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No place like home

June 9, 2009

If there really is no place like home, then for many Africans in France the Chateau-Rouge neighbourhood of Paris is the next best thing.

At the open air market fish and vegetable vendors sell produce that reminds their African customers what they are missing.

Aurelie Robert owns a store called Togo Exotique. She came to France when she was 16 years old.

“The majority of my produce comes from Togo, Ivory Coast and Cameroon but I also get some supplies from wholesalers,” she said. “My customers are happy because here they can find fresh produce from Africa and they can eat the food they miss from back home.”

Alassane Camara from Ivory Coast works at Togo Exotique. When he came to Paris 11 yearsago, he came straight to Chateau-Rouge. He knew it wouldn’t be hard to find work, and he could relate to people.

“Honestly, it helps when you’re abroad and you meet people from your community. They’re in the best place to give you advice on what you should do, where you should go. It makes you feel good. This is a friendly neighbourhood. I’m Ivorian, and if I meet a Senegalese, a Guinean or a Malian, it’s as if we were from the same country. We’ve all left Africa for another land, so when we meet it’s as if we knew each other.”

Alassane often comes to Chateau-Rouge to hang out. Though he is comfortable living in France he told Reuters Africa Journal how he dreams of the day he will return to Ivory Coast.

“When I get older, I’d like to settle back in Ivory Coast. Here, we need to stick together to find some human warmth. In Africa, I don’t need to explain it to you, it’s everywhere. Good morning, good evening, everybody greets you. Here it’s not like that. People are stressed.”

For now Alassane and his friends make the most of their lives in France and find ways of dealing with the challenge of making a home away from home. Sometimes it’s just hard beingĀ  n expat and only the comforts of home will do.

(Picture: Abidjan street vendor. By Luc Gnago / Reuters)

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