Q&A with Chris Pavone
I moved to Luxembourg to follow my wife’s job back in the day. Before then, I had never lived anywhere other than New York City, except for college in the 1980s. My younger brother had lived in China, but for me, I’d never even considered trying the East Side of Manhattan, let alone another country. I regretted this hole in my life experience, this long-term act of low-level cowardice and I was excited to overcome it when we decided to relocate.
What inspired you to write a book based on your experiences abroad?
When we moved, I left behind not only my career but also much of my identity to follow my wife’s job. It was a complete change for me, where instead of doing what I’d been doing for my whole adult life—living in New York City, editing books mostly—I was now doing laundry and cleaning, tending to small children and living in a new household in a strange land, while my spouse worked constantly.
I found that it was within these circumstances, one needed to reinvent oneself. It was this real-life circumstance that inspired the book: the possibility—sometimes the necessity—of self-reinvention, which is one of the defining aspects of living abroad.
Do you have any plans to move abroad again, or was it just the one posting?
At present, we are not planning on moving abroad again. But then again, we weren’t planning on it the first time, so who knows what will come our way…
What advice would you have for expats moving to Luxembourg?
I strongly recommend the American Women’s Club for expats moving to Luxembourg. It is a wonderful organization, filled with friendly, helpful people who create a supportive environment for expats. It’s easy to meet like-minded individuals at the various events they run: wine tastings, cooking classes, tennis… and whatever else that takes your fancy. You’ll learn a lot of what you need to know, and meet a lot of people who are all in your situation.
What was your favourite moment as an expat?
We were in Paris for the weekend (something we did regularly) having dinner with our five-year-old boys at the beautiful Le Petit Zinc, in St-Germain. Near the end of our meal, an old man stopped by our table; we learned from the waiter that he’d been a regular for decades. He leaned down to my wife, and told her in French that our children were very well-behaved. That compliment from a stranger, given to Americans (!) who had brought their schoolchildren (!!) to a white-tablecloth restaurant, made me feel that we’d turned a big corner.
What advice would you have for expats moving to New York?
New York is a giant mass of small communities—of micro-neighborhoods that are just a few blocks square, consisting of the few hundred parents in a primary school, of people who work in a range of businesses, of ceramicists and tennis players and cellists and novelists who sit in downtown cafés with laptops. Whatever your passion or interest, you can easily find people who share it, and help to build a foundation for your new life when you first move. Don’t be afraid to pursue that passion and find your people.
About the author
Chris Pavone grew up in New York City, and worked at a number of publishing houses over nearly two decades, most notably as an editor at Clarkson Potter, where he specialised in cookbooks.
He is the father of twin schoolboys named Sam and Alex, and an old cocker spaniel named Charlie Brown (he’s brown), and the husband of Madeline McIntosh. He lived in New York City for his entire life, except for college and the year and a half that we lived in Luxembourg, where he started writing The Expats in the cafés of the cobblestony old town.