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Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Day in the Life of an American Emigrant bis

I woke up this morning, looked at my stats over my morning coffee and just about hit the floor.  Apparently a post I wrote a few days ago A Day in the Life of an American Emigrant was shared on a forum called Reddit.  Generated quite a lively discussion and I read the comments with a great deal of interest.  I've simply never had that much feedback on anything I've ever written and I did and do appreciate all those who came and read whether their impression was positive or negative.

Some folks thought it was "arrogant" and, if it did come off that way, than I apologize.  I assure you that it wasn't intentional and I will endeavor to do better in the future.   What I tried to do was to be as factual as I could be about what a typical day is like here for me.  I know people who have it better and I know quite a few people right now who have it much worse wherever they are.  This is it, folks, and it's not better than life elsewhere, it's just different with its own joys and challenges.

There was one comment however that I'd like to address because it is factually incorrect and it was about taxes.  I was pretty much OK for many years since I never really earned much money and I was always under the income exclusion.  In 2010/2011, exceptionally, I came very close to that cap because I had finally "arrived," you might say, in my profession and because of the exchange rates.  That year we had also decided to sell two small one-bedroom apartments we had in a small city in the south that we had purchased as an investment.  We sold them because, quite frankly, one of the gentleman who was renting had a very nasty habit of stopping his rent in winter. :-)  And that made it very tough to pay the loan every month.  So we sold and to my horror my tax situation got very complicated very fast and I had to seek professional help.  I ended up paying American taxes that year and will pay again this year.  It seemed odd to be paying US taxes on a property that was purchased via a loan from a French bank and with money that was earned entirely in France but that is how it goes. (Just for info I have no assets or money in the US - everything I have or earn is in France).   I'll be honest and say that it hurt to pay but pay I did.  And now I have to go through the whole business again this year.  Hence, my desire to keep things simple from now on - the aggravation and cost of hiring professional help and having to write a (for me) substantial check kinda dimmed my ambitions. ;-)


Curtis Poe said...

I hope you didn't mind my posting it there. The /r/IWantOut community on Reddit seemed like the sort of place where many folks would appreciate some "expat insight".

That being said, many of the comments were a bit odd. A few people on that SubReddit have strong opinions about topics they know little about (that's part of the reason I created my blog, to be honest).

I really appreciated your original post because honestly, most folks really don't know what it's like to be outside the US. In fact, I suspect that many Americans would be surprised to find out that we get up, go to work, go home, eat dinner and go to bed just like they do — we just do it in a different country.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Not at all, Curtis. In fact I was very touched that you passed it along. Thank you.

I have exactly the same impression as you - I get a lot of email and have conversations that are really surreal sometimes around what folks in the homeland imagine our lives must be like when the truth is, as you say, much much less romantic.

Get up, have coffee, brush teeth, go to work - the good old "Metro, Boulot, Dodo" :-)

Le Chroniqueur Berliniquais said...

OK I re-read your initial post and I still struggle to identify which part exactly could remotely pass as "arrogant", and I found none. Well, maybe being French I am a poor judge of other people's arrogance, right? ;-)

Come to think of it, maybe they just assume by default that the French arrogance has rubbed off on you so whatever you write is scrutinised for any evidence of it :-)

Some people on the internet are really confused, and I would quickly lose patience with them. On the opposite, you patiently apologise and this I find quite admirable.

bubblebustin said...

I can’t fully understand why you would want to bring up tax issues in an early interview with a potential employer. When the subject of salary is brought up, why don’t you suggest that you’d be happy to accept something within a certain range, say, $75,000-$90,000? Make the low end whatever amount you feel is appropriate, but I can almost guarantee that if they call you back they won’t offer you anything over $90,000. That would solve your problem and save them any misgivings they might have about involving themselves in international tax compliance issues involving an employee. In the remote chance that they would offer you more than the $92,500, you will know already that they are seriously considering you and like you. I can understand that you would like to be straight up with them, but why shoot yourself in the foot off the bat when it may be completely unnecessary? Get hired, make yourself and asset to the company and worry about the rest later! If they later offer you a raise that exceeds the threshold, you can bring it up with them then. You’re not “hiding” anything from them now, and you can explain that it never became an issue until the offer of a raise. Don't allow the tax tail to wag the dog. Make sense?

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@bubblebustin - Thanks for coming by again. Actually the place I interviewed at was a recruiting company not the actual company that would hire me. They needed to know my asking price so they would know how to position me. There can also be an enormous suspicion around someone who is asking for less than what he had previously earned. You do have to give a reason otherwise they think that something is wrong. That said, you may be right, and total transparency is not necessarily the best policy all the time.

I checked Facebook and didn't see anything. Would you mind passing along the link?

All the best,


Todd said...

Hi Victoria,

Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your life overseas. If you have a sec, I was wondering if you could let us know a bit about your experiences with the health care and/or education systems in France.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Hi Todd,

Thank you for coming by and reading. I'm about to head out the door for a job interview (yes!) but here's a post I wrote about the French healthcare system that you might find interesting called French Healthcare - the User Experience

Let me think about the school system. That would be an interesting one to write because the Frenchlings went though the entire system from Maternelle to High School.


Unknown said...

Hi Victoria,

A bit late to this party, but "better late than never", eh?

I'm a US expat in AU & understand your point completely. I believe what you're trying to explain is just one of those things that cannot always be imparted via explanation- some people must be in a situation themselves in order to "understand".

But my reason for writing was to clue you in on something I only just learned: with NYTimes & WSJournal, you don't need to sub to them- just Google the story name & click through one of those links. Ta-da! You can read whatever you wish!