It’s never easy moving to another country, especially if you don’t know the language or the culture before you get there. But seven years ago, that’s just what Courtney Pulitzer did.
Though she’d taken French in high school and a couple years of it in college, being able to speak to people in a real life situation was a struggle and the feeling of being unable to communicate was overwhelming and alienating. It was hard not to be homesick for New York City and all her friends there.
But with time she learned the language and is now proud to be able to converse in French and navigate French cultural norms. So while there’s still the occasional struggle of living here (want Mexican, Thai or Indian food delivered for under 90 dollars? forget about it), Courtney has adapted well to French life. Her life there, however, married and the mother of a young son, bares little resemblance to the one she left behind in New York City just some years ago.
Trained as an actress at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Courtney’s career turned from character analysis to corporate analysis when she began to work for a corporate identity expert. It was the early years of the internet and one day her boss bared in the door and said “We have to get on the Internet! We need to create a web site! We need to offer this to our clients!” So Courtney got to work teaching herself how to make a website.
From there she started freelancing as a website designer. One website she designed happened to be for a small online newsletter and they also asked her to cover the evolving tech industry in New York City. As her column gained in popularity she decided to branch out on her own, creating her own newsletter called, The Cyber Scene, about the people behind the technology that was emerging from the industry.
A constant networker, she saw a need for the people in the tech scene to get to know each other face-to-face and created an event series called, Cocktails with Courtney. The events quickly grew to international fame and soon she was hosting cocktail parties in cities all over the United States, not to mention London and Cannes.
Alongside planning the events, seeking sponsors and traveling to and from them, Courtney continued reporting on tech events for her newsletter, usually at least 4 per night, and still ran her own business creating websites. Courtney’s life ran at a hectic, non-stop pace for two years before it started to take its toll on her. Then, in April 2001 the market crashed and business dried up. Burnt out and out of work, she had to find something different to do.
Eventually she took a job as an office manager for a small Rockefeller-family owned company while she decided what to do next. During that time, a friend from France sent her an invitation to a wedding in China and she jumped at the opportunity to go. While there she met a her future husband, a Frenchman. After a year of friendship, Courtney went to visit him in France and “Well, as they say, the rest is history.” Though they visited back and forth, the idea of moving to Paris still wasn’t part of Courtney’s plans. She was contemplating going back to school to become a lawyer for women escaping abusive situations. She applied to five law schools and received five rejections. It looked as though all things were pointing her to France.
So in December 2007 she packed up her things and moved. A year later she married her boyfriend and just a year after that, their son was born. While life can be busy here as she takes care of her son and sometimes looks in on the French tech scene, the pace of life is different, and she loves that. She loves the focus on family time, the life/work balance and the fresh food and produce, not to mention the architecture. From street lamps to metro signs, she loves it all.
But today, she’ll keep an American tradition alive and celebrate her sixth Thanksgiving in France. Though it will pass with a bit less fanfare than in the U.S., and maybe without the cranberry sauce (tough to find abroad), today she’s giving thanks for the chance to share the holiday with her family and the friends she has made in Paris.
We’d like to wish Courtney, and all of our community celebrating the day, a very happy Thanksgiving.
Eliana Arredondo is the Community Manager for about.me. She is a graduate of Stanford University.