In episode 32 of I Want Her Job: The Podcast, we speak with Lauren Collins, staff writer at The New Yorker, and author of When In French: Love In A Second Language. The book, which is a memoir of falling in love, learning a new language and adjusting to a new culture, was recently selected as a “Notable Book of 2016” by The New York Times. And it’s easy to see why.
With plenty of humor and fascinating details on linguistics and French culture, in the book Lauren recounts her journey of learning and adjusting to a life in France. In her interview, she shares the story of the one decision that changed her life. Weeks before her 30th birthday, Lauren decided to shake things up, requesting to work for The New Yorker from London. It was during this fateful trip that, in a decidedly American way, Lauren walked over and introduced herself … to her future husband!
Eventually moving with him to Paris, When In French chronicles the cultural adjustments and clashes of living in a new country. Listen in to hear more about Lauren’s journey, details on her sought-after job at The New Yorker and more.
Topics Discussed In Today’s Show:
- On Working At The New Yorker: “It’s one of the few places to [still] take some time reporting thigs and really letting the story grow over the course of time,” Lauren says. “… One of the best things about the job is having the time to really report stories,” she says. “So, I hope they have a richness and depth that you can’t get without that investment of time.”
- Why Traveling Is Worth The Risk And Effort: Lauren shares her advice for many more of us to travel when we can, saying, “I think it’s the most enriching thing I have ever done. It sent my life in 100 different directions I never would have imagined.”
- How Travel Changed Her: “It has transformed me more than any lottery win, or juice cleanse, or second career, or anything that people ever imagine as a way to change their lives,” she says. “I think it’s a risk that really has very little downside. No matter what happens, you’re going to learn something about the world and yourself.”
- On Meeting Her Husband In A ‘Very American Way’: When Lauren met her now-husband, “I stuck my hand in his face and said, ‘Hi, I’m Lauren,’” she recalls.
- Culture Collisions: Lauren shares the cultural and language challenges that resulted in misunderstanding and arguments in France. In the United States, she says, citizens ‘love’ their music, friends and even their barista, while in France, the word ‘love’ is reserved strictly for the ones who truly capture our hearts.
- Making It Work: When moving to a new country, you have to figure out the formulas for greeting others in person, via email, etc. It’s completely obligatory to be aware of the cultural nuances when developing relationships in a new place. “You at least want to be aware of what the rules are so that you can be aware of whether or not you are breaking them,” she says.
- Breaking Barriers: When Lauren’s husband said, “Talking to you in English is like touching you with gloves,” Lauren finally decided to dive in and learn French. Today, however, the gloves have come off, and Lauren shares that her world has expanded and stretched wonderfully.
- Personal Impact Of Learning A Language: “I have been surprised by how much one person – even one person who thinks she’s fully formed – can stretch. And [it’s incredible to realize] what one person can hold,” she says. It’s really like the mental equivalent of weight lifting, she continues, saying you can really feel your mind pushing, as well as its exertion. “I am totally exhausted in almost a physical way after speaking French for a few hours,” she admits.
- It’s A Small World: Learning different languages exposes us deeply into other worlds, and in times of rising isolation and global politics, she says, we need more deep connections to one another and to our global history.
- How Do You Express Yourself When You Can’t Speak A Language?: Lauren found herself wondering how people express and define themselves when they can’t communicate in a foreign country. She often thought, “Who am I when I can’t talk?”
- Learn More And Connect: Follow Lauren on Twitter and visit her website.