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The Game of Life – French Expatriate in the United States Edition

Long-term expatriation is not for everybody. So you know where you stand before you even attempt the big leap, this French Expatriate edition of the “Game of Life” charts the major roads and back alleys of your journey in the United States. Of course, it all starts with you, what you bring and who you are on arrival.

1. You are already rich and famous. (Go to 6)

2. You are already rich. (Go to 7)

3. You are a bum. (Go to 8)

4. You have qualifications. (Go to 9) You don’t have any qualifications. (Go to 5)

5. You don’t have qualifications. You have a talent. (Go to 10) You don’t have a talent. (Go to 3) 


6. Come here for vacation and investment, don’t bother with anything else. Don’t think you are as famous here as you are in France, though. You may require an elaborate scheme to translate here what made you famous in France. If that fails, try scandal. (Go to 24 

7. Try being famous. Network the wealthy and the powerful, buy endorsements, translate talents. Pretend you care about a noble cause, donate large funds and use fundraising events as fame catalysts. That, or get into big trouble. Be at the center of a major scandal. (Go to 24)

8. Have faith in this book. Pull yourself together. Start your transformation now. If you do start transforming yourself, go to 19. If nothing happens, go to 23. An alternate route is to try being porn star (provided you have good looks, endurance and a high tolerance for drugs). In that case, go to 18.

9. You have some qualifications. What are they?

  • Arts and crafts (such as cabinet making, silk painting, glass blowing, cooking, pastry, baking) (Go to 11)
  • Liberal Arts (major in Literature, Comparative Studies, History, Geography, Philosophy, Political Science) (Go to 12)
  • Science (such as a degree in Engineering or a Doctorate in Physics, Biology or Medicine) (Go to 13)
  • Law, finance and Accounting (Go to 14)
  • Marketing, Communications (Go to 15)

10. You have artistic talent. Is it real? (Go to 16) Is it fake? (Go to 17)

11. Start your own shop with French flare. Target a niche clientele that is super wealthy and propose unique products. Americans are notoriously bored and open to anything that might make them feel special and make them come in their wallet. Buying some overpriced and irrelevant authentic crap from a French skilled worker/artist is one of those. (Go to 18)

12. You are doomed, doomed, doomed. You can teach French at the local Alliance Française, High School or University. Get exploited either way. This is not a career. (Go to 19)

13. Come on a fellowship program. Sell your ideas, grab huge grants for research, sell your results to big Pharma, the Department of Defense or the CIA. (Go to 20)

14. Take a huge pay cut. Do ancillary work in a field you already know like the back of your hand. Learn English, forget you are French, make them believe you were never there. Take the required exams to translate your hard won French degree into something the Americans will actually understand and respect. (Go to 21)

15. You are doomed, doomed, doomed, unless a) you happen to do some rare liaison work for a French company or b) you are truly bilingual and can deliver top performances in English. (Go to 19)

16. You have real artistic talent. No French expatriate ever made it in the U.S. with artistic talents. Start a trend (yeah right). Here, the government doesn’t subsidize silent theater plays about blind puppeteers playing kazoo in the dark, so your masterpiece will have to be self-produced or endorsed by a wealthy friend (with whom you may sleep, since your views on aesthetics will convince no one). (Go to 25) If that fails, go to 23.

17. You think you have talent but it turns out you don’t. (Go to 3)

18. Work hard for ten years solid. Surf the trends, build a reputation, start a YouTube channel, open a school to teach your craft, work harder. By then, you are already rich. (Go to 22) If you fail at that, go to 23.

19. Start reinventing yourself slowly but surely. Perfect your English as fast as you can and learn new tricks, for instance, in the field of technology. (American companies are used to hearing accents and non-native English in IT departments.) Learn something about business. If your social science background doesn’t entirely prevent you from understanding something about the real world, start your own school (“French education” still sounds somewhat competent and/or sexy). Think about trading small specialty items whose value will be enhanced by your Frenchness. Think about consulting in intercultural studies (big hoax) and organizational development. No matter what your new path is, work really hard for ten years. If you make it that far, you are probably rich. Consider that you made the best out of a very bad initial situation. You have arrived at your own personal finish line. Congratulations. If you don’t make it or just couldn’t reinvent yourself, go to 23.  

20. On your comfortable American salary, start thinking about developing your own business. Become a basement inventor and develop an idea for yourself, which will become the basis for your startup. Surround yourself with competent (as in American) businessmen. Launch a promising startup, appear in Wired and the Financial Times, then resell for a few million.  Wait until it’s worth billions if you really have guts of steel. By French standards, you are insanely rich either way. (Go to 7)

21. Make your way up, become indistinguishable from the other traders, financial investors or accountants. Secure a spot in a top company. Screw up badly at fifty and go home with a sizable golden parachute. We were never made to work until sixty, let alone sixty-two. (Go to 7)

22. Get noticed by a local TV channel. Have your own show about, say, how to bake delicious French pastries out of American crap or how to turn American ingredients into something actually palatable. Become a kind of mediatized wine, fashion, antique furniture or organic perfume expert. Become semi-famous. Stop right there and enjoy or go to 7

23. You are in bad shape. The U.S. was fun for a moment. Eventually, you become tired of living on a shoe-string budget and on the fringes of society. You realize this entire country is only about money. You realize that, the older you become, the more important money truly is, and you don’t have a penny. Yet you are working long hours just to survive. You may go back home with a good story to cover your failure, hoping that a few friends will take care of you in exchange for an endless supply of American anecdotes. If so, go to 27. If you decide to just hang around, go to 26.

24. Survive the scandal and hire a ghost writer to put out a book about your version of the facts. Rely on heavy dramatization. Sell the rights to Hollywood, become even wealthier and achieve fame. Enjoy fame, fortune and sex without moderation.

25. Join a late Beatnik community in Colorado or New Mexico. Screw a bunch of ugly, malnourished and unclean women. Have countless ramblings about nothing with bearded wackos. Starve and freeze on the edge of the American desert. Have a revelation and go to 23.

26. Being old and penniless is no fun. You would gladly try to disguise your suicide as an accident so a couple of friends or family members may benefit from the sudden bounty and praise you in your afterlife, but you could never afford that life insurance in the first place. Die slowly and painfully.  

27. Your master plan changes. It becomes: struggle a lot in the U.S., preferably in New York, take a few pictures of yourself while doing so for future credibility, go back to France and pretend you made it big in the U.S. Then, make it big in France just because you were in the U.S. It’s called “the reverse strategy.”  

Excerpt from chapter 8 – Work (Don’t Panic!) in Make it Big in the USA Just Because You Are French, Jean-Pierre Ledauphin, 2012. Translation by Wallace B. Thompson


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