Melbourne born Rachel Bajada spent 11 years in Sydney before deciding to up sticks and move to Paris where she has been based for the last two years (or near enough). Here she tells FrenchEntrée why she chose France as her new home and how her blog, French for Foodies, has helped her integrate…
So why did you choose to relocate to France and Paris in particular?
This is a question I get asked by every French person I meet. I often find myself responding with “Je ne souviens plus!” which is literally “I don’t remember anymore!” I moved to Paris on a whim, no job, flat, friends and very basic French language skills knowing that if I managed to survive the whole experience, maybe even enjoy it, then it would give me the confidence to do anything.
My life in Sydney was just fine – great job, friends and family but I somehow felt so stuck, waking up knowing that every day would be the same. Making a dramatic change seemed like the only way to force myself out of my comfort zone and enable me space to change my life in the direction closer to my passions and enable making my projects happen. As much as it has been a tough and challenging but rewarding journey, I definitely have no regrets.
What do you do in France?
Aside from blogging, lunching and the daily battle of resisting pastry and designer shoe shops, I work in online advertising and digital media. I also have a few personal projects on the go.
What inspired you to set up FrenchforFoodies.com?
One of my best friends in Sydney (who happens to be French) encouraged me to set up a blog before I left, as a way of sharing my updates and stories with friends and family back home. Naturally the subject matter turned to food and culinary travel and then I started to see what a large and growing global interest there was for unique stories and content written in English about French food, life in Paris and unique stories that tie together the elements of culture, tradition, food and travels from the eyes of a foreigner.
Where do you shop for food in Paris?
Most Saturdays I get fresh fruit and vegetables at le Marché Bio in Batignolles, and that’s also where I have a lot of fun discovering, talking about, tasting and buying amazing French and Italian cheeses. Aside from that I go to the local food markets on rue de Levis in the 17th and I have a list of specialty shops I visit to by specific ingredients such as Italian and Sicialian products, olive oil, wine, Japanese groceries, spices etc…
What is your favourite new foodie discovery?
One of the things I love about living in France is the connection with the seasons and discovering new products each few weeks as the seasons change. Right now I am loving the kaki fruit (persimmon), cèpe mushrooms, truffle balsamic crème, Burrata di Bufala, and an amazing air dried tuna product called Bresaola de Thon that I discovered at La Tête dans les Olives.
Is there anything you don’t like or won’t eat?
I still refuse to eat things like foie gras and all the organ meats and offcuts totally freak me out.
To what in your opinion does French cuisine owe its reputation?
It’s a combination of the amazing quality produce found in France and the history of this country and its regions. When you dig a little deeper, you discover how and why certain celebrated recipes came about and it is always related to the story of the dish’s originating region. For example, the much loved classic Tarte Tatin started out as a mistake and it comes from the centre of France in a region called Sologne/Berry where apples orchards are the principle agriculture. From a humble cooking error-turned-happy accident, the French developed and perfected this recipe over many generations making it the delicious speciality it is today.
What dish or food product do you miss the most from Australia?
Real lattes, cappuccinos, piccolos etc. are a given in any Australian city, even the local takeaway shop serves decent coffee, whereas in Paris there are literally only 4 or 5 places which serve real coffee in this way. The one thing I cannot wait to eat when I get back is a big toasted piece of delicious banana bread!
Do you intend to stay in France forever?
How do you rate your French language skills?
Considering how little I have studied French grammar, my French is coming along quite well. I’m totally at ease with the language socially; however in professional circumstances (even in odd scenarios where you are missing certain vocab such as a yoga class) I still really struggle.
What advice would you give fellow Australians looking to move to France?
Come armed with patience, an open mind and as much practical knowledge of the French language as possible. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the expat network, but make an effort to assimilate into the local culture, get to know and understand French people and their ways. No words of advice can ever prepare an Aussie for a new life on the metro, French administration service or the Parisian retail customer service experience, but if you have days when it all seems too hard, just take a deep breath, think about how awesome it is that you live in one of the most beautiful cities in the word and then take comfort in a warm baguette and slab of cheese – all your worries will melt away!
Do you have any amusing anecdotes of your time in France?
I have plenty of these, ranging from being told off by the garden police for sunbaking in public parks, being caught out in stilettos when the snow melted on Paris pavements, and of course what I’m now famous for – my hilarious ‘cheese smuggling’ real-life story which you can read on my blog.