Interviewed by Bianca Smith
Nick Rogers, originally from Bournemouth, England, is an expat who has lived in Paris for the last 21 years. He is currently the Director of Operations and City Manager of Belushi’s bars and St Christopher’s Hostels in Paris, which have two locations: Gare du Nord and Quai de L’Ourcq. Nick is more than familiar with what it takes to seamlessly merge into life in a new city; not only from his own experiences but from the thousands of expatriates and travelers he crosses paths with in the professional world of tourism and hospitality.
What was the original inspiration to move to Paris?
It was 1992, I was actually working in the Caribbean at the time. My father sent me a fax about a job offer with Disney in Paris, so I applied and was lucky enough to get it. I started at the bottom of the ladder and ended up being the Manager of Entertainment. It was a fantastic experience with great people. I’ve always loved being involved in customer service, and everyone loves Disney. At the start of 2013 I was headhunted by Beds and Bars to open the biggest youth hostel for backpackers and expats in Paris, I jumped at the opportunity to increase my industry knowledge and haven’t looked back. Of course amongst all that I fell in love with a beautiful French woman and started a family. Paris certainly has its charms.
How did you find the transition?
It was honestly, incredibly difficult. The transition from an overseas French region to France was, surprisingly, night and day, and the administrative processes were complicated and long winded. I still think the transition/ability to switch from the English to French mentality is sometimes difficult, you just need to have patience. It gets better!
What’s a typical day for you like?
My office is a bar/restaurant for travelers and expats that adjoins a 1000 bed youth hostel, so needless to say my days are always pretty eventful. Being constantly surrounded by the amazing melting pot of nationalities and languages keeps me young and is always a lot of fun. I love seeing the cultural interaction that takes place here in such an open and non-judgemental way, because that’s exactly what the Belushi’s mentality is all about. I get to help create an environment where people can share their lives and stories about this city, then take it all home and share it with my family.
What’s the best thing about Paris?
Paris is without a doubt the romantic city. The aesthetics and history of the city are just beautiful, as are the women and the food. As cliché as it is, no one does bread, cheese or wine like the French. The bar scene is constantly evolving, there are always new places to discover. Also, nothing beats a picnic (Paris style) in the Jardin du Luxembourg with my family and friends.
Advice to people moving here?
Find people who can help you with the administrative side of things. Begin learning the language as soon as possible, then get out there and start socialising! Paris is a beautifully dangerous city, with so much variety and so many unseen and untouched places to get lost in. Soak it all up as often as you can.
Will you ever repatriate?
Back to England? Never. But to somewhere new, definitely. I’m a traveler at heart, in time the prospect of somewhere new like Australia or the United States might be too hard to resist. Life is all about the adventure.
Best and worst thing about Paris?
The best thing is the food, and the architecture for sure. The worst? The constant strikes and the tedious administration.
Your three top pieces of advice for new expats in Paris?
Find your people – Join an expat group (or many), and meet up with them regularly. Seeing expats come together at Belushi’s and watching them share experiences and laughs over drinks is fantastic. The sense of community and networking it provides you is immeasurable.
Explore & sample – This city has a million times more to offer than what a guide book will tell you. Go out the front door and follow your feet, the treasures of Paris are always in the most unlikely places.
Look deeper – Don’t take the French on face value. Beneath the blank exterieurs and chic imagery there is an admirable simplicity and surprising warmth to the Parisian way of life.