She feels lucky to have been able to raise her children in France thanks to the wonderful quality of life, emphasizing that although she works very hard, she stays home to have dinner with her family every night.

We have school holidays every six weeks, she explains. So, every six weeks, children are absent from school for two or three weeks.

And in this era, it's culturally accepted that you take a vacation. It's normal.

She goes on to explain that she feels like her children are safer in France than in the United States because we don't have the same problems with guns.

From the age of 10 or 11, they [kids] start going to school on their own, Regan adds. And that's just a cultural norm.

So, as a parent of relatively young children, the quality of life is much better.

Regan also found France more affordable for her family, even though Paris is ranked among the most expensive cities in the world.

She attributes this, at least in part, to the French healthcare system, which provides universal coverage to all legal residents.

There's the social system, and then there's private health care provided by companies, she says. So you don't have the same level of stress.

Regan recently spent about five weeks in the United States and admits she was stunned by the price increase.

I was really shocked by the inflation price increases of groceries, for example, she said. This way [in Paris,] we have seen prices and inflation rise, but not as dramatically.

Although Regan has now lived in Paris for more than two decades, she admits that it took her a long time to feel completely comfortable in the city.

I would say it took me two years to really love my current life, she says. It probably took me eight years to really feel at home here.

And now I can't imagine a different place where I would want to live my life.

Over the years, Regan has seen Paris go through many changes and feels that the city has become even more international with more and more foreigners.

Twenty years ago, it would be really difficult to live here if we didn't speak French, she says. And now that has changed.

Although she took a few months of intensive French lessons before arriving in France, Regan admits that it took her a while before she felt like a relatively competent French speaker.

She remembers her difficulties at large dinners, because she was often the only one speaking English.

However, she believes that would no longer be the case today, as there are many more people in the city who speak other languages.

I think it's become much, much easier [to relocate to Paris]she says.

Regan first arrived in France on a student visa, before obtaining a work visa. After marrying a French national, she was entitled to a French residence permit, or carte de residence, which she renewed every 10 years.

She is currently eligible for French citizenship, but has not yet started the process.

It’s a heavy administrative task, she explains. And I feel like every year I had a different priority.

Regan now runs a real estate agency based in Paris, which provides real estate services to international clients.

I guess what I'm very proud of is that we're really helping people, she says, explaining that many newcomers struggle with the slower administrative procedures in France and want advice on identifying the best neighborhoods. safest and most suitable for foreigners.

She tends to advise those looking to move to Paris to do as much research as possible before coming and to prepare any documents they might need well in advance.

The Netflix series Emily in Paris, centered on an American marketing executive who moves to Paris for a new job, has put the city back in the spotlight in recent years, with many fans of the series flocking to the French capital to try to recreate some experiences described.

Although Regan notes that the show probably helped attract newcomers, she points out that Paris has always been at the top of the list.

I was in my early twenties 25 years ago, and it was my dream to come, even before Emily to Paris, she says.

So I think it's probably opened this up to a wider audience that maybe didn't necessarily have the opportunity to travel internationally before.

Regan returns to the United States regularly to visit family and says she appreciates the opportunity to dress more casually, because getting out of bed in sweats, putting on a hat and going about your business is somewhat wrong seen in Paris.

It's definitely a little more formal here, she says, noting that while most of her Parisian friends get their hair and nails done before they go on vacation, she does the opposite when she returns to the States.

I take off my nail polish. I don't wear makeup. It's a little more relaxed.

Although she still maintains strong ties to America, Regan can't imagine ever returning and feels like she's ended up where she was meant to be.

I definitely see myself where I am, she says. I have great confidence that things are happening the way they are always supposed to.

The last 25 years have been nothing short of crazy. It's been incredible, with ups and downs, personally, I've been very lucky.

When asked if she now considers herself Parisian, Regan replies that she doesn't know if it's something she can declare herself, but she feels close to being an adopted Parisian.




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