You are an expat from France and have now been calling Portland home for the past couple years – what brought you to Portland and have you lived somewhere else in the States?
I was born and grew up in France but have been an expat my whole adult life! Actually, from this year on, I will have lived longer abroad than in the country where I was born. I left France to study in Switzerland when I was 17 and never came back (except to visit friends and family of course). I’ve lived, studied and/or worked in France, England, Spain, China, the Netherlands and ultimately moved to the USA in 2014, first to Southern California, and then to Portland, Oregon, in 2016.
I think I first heard about Portland through a French illustrator who came over here for a creative retreat many years ago and published a couple of comics about her experience of the city on her blog. Portland remained in the back of my head and when I felt that my time in SoCal was over, I took the leap and moved up North! I pretty much just packed my bags and drove all the way here without having ever been to Portland before!
What does your day job mean to you or how are you benefiting from it in your daily life?
It’s funny because to me the exact opposite question would make more sense: what does my side hustle mean to me and how am I benefitting from it in my daily life! But truly, it’s a hard question to answer. I have a love-hate relationship with my work as a translator. I pretty much navigated through my career as a translator without really thinking about it. I got my first job a couple months before I graduated and worked for the same organization for 6 years (with a hiatus to go live and work in China for the Olympics!). After that, my job was outsourced, the financial crisis hit and I worked the odd job as a receptionist, an editor, you name it! I had already decided to quit the translation business and work in marketing and communication (I was taking night classes and volunteering for various music festivals) but got an offer I could not refuse – considering the economic landscape – to work as a translator for an international tribunal in the Netherlands. I got miserable very quickly and quit after less than a year to finally go back to Switzerland and start a new career at a communication agency. Soon after, my boyfriend and I decided to move to the US and I quickly realized that the easiest thing for me to do was to go back to being a (freelance) translator.
So, to put it in a nutshell, my work as a translator is comfortable, flexible and lucrative. It’s a safety net, a security blanket.
How did you start your side hustle and why did you start your blog?
I’ve written many blogs over the past decade. First to stay in touch with friends and family when I studied abroad, and ultimately to share my passion for all things sustainable. I started brainstorming Conscious by Chloé while in SoCal, feeling that I needed something constant and regular in my life (freelance life can be hard after so many years at a desk job) and a medium to share my passions (since I no longer had close friends to share them with in real life).
What are two books, podcasts and two women who inspire you and have/have had a huge impact on your journey?
Annika, you know how hard it is for me to narrow my list down to 2! But fine, let’s make it quick:
- A book: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I’m aware that it’s not for everybody. I did give it to a couple people as a gift and was surprised that they did not love it as much as I did. I suppose I just read it at the right time in my life, a couple months after I moved to the US. The author takes inventory of her life and sets up a theme and goals for each month of the year. It’s actually while reading it that I manifested my blog, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.
- A podcast: Stuff Mom Never Told You by Emilie Aries and Bridget Todd. It simply opens my eyes on others’ perspective on racial, economic and social (in)justice at every (biweekly) episode.
- A woman: Tina Roth Eisenberg, aka Swissmiss and her “If I keep complaining about something, I either do something about it or let it go” rule. Her Studiomates (now Friends Work Here) venture also inspired me to open, my own coworking space, Costa Makers, when I first moved to the US.
What are three topics in the creative world that should be more openly shared?
Behind the scenes, finances, professional network.
What are two things that bother you in our current society and how can women support each other in a better way?
I’m generally outraged by the total lack of respect for nature and all living things (fauna, flora, human beings). I do not want to name all the people, policies and conflicts that currently plague the world but you get the picture. I think that women already do a great job at supporting each other. There will always be the “I’m a feminist, but…” partisans and that’s ok. Just pick your battles and fight right. I’ve had my fair share of deceiving experiences but I’m not giving up. One of my personal commandments is “always assume that people are doing their best”. I try to focus on the positive rather than the negative, while still acknowledging the latter. It has really shifted my perspective on things though I have to admit that some days it’s harder than others.
How did you find your community, your people when you moved to Portland and can you give some tips and insights how to connect with fellow female creatives when moving to a new city?
This all depends on your personality. I’m an introvert, or more accurately an extraverted introvert. This means that I love reaching out to people, attending events, making connections, but that I am not comfortable in group discussions, that I hate small talk and that I need time alone to recharge my batteries.
Whenever I move to a new place, I have a two-fold approach, I:
- follow inspiring creatives on Instagram, interact with them and ultimately invite them for a cup of coffee/tea. The worst-case scenario is that they’ll say no (this still has to happen to me). I’ve also notice that it’s really helpful to ask some of them to be friends with you on Facebook, that way you can see what cool events you should attend in your new hometown!
- join a couple groups on Facebook according to my centers of interest (small business, minimalism, hiking) and attend the events they organize. I have a funny story about that: One day, at a restaurant, I bumped into a woman I had interacted with a couple times through a small business owner group. I asked her whether I’ll see her at the next event and she simply said “You know we don’t have to wait for the next meet-up to hang”. It had never occurred to me to do that (I have to admit she intimidated me a little), but I’m so glad she did and very proud to now call her my friend. So pluck up the courage and invite someone to join for lunch/a gallery opening/a poetry reading outside of these social groups.
- hang out in small shops and connect with their owners. They know all the right peeps, all the radest spots and are simply the best city guides!
What are two clichés you encounter, as someone who moved from a different country?
Clichés about French women? Where do I start? Well, I’m fortunate enough to have been born in a country whose culture, for the most part, is looked up to by Americans. So I won’t complain about the myth of the stylish French woman, but I do get amused/annoyed that here in the US everything has to be French: French braids, French doors, French manicure, I’m actually keeping a list of these and looking for their origin (spoiler alert: it’s either marketing or colonialism).
What do you like the most about your way of life and what are the meh moments?
Living in a foreign country, I’m constantly learning, whether I listen to a podcast on my daily walks, turn on the radio in my car, watch a TV show at home, or chat with a local small business owner.
The meh part of it would probably be that I still haven’t figured out what I want to do with my life. I go back and forth between wanting to have a little more stability and appreciating the freedom and opportunities that freelance and expat life offers me. I’ve done a lot of work on this issue during a creative retreat a group of girlfriends and I organized on the Oregon coast during the last days of 2017 and it’s helped me identify what I’m really striving for.
What are your two favorite places in Portland?
Now that’s a tough question because there are so many amazing places that I love in Portland, from food co-ops to parks and museums.
I’m gonna say Woodlawn Coffee & Pastry, because it’s my neighborhood café and because my freelance life would not be the same without my “fake commute” (i.e. walking there to get a chai latte while listening to my French news podcast before starting my work day). And then Mount Tabor, a city park that sits on a dormant volcano in SE Portland. I love Portland for its many parks and forests. It’s such a luxury to be able to get lost in nature at only a couple minutes’ drive from wherever you are in the city!
If someone offered you a year off to create something that makes an impact - what would you do?
Oh dear! I suffer from analysis-paralysis so it would be very, very hard for me to choose. Since I do feel that I would not have the power, time, resources or knowledge to make an impact by myself, I would probably volunteer with an organization whose values I share. Right now, I’m internally debating the power of individuals vs institutions. So I might just as well take that year off to run for office instead.
What are your plans for 2018 – anything in the loop?
Every December, I chose a one word theme for the coming year. And my 2018 word is LEARN. So there’s gonna be many books, documentaries, workshops and classes in my future. I want to improve my memory, stop saying that I’m bad at numbers and get more comfortable when speaking in public. Get ready for my upcoming stand-up about the imperial system!
I also very recently signed a lease for and moved into a studio here in Portland. I’m excited to get out of the home office I share with my husband, to make a mess, leave a project unfinished at the end of the day and start where I left off the next morning. I’m unbearably excited to experiment in my own space and be a part of and interact daily with a creative community (the studio is located in an artists’ community space).
And finally, after having spent a lot of time trying to find my community over here, I want to nurture it in real life rather than online. I want to host events on a more regular basis: dinners with friends at home, workshops, meet-ups. This means more cooking and talking at home and less scrolling and commenting on social media.
Thanks Chloe for sharing those insights, please follow this girl on her zerowaste journey and get some awesome tips from @consciousbychloe.