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Expat France: An Interview with Terrance Gelenter

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Cigna International Health Insurance

Summary: An expat interview with "Paris Through Expatriate Eyes" founder Terrance Gelenter

Expats in Paris - Paris Through Expatriate Eyes' Terrance Gelenter

Moving to Paris is a dream romanticized by people all over the world and one regularly enshrined in books and films.

As with anything else, it's not as easy as portrayed in the media. Or is it?

If you ask Terrance Galenter, founder of Paris Through Expatriate Eyes (http://paris-expat.com), he's likely to say it depends on how open you are to seizing opportunity.

Faced with a life transition following the end of his marriage in the mid-90s, and with a little bit of encouragement from a close friend, Terrance Gelenter took the plunge and made the move to Paris.

And since his move, he has not only settled in, but also built a successful business that helps locate unique travel tours and other cultural experiences. Are you already familiar with Paris as a tourist or an expat? No problem. Gelenter envisions himself and his business as just the answer to such a problem.

He likes to call himself "your American friend in Paris," and he'll graciously welcome anyone to his Paris "office," the Cafe de Flore, each Sunday from 11:30am-1pm.

After learning about someone who has a story such as Terrance's, so many expats ask the question: "How did he do that?," which is predictably followed by, "And how can I do it, too?"

Getting to this point in his life - as is always the case - has been a journey.

According to Gelenter's autobiographical book "Paris Par Hasard: From Bagels to Brioches," he had been inspired to build a life Paris in 1973, when his grandparents told him it was "the most civilized place on Earth." Over the years Terrance spent a considerable amount of time in Paris.

By the time he was 17, Gelenter's family had been through two divorces, but he adds that through "every step of the way, somebody loved me." He had grandparents that were highly involved in his life, and they encouraged him to learn. After initially living in Pittsburgh as a boy, he ended up in New York City.

"Growing up in Brooklyn, I always had a job. That was the way it was with everyone. When things didn't go your way, there was no bitching and moaning. Get up off the canvas and keep fighting."

When Terrance moved to Paris following his divorce, he had been running Hispanic Marketing Solutions, a Latin media company that he launched in 1990. With ad sources drying up, he had the sense that his career in that industry was coming to a close. As with so many other times in his life, he adapted by taking advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves.

Thus, his business and its companion website, Paris Through Expatriate Eyes, was born. He helps with tours, finding accommodations, identifying the perfect culinary experiences and more. His weekly newsletter keeps people up-to-date on cultural events each weekend in Paris.

For the wannabe expats who are always asking EXACTLY how they can move their lives to Paris - or any other romanticized location throughout the world - Gelenter offers some great advice.

"There is no template to make it work in Paris. Entrepreneurs find a way to make it work for them. How serious are you? Everyone wants to live in Paris or Rome or whatever."

Before the decision to be an expat, "make sure you're going TO something rather than running AWAY from something. Something that is burning inside you. [Don't turn] away when you run into a problem." He adds that it shouldn't be a random choice from your bucket list.

Gelenter also cites the "serendipity of life" and the importance of recognizing "situations to grab." He's likely to cite a number of experiences - even marriage and fatherhood - that he never sought but ended up being positive forces in his life.

This is the frame of mind that Gelenter suggests expats need to embrace in order to make life abroad really work... especially if you are an entrepreneur. He'll describe how he was able to grow his business via relationships established every step along the way - even with someone he met on the Paris Metro.

He'll concede that practicalities have to be dealt with, but for Gelenter it's a fair price to pay. Despite the stereotypes of how the French are with foreigners, he believes that there is a "greater generosity of spirit in Paris," and adds that "human value is appreciated much more here in Paris."

"People should look at core values and what they want in their life. Do you want to stay at home and watch five knuckleheads on NFL Today or watch CSI Toledo? Come here as an adventure. You're not changing jobs. You're coming here to live a richer more nuanced life."

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000. Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Some of Joshua's more popular articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and 5 Best Places to Live in Spain. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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First Published: Jan 11, 2014

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