by Kaitlin Menza
Living in Paris as a young American woman may sound like a dream—the stuff of glossy TV shows, even—but berets and macarons aside, being an expat can get lonely. Abby moved to the French capital in 2019, right after college graduation, where she landed a job in management consulting at an American firm. But she had a difficult time making friends.
“My French when I first moved was very poor, and so meeting French people was intimidating,” she says. She was also going through the transition from a college environment where friends (and potential new friends) were always around to living alone and having to reach out to new people. “Doing that in a foreign country with a foreign language just compounded all of it,” Abby adds.
After listening to a podcast interview with Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd, Abby decided to try Bumble BFF, the app’s platonic friend-finding mode. She matched with Libby, a manager in the wine and spirits industry, who had moved to Paris more recently and was daunted by the city’s size. “I missed that American rapport,” Libby says. “I hadn’t really met a lot of Americans in Paris yet. I know they’re all here, it’s just hard to locate them.” She joined the app on the recommendation of some British friends, and zeroed in on Abby, a fellow Midwesterner.
For their first meet-up at a bar, Abby spritzed on her fanciest perfume and felt “a flush of first-date butterflies in my stomach.” She also brought along her four-month-old Bernese mountain dog puppy, Pandore, as an ice-breaker, as she knew Libby loved dogs. The adorable ball of fluff was appreciated but not needed: the two women hit it off immediately.
“We got into talking about sororities, and I think the last time I talked about sororities was years prior,” says Libby, who had been living in Europe for a few years at that point. “It just unlocked all these memories! So we were super comfortable with each other right off the bat.”
After two glasses of wine, the pair decided to decamp to Abby’s apartment nearby. “We ended up talking for hours and hours the first night,” she says. “It was so great just to meet someone who had the really common experiences both of being a foreigner living in Paris but also growing up in the Midwest. We had all these things in common that French people can’t relate to.”
Though they both had French boyfriends at the time, that interaction made Abby realize how lonely she’d been without close friendships with other women. “It feels like you just recognize yourself in another person,” she says. “I remember after she left I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I forgot how starved I was for friendship.’ It really reminded me what space your girlfriends fill in your life—and when that’s missing, it’s really hard.”
Soon they were texting every day, and routinely hanging out after work. Their relationship was beset by outside challenges right from the beginning: a giant Metro strike coupled with apartments on opposite ends of the city meant they had to commit to a very long walk home after any hang. Still, commit they did—and began building a larger friend group around them with help from Bumble BFF.
“We’d get wine and cheese and we would just watch The Bachelor together,” Libby says. It wasn’t their only nod to the homeland. “We also had a 4th of July celebration together, and we would do Taco Tuesdays, since Mexican food is not a thing here at all. Anytime we were craving something, it’d be like, okay, we’re doing Mexican and margaritas tonight, or we did burger nights a few times.”
Then came the pandemic. Like much of the world, Paris has been in various stages of lockdown for nearly a year, and when they spoke with Bumble, Libby and Abby were under a 6pm curfew on weekdays. They’ve had to rely on technology to stay tight. “Lots of texting, voice notes, FaceTime—things like that,” Libby says. They’ve managed the occasional in-person visit.“We don’t have any restaurants or bars open at all, so we just go on walks together. That’s all we do!” Abby says. “You have to really make an effort to see people on the weekends.” Luckily for the pair, their friendship itself has felt effortless.