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Pauline Canteneur On How The Young French Live In San Francisco

One of my favorite things about being a blogger is the people I meet. Last year, through Clementine, the young fashion designer turned toy store owner I had met through Pascaline, my French network grew from zero to making up most of my current friends. Perhaps we shared a similar narrative of coming to the United States to seek education, work and life. Or maybe our shared love for art, culture and exploration. No, it must have been our sense of humor or quirkiness! Whatever the reason and although our cultures and histories were worlds apart, I found it easy and quick to form a friendship. So much so I wanted to write about two of the girls who left a lasting impression on me the first time we ever met. Pauline and Charlotte.

Pauline (Left), Charlotte (Right). Photo Credit: Hamee Ha.

I met Pauline and Charlotte on a freezing fall evening at the opening of the Minnesota Street Project. Pauline, a poised young 20 something native of the North Eastern part of France, who instantly impressed me with her ability to ride a bike wearing a pleated midi skirt without even a hint of awkwardness. And Charlotte a Swiss native, need not be mistaken for merely a bubbly naive 20 something, she displayed her tenacious problem solving skills when she managed to help us fit Pauline’s bike and all 4 of us girls into my car that night so that we could grab a pizza at the only proximate restaurant open after 9pm.

Their presence and style charmed me, much like a character in some foreign film would. Months later, that memory of meeting and spending time with them gave me the idea of producing a creative photoshoot. It would capture what I could not put into words and solidify a moment in their lives that was so transient.

I teamed up with new friend and talented photographer Hamee Ha, Hair and Make Up Artists Irin Lin and Cecilia Yang on this personal project. I also had the privilege of interviewing Pauline on her life here in San Francisco which I wanted to include as part of this feature. Charlotte returned to Switzerland a few days after the shoot so unfortunately, I didn’t have time to interview her. It was a project that inspired me to continue capturing moments and telling stories.

What brought you to San Francisco?

I’ve found a job as a part time journalist – part time analyst within the innovation arm of large French company. My dream was to learn and write more about innovation within agriculture. My family being in the farming business for centuries and California being the first agricultural producer in the US, it was a fantastic opportunity for me! 

Was San Francisco what you expected?

Very different. It was also my first time ever in the US. So coming here being 25 is an amazing thing. I have been reading so much about San Francisco and California, I have been listening to so many songs and watching so many movies that my head was filled up with projections on the city. Experiencing it is a different thing. But there is something about this place I can’t explain. It’s bringing a feeling of peacefulness and contentment in a pretty unexpected way it would say. It’s a place of freedom which encourages you to express your inner self. I’ve always been dancing when I was younger and had to stop during college. I’m back to my contemporary dance classes, which makes me a really happy person! 

What were your favorite things to do in San Francisco? Or share a favorite memory? 

I have so many favorite things to do in SF! But I would say 2 things before a million pop up in my mind. 

Here, bars are closing up pretty early. So house parties are the best way to keep the party going. I have spend amazing times doing “house crawling” from one backyard to another discovering old victorian houses’ beautiful interiors and lovely hidden gardens. Magical moments! 

During SF International Film Festival, we had decided to go watch Tickled at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema with Charlotte. Tickled is great documentary about tickling fetiches! I badly wanted to see it. We had planned to meet at 4pm to go see the movie. Of course, both of us were late and the movie was sold out. I was so frustrated, I started to play “grumpy Pauline”. A little past the entrance of this cinema, there is a dark corridor with a red-velvet kitschy sofa. So with Charlotte, we just sat on that sofa to rest a little and figure out what the plan was. We actually ended up spending 3 hours chatting on that sofa. We missed a lot of movies that afternoon. 

Can you describe your style?

I love colors, the 80’s and feeling great in my clothes. We hang out a lot in second hand shops looking for outstanding pieces that I then try to match with more basics things. I’m a kind of addicted to glitter, golden and flashy silver materials and I seriously have to refrain myself to wear some every day. 

Any interesting work stories?

For my job, I’m also recording interview for a radio show. I’m meeting with French speaking entrepreneurs, we usually talk a little and then find a quiet place to record our discussion. One day, I met a very interesting guy in a café near Bernal Heights. The place was noisier than I thought and recording on the street is never a very good idea for the same reason. So the entrepreneur goes like: “you know i’m parked nearby…”. I was definitely in for a little carpool karaoke! We finally recorded the interview inside his car, which was super messy. It has been a lot of fun. 

Tell us a little bit about where you grew up in France?

I grow up in the North -Eastern part of France, a region called Lorraine. Lots of nature, lots of cows. I was raised in a farm in the middle of nowhere. Still today, the network is really bad. But that’s the beauty of it. Every time I come back, this is my little piece of heaven. I help my mother in the garden, I cycle to say hi to my grandmother who lives in the same small village, I go running within the fields with my oldest sister. Going back there once a while is a way to recharge and reconnect to things that are essential to me. 

Tell us about your friendship with Charlotte!

I met Charlotte in a jazz bar in Berlin 3 years ago. We both used to live there. I think I must have seen her 2 or 3 times in total but we never really had the time to speak and to get to know each other at that time. The jazz bar is called Edelweiss and has crazy jamming night on Tuesday. We must have exchanged our contact at some point. Last October she wrote me on Facebook “I have seen you were attending an event in San Francisco, are you here on holidays or?”. Well, this is how it begins. The second time I met her in San Francisco was a Sunday night at Revolution Café, a place we like to go very often. She became from far one of my most beautiful friendship stories ever. 

I miss you girls! I’m sorry it took so long to post this, but I’m glad I waited until now. It was the perfect thing to do on a rainy day like today.

Art Direction: Nicole Ho

Photography: Hamee Ha

HMUA: Cecilia Yang and Irin Lin.




    • nicole says

      Thank you for reading! Hope to bring more untold stories like this one to the world!

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