With American tourists banned from Europe, online posts from expatriates are as close to a vacation abroad as many got this year.
Jamie Beck, 37, a photographer who was living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, moved to Provence about four years ago, and now she documents the sunflowers and vineyards and castles and croissants that she encounters, all the while clad in a seemingly endless series of flouncy white dresses. Her apartment in the town of Apt has previously been rented for honeymoons. It’s all very idyllic, and her 317,000 Instagram followers seem to agree. She is known, for want of a better term, as a “Frenchfluencer.”
During “le confinement” — what the French call their coronavirus lockdown — Ms. Beck lost all her commercial work.
“The only thing I could control was what I did with my time, so I decided to make a piece of art every single day,” she said. She tagged her posts #isolationcreation and soon realized she was gaining about 1,000 new followers per day.
Ms. Beck is not the only American in France with an online following who has noticed a big increase in engagement during the pandemic.
“I definitely saw a spike in June and July for Instagram and YouTube,” said Tiffanie Davis, 30, who moved to Paris in 2017 to get her master’s degree in business administration. In 2019 Ms. Davis started to post videos about expat life on YouTube around topics like the cost of living (189,000 views), dating in France (which was explored in a two-part series), and Black hair salons.
“I have been getting a ton of DMs from people interested in my story and saying, ‘I’m living through your experiences and want to make the move abroad.’” Ms. Davis has made a worksheet on moving abroad downloadable from her personal website.
Paris and the rest of France are struggling with the pandemic, violence and protests, but so much of what outsiders see is still the beautiful parts.
Molly Wilkinson, 33, moved to France in 2013 to study pastry at the Cordon Bleu; before the pandemic, she taught cooking classes in person. She now leads online workshops about how to make macarons (her most popular class) and tarte Tatin. They were all selling out, she said, so she has increased them to 50 students from 30, for 25 euros each.
She posted many photos to Instagram from a trip to the Loire Valley in September. “It was incredible, the engagement,” she said. “They wanted to experience everything and daydream where they could go. Whenever something is banned, you want it more.”