Journalist and author, Lindsey Tramuta, has been living in Paris for over a decade now. In that time, she has seamlessly integrated herself into French culture, speaking without a trace of an accent. Often vacillating between that and her native American English, she reflects on the intersections of culture that have begun to imbue the city’s long revered cosmopolitan nature from a truly unique and fascinating perspective. Born and raised in the U.S. and a French citizen since 2014, Lindsey herself is the personification of the cultural intermingling that has begun to enhance Parisian life that she writes about in her work.
On a personal level, she has approached food as a key aspect of cultural assimilation in her new home, aptly recognizing its importance as a focal point in the French social landscape and French people’s philosophies towards life more broadly. “It’s funny because I wasn’t actually someone who thought or cared that much about food growing up. It wasn’t until I came to France when I was 20 that I was exposed to all these things and really needed to step beyond my culinary boundaries. I didn’t want to seem like a xenophobic eater. Now, it’s just impossible to detach food from me.”
With food as the unit of analysis, Lindsey seeks to invite deeper conversations about cultural interchange and the larger forces at play which drive them. “Some people call me a food writer, and I’m not. I would say I’m more a travel culture lifestyle writer and food is certainly part of culture. I like telling stories, and it just happens that food was a good starting point. ”
In her recent book, The New Paris, Lindsey does so by profiling different culinary and creative talents that are at the forefront of the city’s cosmopolitan evolution. While the act of eating together in French cultural epicenters like Paris stands as a crucial element of social life, she began to notice that traditions are not as static as one might think. Staying true to the integrity of a culture that has been celebrated the world over, each entry in the book adds an iteration of something new.
“I think not everyone knows what’s under their noses. For people who do writing work and journalistic work, you’re observing a lot all the time from a different perspective. I think we’re curious more innately with the why’s, how’s than some natives are.”
In her writing and in a podcast that goes by the same name as her book, she explores some of the reasons as to why the blending of different cultural influences and the inclination towards innovation are occurring, ultimately circling back to the intersections between her own French-American identity. “I talk about the economy, the downturn, because that was a pivotal moment for people who were in business, who were in school, and would be looking for jobs and not necessarily finding a traditional path, which was the case with me. I was interning at the time of the economic crisis, and I was told that I would not have a full time job at the end of it. So I was like, ‘what am I gonna do in this country?’ I remember having the idea of being someone—which is also very American—wanting to do multiple things, which does not fit with the way the French work. There’s no box that says, ‘do everything.’’’
Further, living in Paris over the years since the recession, Lindsey is glad to see some of a more American approach to work arising in the city in terms of the kinds of creative risks people are willing to take. “There’s a different work ethic [in the U.S. than in France], and I think that because we haven’t had the same securities in place as the French, we’ve had to learn to do stuff on our own, and there’s less hand holding. In school, the structure and environment is far more encouraging so people don’t feel negative all the time about what they’re doing, and there’s help when students need it. I feel like obviously there’s negative stuff in the news all the time, but I think that for the most part, when you meet an American they’re pretty positive, pretty optimistic, and upbeat. They’re perseverant, they—we—just go for stuff when we believe in it, and I don’t think there are as many things holding us back whereas I think the French are so afraid of failure. With the way that failure is treated especially from a young age, rather than try it, they stay on the safe path, but Americans are always told to experiment.”
I think Paris has a lot to gain from just sheer openness to other ideas and concepts instead of thinking they can do it all themselves and have all the answers. That’s created a lot of energy and a dynamic attitude that wasn’t here before.
Lindsey applies this distinctively American mindset of industriousness, in turn, to actualizing messages on the topic of French joie de vivre in all its nuance and complexity. Americans, with their propensity toward workaholism, could simultaneously learn from this side of the equation as well. “The fact that Americans just work, work, work, and they don’t see the importance enough of taking breaks and doing things, enjoying life. That’s even more important now giving the political climate, we need to be taking care of ourselves.”
With the fresh eyes of an expat, for The New Paris, Lindsey underwent years of research to compile a repertoire of initiatives in Paris including “different hangouts, public places and urban planning development. Whether it’s in object or in food, there is a rise of craft and artisanal tradition as well as a revival of old traditions.” Indeed, these things are not trivial compared to work life, but rather fundamental aspects to cultural life, and they ought to be showcased and shared so that people can get the most out of the human experience, nourishing themselves and their communities in both good times and bad.
What’s more is that Lindsey has observed that investing in enjoying these kinds of experiences rather than accumulating more material things is something else she has found to enrich her life in meaningful ways. “I think you’re also content with less when you’re in Europe, and because of that, we go out more here. You’re okay with having a small space because you’re out. Your home is also cafés and industries.”
I always had this inkling that my values, life values were more in line with French values, or I could say European values.
Lindsey herself is also a living example of a Parisian who breaks the fixed mold in ways that enrich the city through her writing as person coming from abroad who has truly made a home for herself in the city over the years. Instead of painting the French capital with broad strokes underpinned by the same old clichés, she seeks to illuminate all the small pieces that perhaps don’t fit the convenient narratives we see in movies or read about in stories. The culmination of these fragments are what invite hope for these aspects to maintain Paris’s cosmopolitan prowess rather than diminish it. As such, they ought to be celebrated rather than ignored.
The new Paris is one of heightened cultural exchange. When it comes to the juncture between features of French and American identity, the former has been enriched by the dissemination of traditionally American style of vigor and diligence in one’s pursuits, and the latter can find balance by adopting the epicurean as a central aspect of what it means to be alive.
As for Lindsey’s own take on the two, “I feel very much both. There’s still things in me that will come out that sound more American, and there are things about the French that drive me nuts. There are things that are very positive about the way we’re raised [in America], but ultimately, I feel more French. I feel more French in my attitude towards things, toward what I think is important. Yes there are differences between European countries, but I think that’s also a general European feeling. I think it’s normal to feel like you’re just sort of somewhere in between, you’re a hodgepodge of these cultures–you become this hybrid person.”
This post was originally published on The Food Keeper, a project co-founded with Fanette Guilloud.