From Alsace to Miami: Marine and Sylvain's Amercican dventure

Expat interviews
  • Marine and Sylvain
Published on 2024-03-29 at 10:00 by Estelle
Get ready for a coast-to-coast American adventure with Marine and Sylvain, a dynamic French couple! They ditched the charming landscapes of Alsace, France, for the vibrant shores of Los Angeles and then Miami's Latin flair. Their story, unfolding over the past six years, is a captivating tale of embracing challenges and seizing opportunities.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your background?

Marine: I'm originally from Strasbourg in Alsace, specifically from the Molsheim region. I started my career in the hotel industry, spending almost ten years with the Accor group as an Assistant Manager of a 100-room hotel.

Sylvain: I was born in St-Dié-des-Vosges and raised in the Schirmeck area, also in Alsace. Marine's grandparents and mine were friends, and that's how we met. We've been together for 13 years now. I've been working as a pastry chef for nearly 15 years, a passion that sparked in me at a young age, thanks to my grandfather. He was a big pastry enthusiast, and we loved baking together.

What brought you to the United States? How long have you lived there, and in which cities?

Marine: Everyone who knew Sylvain knew he dreamed of adventure abroad. He would often say, "By the time I'm 30, I'll be a pastry chef in the US." Then, one day in early April 2018, my manager announced that I had been chosen to manage a hotel on my own within the next 6 months. Later that same day, Sylvain called to share that he had received a job offer for a pastry chef position in Los Angeles. I vividly recall that day when we faced a pivotal decision. Two months later, we were on a plane bound for Los Angeles.

Sylvain: Before making the move, we had visited the USA numerous times. Deep down, I knew I wanted to live and work there. It's been 6 years since we made that decision. Initially, we resided in Los Angeles, but the onset of COVID made us to reassess our plans. Back then, I was employed at a restaurant in LA. Subsequently, I received an offer to work for a chain of bakeries in Miami. Consequently, we've been living in Miami for almost 2 years now. And yes, I did celebrate my 30th birthday in Los Angeles, just as I had always dreamed.

What are the differences between Los Angeles and Miami? Do you have a preference between the two?

Marine : Our opinions differ. I prefer LA. California offers a diverse array of landscapes, from mountains to oceans, lakes, and skyscrapers, making it an appealing place to live. It's highly cosmopolitan, offering a wide range of opportunities. However, in Florida, you enjoy significantly lower taxes compared to California, offering a distinct contrast in terms of financial benefits.

Sylvain: I prefer Miami and Florida in general. I'm a member of an American car club in the LA area, and it's been quite an experience with some remarkable encounters. However, there's a notable difference in gastronomy between the West Coast and the East Coast. On the West Coast, there isn't as much enthusiasm for pastries and desserts compared to the East Coast, where the European influence is more prominent. Here in Miami, the Latin influence is strong. I had to quickly pick up Spanish to communicate with my team. In 2018, I had to learn English, and now Spanish as well. In Miami, I enjoy activities like jet skiing and motorcycle riding. I prefer the climate here; despite the humidity, I find it easy to adjust to, and the air quality is much better than in LA.

What are the differences and similarities between life in France and the US?

Marine : That's a tough question, and it's one that comes up frequently. People often mention social security, the cost of living, and food prices as major factors, but these are things we talk about without truly understanding them. For me, the biggest difference is the "yes we can" attitude. My employer covers all my health insurance costs and contributes significantly to Sylvain's. Our salaries align well with the cost of living here. I always say, look at what's left in your pocket at the end of the month. And here in the USA, I have the most. As for shopping, I typically go to Aldi, so it's not a big adjustment for me. Overall, hese two countries have very little in common.

Sylvain: We had to begin from square one here. We had no bank account, no social security card—nothing. We felt like complete strangers to the country. We had to navigate how to use American credit cards, establish credit history, hunt for an apartment, purchase a car, and so on. Tasks that appear straightforward for natives but become far more complex when you're starting from scratch.

Tell us about your professional experience. How did the job search go, and did you have any difficulties finding it?

Sylvain: I found both my job in LA and my current one in Miami through Facebook. I'm part of groups like "Pastry Chefs Around the World" where job postings are regularly shared. Additionally, I'm active on LinkedIn, a professional social network that greatly assists in expanding your professional connections.

Marine : When arriving in LA, I had to wait five months to obtain my work permit from the government. During this time, I utilized tools like Indeed and LinkedIn while ensuring that my CV met the country's standards. Initially, I focused my job search on the hotel industry. However, I faced tough competition from locals who were familiar with the industry and the city. So, I decided to specify "French" in my Indeed search, which led me to my first job. The company was seeking a French-speaking individual to expand its business in certain countries. After a year with that company, I progressed to become the sales manager for the American West region at a company specializing in luxury gourmet products like caviar and truffles. It became evident to me the importance of having a high-quality LinkedIn profile and a well-crafted CV. I decided to invest in professional assistance for both, and the results were outstanding. Thanks to this, I've been approached by numerous recruitment agencies for increasingly promising positions. For nearly four years now, I've been remote working in the USA as a sales manager.

Marine, what is remote working in the USA like? Are there any differences with France? Do you ever go back to the office?

Marine: In the USA, I have a salaried status akin to executive status in France. This means I have flexible working hours. However, typically, I work from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday. The company provides us with the necessary equipment, and I'm reimbursed for expenses such as wifi. I visit the office, located in Michigan, once a month and occasionally meet with clients. The level of flexibility regarding work hours can vary depending on the company culture; some are more stringent than others. I consider myself lucky to work for a company that places trust in its employees.

How has remote working in the United States changed things for you? What are the pros and cons you've experienced?

Marine: Remote working provides me with geographic flexibility and enables me to apply for positions with national companies. The job market in Miami is comparatively smaller, and prior to COVID-19, I couldn't have imagined working for a company based in Michigan. Unlike employers in France who push employees to return to the office, here we see a continued preference for remote work, which I find beneficial. Working from home is highly efficient for me. Since my team is spread across the country, tools like Teams are invaluable for collaboration. While I do miss face-to-face interactions, I appreciate the opportunity to occasionally visit the office to finalize projects and connect with my colleagues.

Sylvain, could you share your experience of finding a job? Was there a demand for your profession? What challenges did you face during your job search and in the initial days after securing a position?

Sylvain: In France, finding a job often involves sending out spontaneous applications or making personal introductions. However, the process is more complex in the USA, primarily due to the country's vast size and the impracticality of the traditional French approach. Thus, networking becomes a crucial asset. I utilized platforms like Indeed, LinkedIn, and Facebook for my job search. Subscribing to various pastry-related groups on Facebook helped me discover job openings. There is indeed a demand in the gastronomy industry, encompassing both restaurants and pastry shops. However, the challenge lies in finding qualified individuals and then persuading a company to sponsor a visa, which is essential for working in the USA. Initially, my main challenges revolved around language barriers. Leading a team in English in Los Angeles and then switching to Spanish here in Miami wasn't easy. Spanish is the predominant language in the region, and proficiency in both languages became necessary for me.

The labor code is also different, and so are mentalities, so I had to adapt very quickly. And depending on the state we're in, even the laws are different. In California, for example, labor regulations are more structured than in Florida.

How has your social life been? Was it challenging to integrate and make new friends?

Marine: When arriving in the USA, one often desires to connect with the French community, but we didn't find much success with that. Instead, I learned a lot more from my American friends. I formed friendships mainly through work in LA. Additionally, we receive frequent visits from our friends, keeping our weeks quite busy.

Sylvain: Instagram and Facebook have been invaluable in this regard. I'm passionate about vintage American cars, motorcycles, and jet skis, so I'm constantly engaging with groups on these platforms, which has led me to meet many fantastic individuals. For fellow enthusiasts, I own a stunning 1963 Chevrolet C10 and an Indian motorcycle. These passions truly come alive in the USA. Moreover, as we connect with new people, they introduce us to others, thus expanding our network.

Do you have any tips for individuals considering relocating to the United States?

Marine: My advice is to avoid comparing things to France and, instead, embrace the adventure wholeheartedly. There will inevitably be upsides and downsides, but the key is discovering what works best for you. The mentality and way of life in the United States are vastly different from those in France, but they also present numerous opportunities and possibilities.

Sylvain: For those looking to start a business in the USA right away, my advice is to avoid simply copying and pasting from France. It's a different culture, and unfortunately, we've seen many bakeries and pastry shops close due to this reason. Make sure to select the appropriate visa for your project and seek guidance from professionals in the field.

What are your plans for the future?

Sylvain: To have stability and probably buy a house in order to become fully established.

Marine: Embark on a new project, maybe set up a business. We've had this experience in the country for 6 years, which is a real asset.

Is a return to France an option?

Sylvain: Not at the moment, but maybe one day.

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