March 1, 2015

An American Entrepreneur in Paris: Andrew Lyons (Part 1)

In an exclusive 2 part interview, Founder & CEO of Cyclo-Café, Andrew Lyons, shares insight into taking the entrepreneurial route in France and life as an American expat in Paris. Today we kick things off with a few personal questions. Be sure to check back tomorrow as we buckle down and talk business.

Andrew Lyons, Founder & CEO of Cyclo-Café, Paris

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you originally from? What is your professional background?
I moved to Paris from Charlotte, NC. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I got my degree in Supply Chain Management from Michigan State University. My background and education has molded me into somewhat of a risk-taker and adventurer. Not that France is the most ‘exotic’ of locations, but it does embody numerous challenges in life, career, patience and determination. The trick for me has been, not to succumb to some of the pressures a socialist model can bring, but to harness the advantages it offers, while aggressively pursuing all American optimism.

Since 2006, I have been working with a large French corporation as a Supply Chain Expert in the area of Metallurgy. It has been an amazing experience and given me the opportunity to travel the world meeting and interacting with all genres of people.

These experiences have kept alive my passion for learning, risk-taking and desire to always improve my personal and professional aspirations. Almost at the midway point in my career, I decided the time was ripe to take on my most challenging project yet… and in one of the most challenging business environments in the Western world. With the gracious help of some trusted friends, I launched Cyclo-Café in Paris, France.

How long have you lived in Paris? What brought you here?
I have been in Paris 9 years now. It sounds like a lot longer than what it feels like. I remember moving here from America and every day felt like a European vacation. That novelty has since worn off through countless metro commutes and Paris prone rainy, gray days. However, Paris has become something more important than a magical vacation destination. Many people can claim the title ‘been to Paris’… few can claim it as home.
I am no different from most Americans growing up, dreaming of European romanticism and adventure. Instead of backpacking here after high school or college graduation, I got the idea in my head to move here.

What’s the best part about living in France? The most challenging?
The best part of being in Paris is just that!!! Being in Paris! Never have I developed such a bond to be outdoors. Walking down the ancient cobblestone streets, flanked by monuments that, by far, outdate my traceable family tree. Sitting at the corner street café, enamored with life’s simple entertainments as the world goes by. Good riddance to cars, strip malls and air conditioning!

The most challenging aspect of life here is adjusting to the average French standard of living. For better or worse, I took the hard path and did not come here armed with an expat package. I found my job on, and am on a French contract with a French corporation. Meaning, we adapt our budget to live month to month, endure the absence of disposable income and set aside a savings account just to pay the income tax bill.

The benefit to not being on an expat contract? Citizenship eligibility!

What do you miss most from home?
I have to say, I sorely miss American culture and everything that falls under it. The way we think, the way we act, saying ‘hello’ to complete strangers, the foods we eat, our determination to better our lives and our optimism. It is truly unique and we should never lose our culture no matter where we live.

Where is your favorite place to spend a day in the city?
This is simple and most likely common to every Parisian. A picnic basket (Contents: wine, cheese, bread), a 2 meter spot on the banks of the Seine river, all spring and summer long.

Favorite restaurant to grab a bite to eat?
I do love French food. Duck is a delicacy here that most Americans don’t have an opportunity to savor. However, I find most French bistros to have relatively the same offering and customary lousy, rude service.

Therefore, I fall back on my American taste buds when choosing a favorite restaurant. I go for Mexican. Tacos, burritos and guacamole are finally making a revelation here in Paris. After suffering the absence of Mexican food during my first 4 years in Paris (I remember one place back then putting mayonnaise on an enchilada instead of sour cream), now it seems there is a new tasty restaurant every 6 months or so. They are pretty authentic no matter where you go, although the Margaritas are all insanely overpriced!

What advice would you give to those planning a trip to France? A permanent move?
Wow, I don’t even know where to begin on this question. This is precisely the reason why I started the Meetup group American Expats in Paris. So, I guess the first thing I would advise is to join this group, bring your notepad and expel all your curiosities and needed recommendations.

You will meet veterans like myself, happy to impart their knowledge, authentic French & international persons whom have spent time in the States and want to continue that experience, as well as newbies like yourself. Make friends with and navigate the Parisian jungle together, expat package or not!

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