An Expat Life | Matthieu Waddell
Meet Matthieu, a seasoned inspirational expatriate having spent 20 years in Paris. Matthieu explains how the French language has shaped his expatriate experience, from growing a business to even cultivating a new persona. He speaks on the importance of “adaptability” as a key to happiness and success, not in just living abroad, but in flourishing given the constraints of our day-to-day life. Finally, he speaks about his yoga practice, and his mission to help those in the expat community feel a sense of belonging and refuge from a life built on relocation.
1. What brought you to Paris?
I had dreamt of coming to Paris as a child. My first exposure to the French language was in the 5th grade. We had a language immersion course that allowed students to be introduced to French, Spanish, German. Obviously, I chose French. I then studied it until I graduated from high school. Luckily, all through high school one of my closest friends was half French. This allowed me unlimited access to speaking the language.
Many years later, I was hired by a major French company in New York. This was like a dream come true. For 5 years my career progressed. Then, I asked for a transfer to Paris. I never thought my request would receive a positive response. 30 days later, I was embarking on this wonderful journey to The City of Light. That was 20 years ago!
Before moving to Paris, I had regularly visited the city. Paris has so much to do and see. Once I moved here it was like being a kid in a candy store – museums, art exhibitions, concerts, nightlife, etc. Those first years were like being in a whirlwind. To use the words of Hemingway, Paris is indeed “A Moveable Feast”.
2. How did you decide to open up a yoga teaching practice?
Being exposed to yoga was a major turning point in my life. I had been practicing for several years in gyms. However, it was not until I went to India many years later and practiced with a yogi that I had the experience of a deep relaxation after the practice. I had never felt anything like it. I felt relaxed and recharged after the class. My desire to teach Hatha yoga stems from this moment. Now, I try to create a temporary space where as many people as possible can potentially have this same experience. This is is what differentiates a true yoga class from sports and fitness, the relaxation at the end of the class.
As an expat, not mastering the local language and/or administrative interactions can generate enormous amounts of stress. Being able to find a moment of stillness and calmness in a chaotic city is essential. Hatha yoga techniques, which encompass more than just physical postures, have been an enormous help to me.
3. How does language comes into play with your teaching business?
As a yoga teacher, speaking is the core of my livelihood. Depending on whether I am teaching a class in English or French, the mannerisms and gesticulations are totally different. Each language has its own flow and rhythm so the speaker adapts automatically and intuitively. In any case, that has been my experience. Some scientific research suggests that when we learn a different language, we also create a different persona.
As a local business person in France, this “adaptability” is essential because networking is a major part of success here. Although we may have the right contact person, without the proper rules of conduct or etiquette, the success rate can be greatly diminished.
On the other hand, as an American expat, I recently had an unexpected surprise from a American client who said, “hearing an American accent is both touching and comforting.” When she comes to my class, this is a moment that allows her to to reconnect with that part of herself. I had never thought about that aspect of the power of language.
4. Any feedback for future or current expats?
My advice for any expat is to do a bit of research before moving to any foreign country. Learn the local customs. Remember that you should adapt to your host country. Learn the language! Learn the language! Learn the language! Nowadays, there are a plethora of foreign language resources available. For example, I used Rosetta Stone software to learn Italian before going on vacation to Italy. See what works for your learning style and dive in. Mix with the locals. This is the best way to improve your language skills. They can also prove to be formidable allies as your grow your business.
My first years in France, I was a total geek. I did not even have a television. I would come home after work and study French grammar and read the dictionary. I also limited my contact with English speakers to force myself to improve my French. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you use such draconian methods but an action plan is necessary.
And one last note. Be patient with yourself. Everyday will not be hunky-dory. Roll with punches and enjoy your fabulous expat life!
5. We tried your classes, and loved them! What info can we pass along to our readers so that they can try Svadharma Ayur Yoga?
Check out my website or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I currently hold three classes at Studio Bleu, 14 boulevard Poissonnière, Paris. Hatha yoga classes are offered on Tuesdays and Wednesday from 1-2pm. My 90 minute classes are offered on Friday evenings at 7pm.
July 17, 2017
July 10, 2017