Readers of a certain vintage will remember the name Sharon Au.
The former Mediacorp celebrity was noted for her role in the comedy Right Frequency (播音人) and for hosting variety shows such as City Beat (城人杂志).
After 22 years of being with Mediacorp, Au left for a sabbatical in Paris where she found work with a private equity firm in 2018.
Friends frequently asked why she moved to Paris
Writing about her decision to uproot herself in a piece for Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao (LHZB), Au said this is a question she gets asked a lot, especially from friends who visit her in Paris.
“Every time my friends finish their tour of Paris, they will ask me, very earnestly, why I made such a ridiculous decision to migrate to such a dirty, unsafe, inefficient city with such rude people,” Au wrote.
She does not deny that Paris is all of the above.
Paris, Au wrote, is filled with dog poop and trash, the subway’s stench makes her nauseated, and the customer service is indeed as infamous as people make it out to be.
Country’s soul more important than wealth
Yet, when asked why she would leave Singapore, a country which seems to be everything Paris is not, she finds herself unable to give an answer.
“I always respond with a smile because I cannot give an answer. It’s not because I don’t have a reason but rather, there are too many reasons for me to explain in a few sentences. Actually my answer lies in one word — soul,” she wrote.
“Every country has its soul. It is abstract but real. At this stage of my life, a country’s soul is more important than wealth and comfort. People have different opinions on this; this is based purely on individual preferences. Everyone has their own aspirations, that’s all.”
Adapting to life in Paris, and learning to love it
Au shared that she has adapted to life in Paris.
For instance, she has become accustomed to walking without looking at her phone and instead, admire the view. This way, she can also look out for dog poop on the street, she said.
She also dresses simply without many branded items and carries no more than 10 euros in her wallet at all times.
“Because I don’t carry my phone in hand, the young female pickpocket syndicates think I am poor and are not interested,” she wrote.
More importantly, Au has learned to enjoy waiting — especially common in Parisian restaurants where the staff are constantly busy.
“I don’t mind [the waiting]. Because I use the time to talk to people, journal, scroll through my phone, contemplate stuff, and people-watch. Waiting has become a kind of enjoyment.”
Dining should be an enjoyable social activity, Au wrote. “If you’re in a rush, I suggest you pack a sandwich to go and eat while you walk.”
Encourages others to step out of their comfort zone
Au described that she has neglected her soul, having spent the last 20 years earning money.
Now, she longs to immerse herself in Paris’ art and culture, learn the art of conversation and cultivate the ability to contemplate philosophical things.
While she cautioned that moving to another city is not for everyone, Au advised readers to challenge themselves to step out of their comfort zone.
“I encourage everyone to let go of your prejudice, open up your heart and let yourself experience, accept, and respect the world outside of your own country. Don’t just say that you want to jump out of your comfort zone. You need to start by challenging yourself.”
Top images via Sharon Au/Instagram.