Perfumed Comfort : Curing the Blues with Scents

The idea of picking up and moving to a new place has always seemed exciting to me. I was attracted by the idea of meeting new people, learning a new language, and cooking new foods. So, when it became obvious that my husband’s Belgian project is likely to turn into a permanent one, I fully supported his decision to accept it. The first few weeks of our stay in Belgium were a whirlwind romance, when every single quirk seemed charming and every new discovery a minor epiphany.

My vie en rose started to color grey the first moment I set foot inside the city hall that smelled of dust and desperation.  It suddenly became obvious to me that I’m not going back to the States at the end of the week and that this is not a vacation. As my list of things to do grew, everything became tougher. I didn’t know the rules. I missed the obvious social cues. A simple shopping trip felt like a nerve wracking oral exam in foreign language. One morning I felt so tired of everything that I just curled up under the blanket with hot tears rolling down my cheeks.

Anyone who has moved to a new place knows how hard these adjustments can be. I desperately missed my mom, my friends and my old way of life. Without having yet figured out the way things were done here, I felt very much out of my element. But I had to pull myself together. If I felt awkward and out of place, then I had to find small pleasures to comfort me while I got my bearings. Someone else might have poured themselves a drink, but I reached for another type of alcoholic substance–perfume.

All of us encounter situations when we feel sad or vulnerable, or when the stress wears us down both physically and emotionally. Seeking solace through simple pleasures can be one of the most effective cures. My mother always said, if you feel sad, go wash your hair. The mere act of lathering up your hair with a deliciously scented shampoo, the gentle warmth of water on your neck and the whir of a blow drier is pleasant. Not only do you take your mind off whatever might have been bothering you–if only momentarily, you look and feel better.

This may sound very trivial, but for me scents have always been the best therapy possible, and I mean scents in all forms, from perfume to food. Beauty, like nothing else, has an ability to electrify and inspire, and scents are the most portable form of it. As Guerlain Shalimar unfolds on my skin in layers of peppery bergamot, velvety amber and smoky vanilla, it feels so startlingly beautiful that my stress becomes less poignant. When I smell the hot sweetness of rosewater and the smoky leather of saffron as I cook my aunt’s rice pilaf with apricots, their vibrancy gives my world a brighter tone. Taking a shower with my favorite rose scented soap from Roger & Gallet turns a routine task into a special ritual. Out of all the senses, the sense of smell is the most neglected, but as I discovered, it plays a crucial role in curing the blues.

My favorite anti-stress fragrances are the perfume equivalents of Tolstoy’s War and Peace–complex and intricate blends that change dramatically throughout the day and keep me guessing about what happens next. I love reaching the part in Chanel No 22 when the pale incense ashes begin to color the white jasmine and rose petals. This happens in the late drydown, and the anticipation of this flourish is exciting. I enjoy waiting for the tendrils of ivy to spill out of the heart of exquisite Jacomo Silences. The unparalleled glamour of Amouage Gold lends me more confidence.

The other comforting fragrances in my collection are the ones that have a warm, enveloping drydown of sandalwood, roasted almonds or smoky vanilla. Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore is deliciously rich, while its hint of roasted cumin gives it a surprising savory edge. Etat Libre d’Orange Like This, a vignette of almonds drenched in absinthe, is another favorite indulgence. Thanks to an earthy layer of vetiver it doesn’t come across as edible, but it’s addictive nevertheless. For many people vanilla is the ultimate comfort in the bottle, and I enjoy its charming simplicity in Prada Candy. For a more adult vanilla, I prefer L’Artisan Vanille Absolument, a leathery vanilla bean cured over incense smoke.

Perfume may not make me instantly adjust to the beautiful and quirky place that is Belgium. It won’t make my French perfect, and alas, it won’t convince the city of Brussels to grant me my residence permit more quickly. But it sure does add a dose of beauty to my daily life and alleviates my anxieties. I wear my beloved by Kilian Sweet Redemption as a smoky orange blossom shield against city hall. Wrapped in Chanel No 19–one of the most elegant and polished fragrances out there–I don’t feel the sting of embarrassment quite the same way when I just pronounced “canard” as “connard”, thus effectively asking my puzzled butcher for a jerk instead of a duck.  Simple pleasures can go a long way to smooth out the daily snags. An old French saying reminds us of this–small joys make for the greatest happiness.

Do you have your favorite ways to cure the blues? What perfume is your favorite mood lifter?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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132 Comments

  • Villette: I live in Brussels, though I am not Belgian, and love your blog. I am so sorry — but not surprised — to hear Brussels has been a bit tough for you. Send an email to me if you need someone to grouse to: really, the place is not as bad as it seems when you first arrive, but gosh it can seem bad… July 16, 2012 at 8:20am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! I will definitely take you up on your offer. And if I continue my journey through the bureaucratic rigmarole and my so far fruitless apartment search, I will have plenty to grouse about, I’m afraid. At first, we lived in the Flanders, closer to my husband’s job, but while it was a lovely town, not knowing Dutch really made me feel like a complete outsider. At least, in Brussels I can speak French (even if I make mistakes) and enjoy its incredible diversity. July 16, 2012 at 10:32am Reply

  • Anna Minis: Alors, Victoria, bon courage! Time heals everything. I went from Rotterdam to Gent and from Gent to Sittard and then to Amsterdam. That is of course nothing compared to the big step from America to Belgium, but I can imagine how you feel. But, as you put it so well, many small pleasures make one great happiness. One day at a time! Since you asked us: my consolation were the books of Charles Dickens, all of them, but most of all Martin Chuzzlewit and David Copperfield. Another good read when you feel sad is the Odyssey (the translation of Robert Fagles is excellent). As it comes to perfume: my anti-blues scent was Poison. It is known as a perfume for the Bride of Frankenstein, but to my nose it is a sweet, comforting balsam. I am happy that we have now Une Rose too. Also music can help you — Mozart for comfort (pianoconcerto no. 23 KV 488) an Beethoven for encouragement! All the best, Anna. July 16, 2012 at 8:20am Reply

    • Victoria: Anna, that’s true–it’s all about one day at a time. There are so many things that one can do to make themselves feel better, and while perfume is hardly the panacea, it’s amazing what a difference something so little–a tiny drop–can make. My Russian friend who lives here in Brussels says that she likes to start a day reading a passage from one of her favorite books of poetry. I thought that it was wonderful. Now, I cannot wait for my CDs to arrive. I don’t know if I’m familiar Mozart piano concerto (at least, not by name), so I’m going to look for it online. July 16, 2012 at 10:38am Reply

  • iodine: I’m sorry to read your being a bit at loss in another country…
    As somebody- I don’t remember who, but it was someone important!- said about W. G. Sebald’s writing, you have the ability to let beauty appear through sadness and despair. Thank you.
    I’ve felt several times displaced, even though in my own city, each time I had or decided to move from one house to another. The comfort given by my books and my perfumes coming with me has always helped me to soften the sense of loss.
    I’d suggest you to read W. G. Sebald, if you haven’t already, and to rely on the endless sweetness of La Traversée du Bosphore… July 16, 2012 at 8:47am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much! Since you mentioned W. G. Sebald, whom I haven’t read, I found a wonderful article about him in New Yorker called “Why You Should Read W.G. Sebald.” Already anticipating discovering his prose. July 16, 2012 at 10:48am Reply

  • Safran: Dear Victoria,

    so sorry to hear about your rough times! I fully understand, how you feel. We were 3 years in Finland and although everything was done to make our living there very easy (including the extremely friendly people), I sometimes missed everything and everybody dear from home. Especially home food was very important all of a sudden. It helped me a lot to meet people in the same situation (expat clubs) and take courses about anything interesting.
    Regarding scents, when I feel under the weather sandalwood scents are the ones, that give me most comfort.
    It might not help much, but for us European fans of you and your blog, it feels very good to know, you are so near!

    All the best
    Safran July 16, 2012 at 8:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Dear Safran, I know what you mean so well. I often thought of my mom’s experience coming to the States, and how much more difficult it must have been. I asked her what she thought of the States, and she said that at first she just wanted to go back. She kept her suitcase packed just in case. But eventually she adjusted, learned English and now she can’t imagine ever leaving a place that has become her adopted country. I think that it’s a normal feeling and that it will pass. But it’s just hard when you find yourself feeling that way.

      And it does help knowing that all of you are nearer! :) July 16, 2012 at 11:05am Reply

  • Allison: I understand your stress, I tried to speak french in a pharmacy in Paris and had all three sales people laughing hysterically at my attempt. But I’m also very excited for you to have the opportunity to get to know a new place!
    I have some old empty bottles of Givenchy III that belonged to my aunt who passed away a few years back. When I open a bottle I can still smell its cool green elegance and I remember how my aunt was always positive and confident and totally embraced life. This inspires me to do the same when I’ve been feeling overwhelmed or sad. And I have to admit that smelling and eating Froot Loops cereal is a great pick-me-up because it reminds me of my childhood when my mom would only let me have this sugary concoction as a treat once in a while!
    And I agree about music being a great way to help with the blues. I recommend early Stevie Wonder such as “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing!” July 16, 2012 at 9:12am Reply

    • Victoria: Allison, I figured out at one point that the more languages I learn, the more opportunities I have to make a fool out of myself! :) When I was learning to speak French, I occasionally ran into people who upon hearing my accent would immediately switch to English. It made me wonder if my French is so awful that they would rather not hear me mangle it. But of course, it could be that they simply tried to be helpful. At any rate, these days I pay no attention to such things and I shrug off my mistakes. Dutch, the other language spoken in Belgium, is another story!

      I love the early Stevie Wonder, and I’m so glad that you’ve reminded me of him. One can’t listen to “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing!” and remain feeling down. July 16, 2012 at 11:13am Reply

  • Michele: I admire your courage in moving so far from home; it is a challenge and I would think the loneliness would be quite tough at times. But I can see that you are someone who has always appreciated the simple pleasures in life, so I am certain that your love for all these beautiful, simple things will carry you through the pain of adjustment. Please know that the beauty of your writing, your insights, knowledge of fragrance, and lovely photos cheer many of us. When I think of you, I remember that movie/book Eat, Pray, Love. Since I do not know anything of your spiritual nature (and truly don’t choose to, as I would regard that as too personal), I look at your writing and think, Eat, Sniff, Love. Someone of your level of introspection and intelligence will surely find her way. How lucky are we that you will share some of that journey with us. Take care. Oh, and in answer to the question you posed today, the perfume that comforts me most is Beyond Love. July 16, 2012 at 9:25am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for such a touching comment, Michele! Just reading this whole thread is making me feel better and sunnier, even though today is such a gloomy, rainy day. I tried to keep Bois de Jasmin running despite my move and everything else, because I knew that it would become my oasis–just the idea of staying connected with all of you is comforting. And if whatever I can share about my journey is interesting to others, I’m even happier for that. July 16, 2012 at 11:17am Reply

      • Michele: It’s a rough patch. You’ll find your way.

        I find your writing fascinating and the photos are so lovely. It’s like a mini European vacation for me to admire them. I just love the bright yellow and blue combinations of color with splashes of red- so beautiful. I’m still thinking about the cart that serves hamburgers and escargot. Hmm, do they put the snails on the hamburgers? I have had some rubbery hamburgers in my lifetime, but that would really add some bounce to it! July 16, 2012 at 12:59pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’m happy to share! Suzanna, who also write at BdJ, is a wonderful photographer (she is a professional), so she has been inspiring me to take more photos.
          I wonder how they serve escargots. Next time I will have to try. I love snails, especially with parsley and garlic butter sauce that you can mop up with bread. Yum! July 16, 2012 at 3:33pm Reply

  • Elena: Exercise has always been my best anti-depressant, though last year when I was recuperating and not able to exercise, the Horatio Hornblower books by CS Forester allowed me to escape to another time and place. It takes so long to become comfortable in a new place. I hope you begin to make friends and find your community soon. July 16, 2012 at 9:27am Reply

    • Victoria: I understand you so well! Exercise is essential for me as well. I’ve started walking a lot. I put on my raincoat, grab an umbrella and explore the city on foot. Brussels is not that big, and this way you can discover various nooks and crannies. July 16, 2012 at 11:21am Reply

      • Elena: Very true. And you can’t stop and smell the roses, so to speak, from a moving car, can you? :) July 16, 2012 at 3:08pm Reply

        • Elena: Ack, what I meant to say before I prematurely hit submit: that this very blog soothes me! So thank you for providing a constant stream of beauty and appreciation of the little things. I’m sure your very nature will ensure your happiness pretty soon. July 16, 2012 at 3:15pm Reply

          • Victoria: Thank you very much, Elena! It’s such a lovely thing to say. I don’t always succeed to slow down, I admit, but I try. July 16, 2012 at 3:40pm Reply

  • Wordbird: Victoria, you have my condolences. I did the expat wife thing in Switzerland and it’s both boring and insanely frustrating due to the language barriers. I spoke a little German when I moved there, but couldn’t read or write coherently, or have a proper conversation. Insanely frustrating. Suddenly I understood why toddlers have tantrums: the inability to communicate.

    There’s a good wryly funny blog you might enjoy. http://www.belgianwaffling.com/ July 16, 2012 at 9:42am Reply

    • Victoria: Not knowing the language is the most frustrating thing! The reason we moved to Brussels (before we lived in the Flemish area) is mostly because of the language. I have no idea how long it will take me to learn Vlaams, but at least I can communicate with people in French, buy local newspapers and watch TV. That already improved my quality of life.

      For how long did you end up living in Switzerland? July 16, 2012 at 11:28am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, and thank you very much for the link! Just started reading it, but I love her sense of humor. July 16, 2012 at 11:51am Reply

  • Nikki: V, I am sorry you feel that way as I know well how it is to live in a different country. I moved to Italy, Egypt, Brazil and then the USA, being of German descent. While scents may be of comfort, taking classes, getting involved in daily life, working (yes, getting a job is good), volunteering, being active in learning both language and culture are the antidote to loneliness in a foreign country. Also, one’s attitude is the main factor in everything. When one considers life to be a learning experience, living in a different country gives one the option of really learning about oneself. I see life as an adventure and even though I may feel alone or lonely, I know I am not. A place like Brussels is great, imagine, you would live in some small village where people would hate you because you are a foreigner…check out the Alliance Francaise and the Goethe Institute, both great places for intellectual pursuits. July 16, 2012 at 9:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Nikki, you’re my hero! I bet that you’ve experienced many tough situations, and I appreciate your perspective.
      We knew that it would be hard, and I was even a bit prepared, because I already did one big move–from Ukraine to the US. But I was much younger than and I had my parents take care of the paperwork and other hassles of getting adjusted to a new place. Still, knowing is one thing, but experiencing a nagging feeling of being out of one’s comfort zone is another. It can really wear you down, so I’m discovering different means not to allow for that to happen. July 16, 2012 at 11:33am Reply

      • Nikki: Victoria, this will be another great experience, you wait and see! Maybe you will write the long desired novel or discover something new. You can do it…everybody gets homesick and has nostalgia, and you know we have great words in German and Portuguese for it: SEHNSUCHT AND SAUDADE. Without having made the experiences, albeit painful, we would not know what it is. Life gets richer with challenges and I could never, ever have stayed in one little place. You go, girl! Try not to dwell on it, make yourself change your mind. You don’t want to feel like this when winter comes…wishing you all the best! I bet in one month you will have a great new project, maybe working for the EU teaching fragrance and food in history and contemporary culture? I wish you could adopt a dog! Check it out… July 16, 2012 at 8:12pm Reply

        • Victoria: Sehnsucht and saudade–I love the sound of these words, Nikki.

          By the way, since we were talking about Egypt the other day and Claudia Roden’s books on the Middle Eastern cooking, I went ahead and got a copy on Kindle. My own tattered paper copy is in the States (hopefully, it will arrive at some point though), but I missed the bright flavors that Roden describes. So, I’m getting plenty of inspiration from it. July 17, 2012 at 6:25am Reply

  • Sassa: Victoria, I remember taking an International Business class, and they said that most people start getting to your point at about the 2 week mark. The shine of the newness has worn off, and now it’s just loneliness and annoyances.
    Personally, I’ve found that the best way to beat loneliness is to put yourself to work figuring out somehow, someway you can do something for somebody else. And then do it.

    Oh! And my comfort scent? No question, it’s Habanita. Big, strong and familiar. July 16, 2012 at 10:01am Reply

    • Victoria: Sassa, so true. I also think that it’s totally normal. Of course, moving to Belgium from the US is not a huge culture shock like it would have been if we were to move to India (as one of my friends has done recently). But still, everything is more different than it might seem when you visit as a tourist. I don’t so much feel lonely, because I have my work, BdJ and of course my husband, but I do miss my family, my friends and my old home. It takes time to fill that void. July 16, 2012 at 11:40am Reply

  • Suzanna: I have a feeling, knowing you, that you will turn this Belgium episode into a veritable triomphe. Your French will sparkle, your recipes will sing, and you will discover some new facets to your photography–all while smelling wonderful.

    I feel we Americans are sharing you with Europe, but we want you back one day, dear V.

    Meantime, one can always take a small trip to Paris for macaroons, non? July 16, 2012 at 10:04am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for these nice wishes! I very much hope that they will come true.
      And between your articles and mine, BdJ is now a bi-continental blog. :)

      Paris is about 1.5 hours away by the fast train, and if you get a ticket in advance, it isn’t all that expensive either. Perhaps, the best thing about Belgium (besides food) is the proximity to other places. July 16, 2012 at 11:54am Reply

  • Elizabeth: Oh, those European bureaucracies, they’re fun, aren’t they? And by fun, I mean depression-inducing. When I was an exchange student in Berlin, I received my city residence certificate fairly painlessly, but to get my visa extended past three months I had to wait on line for six hours to deal with very resentful staff. It was soul-crushing. I am glad that you are finding solace in Shalimar! I have just re-discovered Ormonde Jayne Tolu, which might be my new favorite floral-incense-amber. Another mood-lifter for me is White Linen. All those aldehydes! July 16, 2012 at 10:27am Reply

    • Victoria: A friend recently joked that if it takes him only 3 hours to get things done at city hall, he considers it a successful visit. :) He was laughing, but I was ready to put my head down on the table and weep. At any rate, I just got a Kindle and uploaded a dozen books on it, so I’m better prepared for long lines. July 16, 2012 at 11:57am Reply

  • Hana: I’m glad for this article, I’ve got similar experience and for me as well perfumes were comforting. I moved from the Czech Republic to Scotland and within a year I went through all phases of culture shock. The autumnal weather and strong local accent didn’t hep. Now after a while I’m feeling much more comfortable. I realized in Scotland there is a lot more perfume shopping opportunities for hard to find fragrances so I went tasting every time I had a moment off. I also enjoyed discovering local food, galleries and art workshops where I met some nice people and made good friends. My favourite comforting and confidence raising scents suitable for greyish days were Bvlgari Black and Sacrebleu. July 16, 2012 at 10:40am Reply

    • Victoria: Hana, I can’t believe that I forgot to mention Sacrebleu! It has been my staple lately too. I liked it, but never wore it that much before, but once I came here, I discovered that its cinnamon dusted apricots and jasmine are perfect for the grey, overcast weather.

      I know exactly how you felt in Scotland in terms of the weather, because Belgium is known for its rain. I’m a bit worried about the winter, because the summer has been rainy and overcast on almost daily basis (in the past two months, there have been literally only a dozen of sunny days). But maybe by the time winter comes, I will be a bit more prepared. July 16, 2012 at 12:02pm Reply

  • Portia: Sending you strength, power and attitude. Sorry the rest you have to supply,
    Portia xx July 16, 2012 at 10:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Portia! That’s plenty already. :) xx July 16, 2012 at 12:03pm Reply

  • Patt: My daughter (also a Victoria!) has moved around quite a bit in the past few years due to graduate school and various internships. When I tried to interest her in my new-found passion for perfume, she replied that her beloved Bvlgari Omnia Crystalline gave her a feeling of stability and comfort in her changing situations and that she had no interest at this time in exploring other scents. I totally understand that her signature scent helps to ground her and remind her of who she is.
    Best of luck to you in your new life in Belgium! July 16, 2012 at 10:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Good luck to your daughter, to Victoria, Patt! I can completely understand how anything familiar gives you a feeling of stability when everything else is uncertain.
      Thank you for your kind words! July 16, 2012 at 12:10pm Reply

  • Anne Sheffield: I feel you Victoria. My husband job means that we ve travelled a lot. I was pregnant and had our first child in Spain and at the time I couldn’t speak Spanish!!!! Then we moved to the US, another culture shock, another life to start and worries to conquere in a foreign country. We are now back in France and I often miss those places. All the heartache I had there, all the hurddles I had to take there, they all made me who I am now. And I have fabulous memories. I feel deeply connected to those places and something funny happened when it was time for me to settle back in France, I felt a stranger in my own country. I was neither Spanish, neither American, neither french…. But when I was blue, in a foreign country, I used to embrace my french roots and spray myself with l Heure Bleue, or Ambre by REminiscence ( which is the scent that everybody wears here in St Tropez). I can t wear this here, but when I away and feel “Rootless”, jumping in the bottle of ambre by reminiscence, brought me right at home and made me feel strong. Hang in there Victoria and eat some chocolate, it s good for the soul!
    Anne July 16, 2012 at 11:02am Reply

    • Victoria: Anne, wow, you’re a brave woman! I cannot imagine how hard it must have been to have your baby in another country, and especially if it was your first child.

      I like your idea of having scents that remind you of your home. By the way, thanks to a lovely woman I met on Facebook (she used to live in Brussels at one point), I discovered Reminiscence store here. I’m going to check out Ambre next time I’m there. July 16, 2012 at 3:43pm Reply

      • Anne Sheffield: Would love to know what you think of this amber scent. Thank you! Anne. July 17, 2012 at 9:22am Reply

  • Lucas: This is a wonderfully written article Victoria! I can’t say that I know how it is when you move your house to another country, I don’t even know how it is within the country. My family moved to a different city when I was few months old so I can’t remember that and since then we still live in the same place. I don’t count my moving to Poznań because it was only a rented room in a students apartment. I had bad lick with mates living there so I moved few times to different places in Poznan. I spend two years like that and I was sick of it how irresponsible are people in the same age as I am. My last (I mean the one that just ended) university schedule allowed me to become a commuter, so I lived in my hometown.

    Do I have something comforting that lifts up the spirit sure! For some time it was Caron’s Pour un Homme, the fragrance that I advanced from loving it to hating. VC&A Bois d’Iris or one of my Prada’s are also the ones that I reach for when the weather is bad, when I’m bored, fed up of having a bad day.

    And my ultimate mood lifter is baking. Nothing calms me down more perfectly than measuring the ingredients, putting them into the bowl, stirring and then watching it bake in the owen. The smell of a hot cake and it’s delicious taste can really lift up my moods. July 16, 2012 at 11:12am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m with you on baking, Lucas! A few years ago I got into baking bread, and I loved it so much that it became my anti-stress therapy on regular basis: kneading the dough, shaping the loaves, watching them rise… But alas, our temp place has no oven! Just a tiny hot plate. So, I bake lots of flatbreads in the skillet and experiment with various crepes. July 16, 2012 at 3:50pm Reply

      • Lucas: Really!? My mum bakes breads from time to time, they really are something delicious. Definitely a good way to destress. Experimenting with crepes sounds fab, I love crepes, what kind will you be serving? ;) July 16, 2012 at 4:05pm Reply

        • Victoria: I flavor them with orange blossom water or spices or chocolate. Actually, these were made with the krupczatka flour I bought from the Polish store. It makes for such light and fluffy crepes!
          July 16, 2012 at 4:38pm Reply

          • Lucas: Mmm… looks delicious! Can I have a bite? My mum usually does regular pancakes, sometimes she adds some cocoa when the crepes have the sweet filling. Last time I was doing crepes I added garlic and basil, filled them with meat and served with tomatoe sauce with melted yellow cheese on top. July 17, 2012 at 5:20am Reply

            • Victoria: Yum! That sounds wonderful, Lucas! July 17, 2012 at 6:41am Reply

  • Zazie: I can relate – very much indeed – to that feeling of “depaysement” one gets in a new country.
    I’ve moved many times in my life, and now that I’ve been living in the same city for several years, I feel a strange itch – though I know this is the place for me.
    With few excpetions, when I move, I pour my huge reservoirs of enthusiams and optimism and curiosity in the process. But- more often than not- it takes some time to feel at home. In some places I never felt at home.
    Perfume can help, but in my experience nothing beats finding new friends and inspiration in your new country.
    What is one of the main problems (the language barrier) may become a wonderful social experience, through Tandem programs or a language classes. I felt less lonely in Switzerland when I found nice people with which to share some crepes or hot chocolate!!!
    I’m sure you’ll love it in Belgium, once you’re done with the papers and you’re settled!
    Have you been to Bruges yet? July 16, 2012 at 11:21am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a great perspective. I definitely plan on enrolling into some sort of class once the fall starts. Right now, it’s summer, so there aren’t many options available. And I spend so much time sorting out the red tape that I don’t think that I would be able to take a class. Ack, that’s the worst part.

      I’ve been to Bruges once, and I really want to go back. I loved it. It’s a jewelbox of a town. July 16, 2012 at 3:53pm Reply

  • Roberta: Hi Dear One, I can totally relate to your story. When I moved from sunny Rio to rainy Vancouver I got a seriouscase of the blues (or S.A.D. one could say). Not only the language and culture were different, but the days can be so grey (for days in a row) that even locals get affected. But anyway…
    I too reach for sweet scents, Angel being one, but also the ones that remind me of a happy period of my life. Poison is one of them (it reminds of my mom) and Gucci Rush (reminding me of my last days in high school, when I wanted to look – and smell – older). Chanel Coco is another one that can boost my mood, making me feel powerful, “in control” again.
    Thanks for the wonderful article. This is a very inspiring topic. :) July 16, 2012 at 11:24am Reply

    • Victoria: Dear Roberta, oh, how I can relate to the gloom of the rainy, dark weather. Not that I’ve moved from a sunny place like Rio, but still… I already researched the special lights imitating the sunlight. I will need that for the winter here!

      I can imagine how perfect Poison might be when you want to fill in control. That’s the ultimate big personality fragrance. :) July 16, 2012 at 3:55pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Dear V,

    When I first learned of your relocation to Brussels I was clearly reminded of my own personal saga to the same locale. It was a time when my sweet Father was laid to rest and my spouse (now my ex) was offered a lucrative opportunity to relocate. We were offered amazing perks including maintaining our apt. in NY, shipping our car over (!), all sorts of conveniences to groom his newly appointed title as Creative Director of an ad agency. We were young, ambitious and I figured I would attend university or cooking school and discover Europe my own way since the promises extended me by the company as his spouse was just that — promises. However, there was an American couple that were going to join us but it didn’t reinforce our feelings. We headed back to the United States. Additionally, we had relocated to Boston years prior when NY was facing bankruptcy and jobs were scarce here and I was a new bride so the thought of relocating overseas was exciting albeit it never replaced my feelings for NY and my family and lifestyle. I do recall keeping a journal (food and otherwise) whenever I travelled(Belgium being no exception) and you never know once you settle in to your new environment you don’t have to love it, but you will find your own way. I think what brings people together through your beautiful website is that we are all seeking the same peace and comfort and fragrance/scent has ALWAYS provided me with an escape not to mention comfort that was my own private little joy and memoir.
    All the best Victoria and keep on sharing with us! July 16, 2012 at 11:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Nancy, your story is very inspiring, and I love your idea of a journal. I usually write things down in a little notebook, and those notes can provide fodder for perfume ideas as well as articles. I like also what you mention about being able to find one’s own niche without having to love everything. July 16, 2012 at 4:04pm Reply

  • Jillie: Oh, Victoria, I do understand. You’ve put it so well, the desolation of having to live in a new place that isn’t yet your home. I’ve never had to go abroad, which must magnify things so much, but I can’t forget the yearning and awful pain in my heart and stomach that I felt when we moved from our home of 21 years. Once I had sorted our furniture out, I just wanted to say “Right, done that. Can I now please go home?”.

    Strangely it wasn’t perfume to wear that comforted me then – of all things it was a Christmas pot-pourri that I had put away in a cupboard; the warm scent of orange, cinnamon and cloves seeped out and fragranced the air, bringing comfort in the form of memories of the past, and the knowledge that there would be future happy Christmasses.

    And sticking to a routine of cooking familiar meals as if we were still back at home (always steak on a Friday, special pasta on a Tuesday) gave us continuity, and lent a homeliness to the new place until, in time, it did become home. July 16, 2012 at 12:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: Jillie, I actually did say it. :) But then again, our first temp place was horrible. It was tiny, above a construction site and reeked of cigarette smoke. The second temp place where we’re right now is much more comfortable.

      Your mention of having familiar means resonates so much with me. The moment we moved to Brussels, I started restocking my pantry. The thing that makes me remain happier than I would have been otherwise is the amazing diversity of Brussels and its food scene. There are stores for every single ethnic cuisine, from huge Chinese and Moroccan markets to tiny Nepalese stores. I even found a Russian store. I bought buckwheat and dried mushrooms and made me favorite comfort food–buckwheat and mushroom pilaf with pork chops. :) July 16, 2012 at 4:09pm Reply

  • Ari: Oh, Victoria, I didn’t realize you would be staying in Belgium more permanently! It must be very tough, and you are being adventurous and very brave. Thank you for continuing to bring us the joy that is Bois de Jasmin during your transition. I wanted to alert you that one of your comfort scents, L’Artisan Vanille Absolument, is on a SERIOUS markdown on the L’Artisan webpage. A perfume purchase is never a bad idea when you need comfort. I hope that you begin to feel better soon- I will be thinking of you. July 16, 2012 at 12:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: Ari, thank you so much for your nice words and for mentioning the L’Artisan sale. Just checked it out. It’s seriously tempting me, since I’ve been planning to buy a full bottle for some time. July 16, 2012 at 4:26pm Reply

  • (Deborah) Annie Oney: Dear Victoria,
    I can’t add to all these wonderful peoples’ responses to your article, which are so loving and supportive and quite erudite.

    So I went to my perfume collection and put Amouage Gold solid and liquid (samples) on in an effort of solidarity.

    You lift our lives with your words, wherever you are! Thank you! So, just decide to love life wherever you are set down, and know we are all connected despite seeming distances!
    Annie July 16, 2012 at 12:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: Annie, reading all of your comments is such a pleasure! Thank you so much.

      And isn’t Gold such a stunning fragrance! July 16, 2012 at 4:45pm Reply

      • (Deborah) Annie Oney: Amouage Gold is so amazing. If I had a signature fragrance, that would be it, if I could afford it. Especially now that I’ve learned the trick from one of your readers, of putting shea butter down first to hold the scent! What a great tip was that?

        Also, I wanted to ask if there is a problem with roll-on samples? Do they pick up contaminants from the skin when you roll them on? I have yet to see anything about this in the blogosphere or books I’ve read.

        I’m in the middle of reading “Coming To My Senses” and absolutely love it- coming late to this world of scent in my life for many of the same reasons, Alyssa Harad seems like a long lost sister, a funny and poignant voice of sisterhood.

        Carry on my dear, Annie July 17, 2012 at 1:09pm Reply

        • Victoria: I don’t think that roll-on samples should be an issue. They are small and you can finish them quickly, after all. In principle, they do pick up contaminants, but I don’t think that it matters much if you only have 5-10mls of perfume to worry about.

          Glad that you’re enjoying Alyssa’s book! :) July 17, 2012 at 2:57pm Reply

  • maja: I found Brussels sooo depressing and couldn’t wait to go back to Italy. It’s the lack of sunshine, I guess. Take care and orange-blossom-away the blues :) July 16, 2012 at 1:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: I can’t imagine how the Belgian weather must feel to an Italian! Yes, the orange blossom is another favorite mood lifting scent. July 16, 2012 at 4:46pm Reply

  • fleurdelys: I love your mom’s recommendation to wash your hair; it is true that grooming can lift your spirits. A manicure and/or pedicure has worked for me, if I look better I feel better. My comforting fragrances are the ones I consider “cuddly”, and have notes of almond or heliotrope (yes, I consider L’Heure Bleue cuddly!). Then again, sparkly aldehydes can also make a gray day seem sunnier. July 16, 2012 at 1:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: L’Heure Bleue is definitely cuddly! I’ve been wearing it too, since I brought a big decant with me. I love its warmth. July 16, 2012 at 4:48pm Reply

  • operaFan: Oh silly me. I must have missed your post about moving. I do hope you’ll soon feel the comfort of settling. It’s a blessing you were able to bring your precious collection with you.
    Your story of the missed pronounciation reminded of an early voice lesson singing Reynaldo Hahn’s “Si mes Vers avaient des ailes” where I pronounced the French word for “wings” as “garlic” and my voice teacher and the accompanist broke into a fit of laughter. Now there’s a lovely song to check out to get away from it all. Love Mozart piano concertos! Look for 21 & 23 foe starters!
    If you get homesick you’ll always have us to turn to.
    Xoxo July 16, 2012 at 1:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: Everything was so hectic and last minute that I brought only a bunch of samples and decants and the rest will be shipped later. Much of my vintage collection is stored, since it’s too fragile to ship and I don’t even know where we will be living. I did bring a few full bottles, so I will have enough to keep me happy. July 16, 2012 at 5:01pm Reply

  • Tulip: I am so shocked you have moved permanently to Euroland. Already the little bit I know of you your life sounds like a novel, or bio of a famous writer/artist.
    My two cents is to paint your walls white and get some Josef Frank (deceased Swedish designer) pillows/accessories – he is soooo good.
    Also, lighting helps; even those SAD lights.
    Your photos are really wondeful!
    Can’t wait to hear about your adventures! July 16, 2012 at 1:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: Trust me, so was my mom! :) She wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea of me being so far away at all. But then again, I’m closer to my family in Ukraine (my cousins, my grandmother) and to my husband’s family in England.

      Thank you for your nice words! I doubt that my life is all that exciting really. On the other hand, I wish that we were more like a normal family and were more settled. :) July 16, 2012 at 5:06pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I feel sorry for your pain. I have lived abroad myself, never permanently though. But I do remember feeling utterly lost.
    Belgium is known for its mad bureaucracy. I am sure things will eventually get settled, but it may take a while.
    I also think you were wise to move to Brussels. Reading your blog you seem to have quite a cosmopolitan background and the most international city in Belgium is indeed Brussels. I happen to adore the city, but know it only as a visitor. (It is about an hours drive away from where I live.) Once you will have mastered some Dutch there is a lovely little book about Brussels written by a Flemish writer called Eric de Kuyper. The book is called: A Passion for Brussels ( Een passie voor Brussel) and is a wonderful introduction to Brussels. It may actually exist in English. Some of his other work is very enjoyable as well, but again I am not sure if it has been translated into English or French.
    I just hope you will take your time in allowing yourself to adjust. The city is very well located for trips anywhere in Europe. Using the Eurostar London is so close as well.
    Having this tragic weather doesn’t help. Last year July was as bad as this year, but things started getting better in August, and September and October were lovely and sunny.
    We may have the same this year.
    If ever you need any help, or just someone to share your frustrations about Belgium with, do feel free to email me. My French is not perfect, but I speak it quite fluently and Dutch is my “lingua indigena”. July 16, 2012 at 2:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s really why I feel so much better in Brussels–it’s more like NYC but on a smaller, more manageable scale. The other town where we lived was just lovely (a jewelbox!), but after one week I explored every single nook and cranny and started getting restless. The lack of Dutch prevented me from developing meaningful relationships with people, although English certainly sufficed to carry out the daily tasks.

      Brussels may pose different challenges and frustrations, but at least it’s a big city.

      Thank you very much for your nice offer! July 16, 2012 at 5:16pm Reply

  • minette: victoria, i know you will be fine! just keep riding the waves as you have been. the trick is to not get stuck in or hang onto any one emotion (remember that emotion = energy in motion). feel things as they come (even the homesickness) and let them move on. and know that trying to hang onto happiness or delight can be just as painful as dwelling on sadness – the positive emotions also move on; let them. flow, baby, flow.

    soon, as you learn about your new surroundings, the seemingly big annoyances will retreat to their rightful places – small and niggling. and in the process, who knows, you might get a book out of it! your perfect apartment is being readied for you now – trust that. you just got there a little early.

    i love your list of comfort scents – it contains several of mine, and i am glad to know you have them there with you. you are, no doubt, the best-smelling woman in that city hall!

    you are on a wonderful adventure! enjoy it! and be sure to send us postcards of your discoveries. i’ll bet there are lots of foods and flowers and interestingly scented nooks and crannies to explore there.

    be well,
    minette July 16, 2012 at 2:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: What a great way to look at things! Thank you for this. I love the idea of emotions as something that keeps moving. It’s certainly true. One can’t sustain the same feeling for a long time. That would have been so boring too. July 16, 2012 at 5:19pm Reply

  • Rowanhill: Dear Victoria, courage with the red tape. I have been here soon 14 years and it was frustrating to get the practicalities sorted. One piece of advice for the commun: get dressed most business like and fortify yourself with Chanel No 19 – and turn on the charm. If that does not work, get angry. And, an offer is on for a coffee and a cupcake to vent off your frustrations. Just let me know and – courage. It will get better. Where else do you get all these nationalities in a human size city where it does not take ages to get from A to B. July 16, 2012 at 3:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much! I will drop you a note. Meanwhile, I will be sure to prepare myself better for the other (or I should say one of many!) city hall visits.

      I went through the whole bureaucratic rigmarole in the US when I was getting my US passport, but this is far worse than anything INS has ever inflicted on me. Oy! July 16, 2012 at 5:22pm Reply

  • solanace: I think the worst about living in a foreign country is that, right when you desperately need to make friends, your wit does not come across because of the language barrier. It happened to me all the time, and it was so frustrating. As for small cures for melancholy… Baking, and thus making your home smell delicious (baking with Belgian chocolate AND cream, for instance). Of course, la flannérie can never be overpraised… not only taking long walks in the city, but getting a bike to travel around by the countryside, from one cute little town to the next, can be even more rewarding. The air fills your lungs, your blood flows, and you produce a ton of endorphines. By bike, you see, hear and smell everything around you, become acquainted with the little streams and ponds, the cats and dogs, the tiny bakeries. And I have always been amazed at how people are friendlier, anywhere in the world, if you arrive by bicycle! And then, your tummy empty with that healthy hunger that only cycling (or swimming) can provide, eating a jumbo portion of moules-frittes with a super finely crafted beer.
    The ultimate comfort scent for me is Shalimar. So luminous. July 16, 2012 at 3:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s the hard part, A! Especially if you love words and like talking to people (or I should say, enough of an extrovert).

      The idea of going someplace by a bike sounds like a lot of fun! As I was mentioning to Elena further up the thread, I’ve been enjoying discovering Brussels on foot. Along the way I can see different people, cats, birds, smell roses and salivate over the chocolate displays. July 16, 2012 at 5:27pm Reply

      • solanace: Walking is so great, so important. My mom is a big walker. She tought me about la flannérie when I was a kid, and I have the best memories of crazy long walks in Rio with her! Loved your mom’s advice about washing your hair… But since you sounded interested, I must insist on the bike! (You see, if there is no light, you must rely on endorphines…) And there is something playful, almost childlike about riding a bike. Riding a bike in Germany alone, very slowly, no stress, drinking a beer or a coffeee here and there, eating the incredibly fresh walnuts by the road, was the best travelling experience I had ever lived, and afterwards I have always tended to rent a bike whenever I travel. It really makes you feel even more alive than walking. In Belgium, the distances are really short and there are no hills (Italy was a place where I skipped the bike!), so you don’t have to be super fit, the paths are safe (can’t say the same about Sao Paulo!) and the views magnificent (ditto). So go get a couple of bikes, girl! July 17, 2012 at 6:15am Reply

        • Victoria: If anyone can convince me to get on a bike, it would be you, A! :) Outside of Brussels, I can imagine that biking shouldn’t be problematic at all. I never fails to amuse me how close we’re to the countryside. 10 minutes, and you’re surrounded by the pasture lands and cows. I love it. July 17, 2012 at 6:45am Reply

  • Rose D: I have always had troubles with the Belgian accent as well! Must be because I learnt French at an Alliance Française. Apparently, this happens to a lot of people; even Charlotte Bronte mentioned it on her novel “The Professor”.

    As for perfumes, every time I need to lift my mood I turn to violets. A hot shower using milk soap is also a good option.

    Other guilty pleasures are a cup of hot chocolate, even when I cannot indulge in this very often; and David Miller´s version of “What a wonderful world”, he has a very beautiful voice and I do not have to worry about breaking the bank or packing up calories! July 16, 2012 at 3:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: The Belgian accent has stumped me more than once so far. Also, I still get taken aback when I hear the words for 70, 80, 90 as septante, huitante, octante, nonante (rather than soixante-dix, quatre-vingts, quatre-vingt-dix that are used in France). July 16, 2012 at 4:01pm Reply

  • Carla: I lived in Brussels 3 months on a short term assignment in 2005. Good luck! 100% Love is a favorite mood lifter! July 16, 2012 at 4:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Carla! 100% Love is beautiful, and I am glad that I brought a decant of it with me. July 16, 2012 at 5:28pm Reply

  • yomi: Dear. Victoria, surprised to know you are now in brussels. Earnestly wish you the best of luck and yes, a fragrant marriage. Truly believe this stay will broaden your fragrance horizons. What happened to your IFF project? July 16, 2012 at 4:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: I hope so, Yomi! In the past few years, I’ve been working more out of Paris, so the move isn’t a huge shake up for my work projects. July 16, 2012 at 5:33pm Reply

  • Ariadne: Lancome’s Tresor body lotion!!!!! Massaging my mother’s hands with this delicious scent was absolutely instrumental in bringing her out of the hospital I.C.U. after having a lung removed. And my mother did not like to be touched!! I know Tresor has vanilla in it but there is something about this perfume’s blend that is extra-ordinary and imparts confidence that all will be O.K.. July 16, 2012 at 5:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: Tresor is a gorgeous fragrance, which feels like a warm hug. I can just imagine you and my mom, you massaging that peach colored lotion into her skin. Thank you for sharing this story, Ariadne. July 16, 2012 at 5:36pm Reply

  • Undina: Dear Victoria,

    I also haven’t realized that this move was of a more permanent kind. I’m positive that in half a year you’ll feel more at home wherever you are (after you find a place to call home, learn better what is where, find more local friends). For now I can just send you warm thoughts and wish patience. I hope you’ll get enough support – from your family, from your real or virtual friends and from your perfumes to make this period in your life a trully happy one. July 16, 2012 at 6:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: For us it was also a bit of a last minute decision, but we had to decide very quickly. All in all, I know that it’s going to be an adventure and an experience. But of course, it’s just hard initially when everything is new. The kind thoughts are so appreciated. Thank you very much for these nice words and warm wishes. July 16, 2012 at 6:53pm Reply

  • Yulya: Hi Victoria,

    I feel for you and understand fully, with my two immigrations behind me… Well, people adjust to everything and start feeling at home amazingly quickly! You will, too! I find that finding familiar aromas helps. Not only perfumes (it goes without saying!), but also finding a cafeteria with some familiar foods or beverages or how about a smell of a drama theatre, there is something about the air there, which I think is similar in every country of the world (smell of the stage, costumes, perfume, powder and I do not know what else! mmmmm). And, of course, we your outstanding culinary skills you can make any apartment have this aura of your home :)
    Good luck! July 16, 2012 at 6:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yulya, thank you! Two immigrations must be something. I’m so impressed reading your comments and those by others who have lived in such different places and moved around a lot.
      The familiar food is very comforting. And the theater. I love your idea of going to the theater. There is definitely something so familiar about all theaters. My mom makes a point of going to a theater in any new city, even if she doesn’t understand the language of the play. July 16, 2012 at 7:03pm Reply

      • solanace: I love your mom! July 17, 2012 at 6:19am Reply

        • Victoria: :) She’s something else, my mom! And since she had a fair bit of challenges in her own life, she developed an impressive array of means to keep her spirits up. For instance, when she’s traveling, she brings small candles to make a hotel room smell more like home. Or she sprays the sheets on the hotel bed with rose scents (she keeps Serge Lutens Sa Majeste de la Rose samples in her travel bag for this purpose). July 17, 2012 at 6:49am Reply

  • Kaori: Victoria,

    Cheer up! We, your fans are all here:)
    Indulge yourself in what you love!

    I have something I like to send you. Once settled , let me know your new address.

    Kaori July 16, 2012 at 9:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much! I swear, waking up today to all of these comments and re-reading this thread was the best mood lifter possible. Thank you for thinking about me. July 17, 2012 at 6:26am Reply

  • K.: Great post! Moving from the SF Bay Area, California to Paris, FR was a doozie for me. I found comfort in David Sedaris’ books, re-reading(or listening to them via Audible.com audios) my old favorites. …I also loved podcasts and internet radio(NPR etc, SF stations) from the US. It all made me feel less on the moon!

    Fragrance-wise, I re-discovered Chanel No. 19 and Opium but I was sampling, buying, and swapping like crazy! That was actually a highlight of living there. I haven’t had the time since our children were born. We’ve also since relocated back to the US & the perfume hunting isn’t so fruitful. Another thing(sort of odd) I did in Paris was to buy some of my parents favorite fragrances and I’d spray them around occasionally. lolz

    I hope you’re feeling more settled soon! July 16, 2012 at 10:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s funny that you mention feeling less on the moon thanks to some of your favorites. You know, people say that globalization makes every place look and feel the same, but it may be so only on a very superficial level. Deep down, there are so many differences. Occasionally, it does feel as if I ended up on another planet. Sometimes, it’s fun, sometimes, it’s frustration, but it all must be par for the course. July 17, 2012 at 6:30am Reply

  • Tatiana: Courage and strength and know that your readers are sending you much love! I understand your frustrations, as we lived in The Netherlands 20 years ago for my husband’s job. It was before I was a huge perfumista and I was three months pregnant when I moved, so smells were overwhelming and off putting for me. Being an artist, I found comfort in museums and long walks with my camera exploring.
    The melancholy will pass as you become more comfortable with your surroundings and get the bureaucratic bits ironed out. I found that living in Holland was a great base to explore other parts of Europe by rail. Once a month I would get on the train and travel to Paris. There were quick jaunts by auto with my husband to Germany or to the coast. And your French will slowly get better and become a part of you. You will delight in how much your fluency will improve.
    After living there for a year, I grew to love many things. But I must admit there were still many things, so much different than here in the States, that we found incredibly annoying to the end. We found the best way to deal with those things was with humor. We have to this day, some private jokes between the two of us about our experiences there.
    I find woody, vanilla scents to be a great comfort. Chanel No.19 will always be the scent I wear when I need strength and courage. And to this day vintage Opium makes me feel beautiful and incredibly adored and loved.
    Sending you virtual hugs and positive energy to get through this. July 16, 2012 at 10:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: My hat is off to you, Tatiana! Your story of moving to another country when you were expecting is so impressive. You both were so brave. I also find your experiences inspiring. I’ve been taking my camera with me on my walks, because occasionally I come across something that’s either so unexpected, or strange or beautiful, and I like to capture it. I wonder what things will remain unexpected and strange as more time passes.

      And thank you again for your positive vibes! July 17, 2012 at 6:37am Reply

  • Debbie: I didn’t realise your move was permanent, Victoria. I know nothing of the displacement of a big move having lived in Scotland all my life but I can definitely sympathise about the weather. You do need more than a few comfort scents when the skies are always so grey. My own ones are Cinema in perfume format and if things get bad, feminite du bois. I also take a lot of vitamin D supplements! I hope you find a sense of ‘home’ soon. It is nice to have you in Europe though and I’m sure you’ll take inspiration from your new, if somewhat difficult, experiences. And here’s hoping for a crisp, bright autumn… July 17, 2012 at 4:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Debbie! Oh, you certainly must know plenty about the grey sky (but I think that Scotland is just stunning, whatever the weather!) Cinema in the parfum version is wonderful, and it can still be found at reasonable prices online. July 17, 2012 at 6:40am Reply

  • Isabeau: Dear Victoria,

    What more can I say, everyone else already said it! You are really brave for moving this far!
    And I know all about the nasty weather, living in the Netherlands, but it will get better!
    And Victoria, you are so close to Place Vendome in Wevelgem, you have to visit it, you will be flabbergasted! Good luck! July 17, 2012 at 6:01am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much for saying that, although I don’t feel brave at all. Mostly just trying not to seem like a deer in the headlights. :)
      I’ve order a couple of perfumes from Place Vendome when I still lived in the States, and I found their customer service to be exceptional. So, Wevelgem is on the list of places for my perfume pilgrimage. :) July 17, 2012 at 6:43am Reply

  • annemariec: Sorry to hear things are not so good. Me neither – I found out yesterday, on my birthday, that I have to apply for my own job, same one as I have had for four years, or in another sense, 19 years.

    I have found comfort in honey fragrances recently, although I own just two: Aqua Allegoria Flora Nypmhea, and (for deep comfort) Ginestet Botrytis. July 17, 2012 at 7:26am Reply

    • Victoria: Anne Marie, I’m so sorry to hear that you have to do this. I wish you lots of success, and since you’ve been there so long and must know the organization well, I’m sure that your chances are excellent. I will be keeping my fingers crossed for you. July 17, 2012 at 11:54am Reply

  • rosarita: Such a lovely post, I will have to come back to read the comments. I’m not at home & have limited wi fi access, but just wanted to send you a fragrant hug, V. Your writing has given me such enjoyment over the years, as much as the perfumes you write about. I applaud your courage in setting out in this new phase of life for you and your husband. I’m in a caretaking position helping a friend all summer and Prada Candy is my companion for this endeavor. It’s undemanding and pretty and doesn’t bother my dear friend’s sensitive nose :) Best wishes to you… July 17, 2012 at 8:33am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, I appreciate your fragrant, virtual hug! I admit that the decision was hard, because it meant leaving many dear friends and being farther away from my mom, but we’ve always wanted to try living in a new place, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to give it a try.
      Candy is definitely a delicious, comforting scent. Hope that your friend enjoys it as well. Wishing you well in your work this summer. July 17, 2012 at 2:47pm Reply

  • chayaruchama: Dear V- thinking of you with tears rolling down those beautiful cheeks just wrenched my heart…I wanted to hug you, very much.

    Belgium is absolutely quirky; any country, I suspect- that has had so many invaders
    [ from Roman times, onwards] possesses a fierte that is both fascinating and a bit fierce.

    The absolute greenness of the country is heartening, as is the moody sky of Dutch Masters renown…perhaps small compensation for feeling uprooted so suddenly.

    I comfort myself with perfume.
    It really depends on how and why- but safe to say, we share many common favorites.
    I’ll go for Le Temps D’Une Fete, if I need perking up, or DSH’s beautiful new Sweet Dreams – anything capable of evoking a happier time [ warm meadows , hay everywhere the eye can see..., forests, fields filled with wildflowers].
    Sometimes, Sortilege or Replique- to remember and honor my mother and gracious aunt.

    Many kisses to you. July 17, 2012 at 8:51am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, dear Ida! I’m getting misty eyed reading all of these comments. You’ve touched me so much.
      It sounds like we definitely share a few favorites. I completely neglected Le Temps D’Une Fete as of late, but it’s a perfume that makes me think of long, lazy summer days, so I think that I need to bring it back into rotation. July 17, 2012 at 2:49pm Reply

  • Sofia: Hi Victoria, I’m sorry to hear you’ve had tough moments in Belgium. I know how it feels too, as I’ve lived in so many places. Specially when you have to learn a new language, you can’t communicate as free as you would like too, you can feel very desperate about the whole situation. My boyfriend is from the North of France, just from the border from Belgium, so its like an extension of Belgium, the greyness, coldness, a lot of Belgian food too (thankfully they speak French though!). When I go there and visit his family I struggle to communicate, and haha they same thing happens to me people speak to me back in English and I’m thinking, gosh my French must be really bad!
    Comfort in a perfume.. its interesting how you said vanilla is a comfort perfume. I never used to like vanilla (because when I was a student someone in my dorm used to mop the floor with an overdose of vanilla shower gel, it was too much!). Then a few years a ago, a friend of my mum gifted me with Dior Hypnotic Poisson, which has a strong vanilla notes with bitter almond, and I have to say that I now actually love it, specially in cold weather.
    I love your mother’s tip on washing hair, its so true actually, I’m going to remember that as from now.
    I’m still in Barcelona (so if you ever visit Bcn again, we could meet up!) but I know this is not my place and I am planning to move away, maybe in 6 months to 1 year. As I know my time here is short, I am making a photographic documentary for myself of all the beautiful buildings and surprising details here. Belgium has incredibly beautiful buildings and history so I’m sure you’re doing the same. And I’m sure your French is now amazingly good! July 17, 2012 at 12:24pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sofia, oh, I hope that I get to Barcelona when you’re still there, and I would have loved to meet you. You can show me your favorite spots.

      Hypnotic Poison was my intro to gourmand scents, and I still find it amazing. It doesn’t smell obviously edible, but it has that delicious, teasing note that feels so addictive.

      We go to the north of France time to time, because it’s so close. Plus, even though it’s close, it still feels like a different country. The southern Belgium also has a fair number of lovely little towns. July 17, 2012 at 2:55pm Reply

  • Barbara: Dear V, I just want to give you a big virtual hug. Your writing gives me so much pleasure, and it helped me through some difficult times of my own. Bois de Jasmin is my ultimate “cure the blues” therapy.
    xoxo
    Barbara July 17, 2012 at 3:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s such a sweet compliment, Barbara! Thank you very much. July 18, 2012 at 5:21am Reply

  • Bojana: Bon courage dear Victoria from an expat-many-times-over. I am sure you have already discovered the shop where they sell Diptyque products in the St-Gery neighborhood (I’ve been meaning to try the original Eau for a while…), a few doors down from a highly tempting shoe store called Hatshoe. It is also not far from Sainte-Catherine, a lively square with a great Nordzee counter brimming with fresh oysters and tuna a la plancha, which I enjoyed on an unseasonably sunny day last March. From my perspective Brussels is a fantastic place, if you avoid the Eurocracy areas… July 17, 2012 at 4:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: Bojana, I’m jotting it all down. I haven’t been to the St. Gery neighborhood yet, I don’t think. We’ve moved to Brussels fairly recently, and until then we lived in the Flanders. So, I still have lots to explore here. July 18, 2012 at 5:22am Reply

  • HB: Goodness – I am a whole day late to this post and so sorry for my tardy response. I’ve experienced the same crushing sense of being foreign a few times. It’s always so tough and I empathize. Your courage in making the decision and zooming ahead with it is admirable! The most difficult time I had was when I transplanted myself for school. It was Florence, Italy – so I should have been thrilled – but all I wanted to do was leave. The city was dusty and full of tourists and I didn’t speak the language yet, plus there were the stresses of getting things accomplished on a schedule. One of my oases was my conversational language class. Having a teacher help navigate the idioms and quirks of daily life really helped me. And the people I met who were kind, like the lady who ran the gelateria near my apartment (yum!), still stick in my memory as much as the beautiful art and architecture I studied.

    Here we are years later, and one of my comforting fragrances is Angel which I started wearing during that time. Not surprisingly, I reach for Santa Maria Novella Patchouli as another comfort. I am very close to my dad, so men’s fragrances which remind me of him are also on my list – he wore Givenchy Gentleman when I was young which I have translated (in my imagination) to Chanel Pour Monsieur. My poise and elegance muses are Amouage Gold and Cristalle; they comfort me and also lend me a bit of courage when I need it. (Cristalle for bureaucracy laden days and Gold for long lines or financial wranglings.) Occasionally I yearn for a flowery scent, or a reminder of flowering fields and warm weather, so a shower with good olive oil soap and some lavendar essential oil can be soothing.

    It’s so wonderful to read your writings, both reflective and analytical; selfishly, I am glad you’ve kept up the site. Reading the other, excellent, comments here I remember how I used to take long walks after class and get lost, deliberately, just to explore the city and find some solace. I do hope you find some comfort as you adjust, and anticipate some good stories about the whole experience. July 18, 2012 at 2:43am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your story! I can just imagine how hard it must have been! Plus, you were alone, a student. Italy is such a wonderful place to visit, but it can be extremely hard to live there.

      Another thing I find comforting is to read about other people’s experiences living in a a new place. There is so much great literature about it. One of my favorites is a autobiography by Nina Berberova called The Italics are Mine. She wrote about the lives of Russian exiles in Paris, and I highly recommend her stories and novels. Of course, Nabokov is always great, or Peter Mayle for something totally different and much more lighthearted. July 18, 2012 at 5:29am Reply

      • HB: Oo, I haven’t read Berberova – will go seek that out right away. Travel writings are something I really enjoy. No matter where I am, they help me feel more connected. July 18, 2012 at 1:30pm Reply

        • Victoria: I recently read The Billancourt Tales by her, and I highly recommend them as well. Billancourt is a Paris suburb where poor Russian emigres lived at the turn of the century, and her stories are full of these odd, destitute characters. July 18, 2012 at 2:30pm Reply

  • Cybele: lot’s of artists have moved to Brussels in recent years choosing it over Berlin for being smaller and close to London and Paris and also some interesting Galleries have opened, maybe that could be something worth exploring. I have lived in many places myself and different scents gave me company in different places. Chanel 22 and 19 in Mexico City, Vetiver pour Elle in a especially rainy part of the UK were I didn’t want to be, and Coromandel and Lime Basil Mandarin during a a shorter stay in Miami. Best of luck to you! July 18, 2012 at 3:32am Reply

    • Victoria: The other day I was walking through one of the Euro areas and felt as if I were inside a modern art installation! :)
      But seriously, yes, I need to explore the art scene more. I’ve been mostly walking around the city, and especially if it’s a nice day, I like being outside. July 18, 2012 at 5:32am Reply

  • Katherine: Dear Vika, I hope the blues lift soon! Nothing like dealing with the bureaucracy to make you wish you never left home. My favorite anti-stress remedy has been rereading old favorites, like John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga–nothing like a long novel to escape. Oh, and relating my misadventures in my blog helped lighten my mood when we were in India. By the way, your photographs have gotten even more gorgeous! Soon, this period will be over and you will be able to enjoy and explore fully. July 18, 2012 at 8:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Katia, thank you so much! I remember how much I enjoyed following your blog, and I still remember some passages by heart, they were so touching.

      “Nothing like dealing with the bureaucracy to make you wish you never left home.” So true! In my darkest moments, I feel that I’m doomed to spend the rest of my days in the city hall. July 18, 2012 at 2:47pm Reply

  • Mimi: Several years ago I went on a family vacation to Prague and Brussels. I was overwhelmed at the beauty of both. Brussels reminded me of San Francisco, where I lived for a number of years. The parks and the gorgeous, elegant apartments. I too loved Bruges.

    I feel for you so much though. Leaving the familiar and especially loved ones—just awful.

    I, too, would recommend David Sedaris; his essays on moving to and living in France are great.

    Catherine Denevue is one of my favorite booster fragrances. It’s strength and beauty forces my mood and confidence up. I read recently that Le Labo’s Belle du Soir smells exactly like Denevue and I can’t wait to try it. It is only offered, I think, at Anthropologie.

    Last, something I read of Maureen Dowd’s: Go red. I know you love red lipstick. It’s a wonderful booster too. July 18, 2012 at 9:08am Reply

    • Victoria: Mimi, thank you so much for all of these great suggestions! I’m also pleased to hear that you saw the resemblance between San Francisco and Brussels. The hills and the architecture make it seem even more so.

      Belle du Soir just shot up to the top of my list of perfume to sample. Anything resembling Deneuve is a must try for me. July 18, 2012 at 2:50pm Reply

  • Emily: Dear Victoria,

    I’m sorry to hear about your tough transition. I understand the loneliness and isolation because two years ago I moved to Boston to be with my fiance. I left behind deep friendships, sunshine, the Pacific Ocean, and my sense of groundedness and identity in California, where I had spent most of my life.

    I didn’t realize you have been across the pond for awhile. Somehow I felt like I was talking to someone in New York! I hope your copy of ‘The Golden Peaches of Samarkand’ has since arrived. I would be happy to start a mini book club with you if it could offer some reprieve from the Belgian bureaucratic dysfunction : ).

    A familiar scent does bring a very singular comfort because it is never contrived. It’s like being blindsided by my memories….but in a good way. While in Boston I put on Frederic Malle’s Outrageous and was instantly transported to a very special trip my good friend and I took to Texas for the Austin City Limits music festival. It brought back feelings of freedom, self-assurance, identity, and how I was cool and knew how to have fun once upon a time :P.

    I hope your blog and your fans can reassure you and comfort you during these times. In fact, thank you once again for letting me share my experiences here as it also comforts me to relive my memories. July 18, 2012 at 6:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: Emily, I would love to start a mini book club once my copy of ‘The Golden Peaches of Samarkand’ arrives. I tried ordering it earlier, but the seller didn’t have the copy or couldn’t ship it overseas, I don’t remember. So, I’ve decided that I will order a copy and have it shipped to my mom’s address. And then she will ship to me here. Too bad that it isn’t on Kindle (says someone who used to hate the very idea of Kindle until she got one herself :).

      I usually develop posts well in advance, which is why even some of the recent ones might have a bit of NYC flavor. Even so, our sojourn here is still relatively new, and my transition is still in the very early stages. Everything you describe is poignantly familiar to me. Thank you very much for sharing your experiences! It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in experiencing this. July 19, 2012 at 6:06am Reply

  • Ariadne: I would like to recommend 2 books that relate to drastic movement & change of venue/locale. The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal, and Sipping from The Nile: My Exodus From Egypt by Jean Naggar. A warning: these books are both true stories and heart wrenching. The first, “The Hare”, is agonizingly so but the ending has reveals a symmetry that is quite spiritually uplifting. The second “Sipping” is a woman’s story filled with loving prose with references to scents as life markers. Never before had I considered the scent of intense sunlight.
    I have moved so often in my life that I find my spiritual anchors and shared sensibilities in sensory experiences. Example: every culture has some form of fried dough. Every culture exalts flowers, their by product of exquisite scent is just icing on the cake! That we can speak of smells across the globe via this blog and totally understand the reference is amazing and just right. July 19, 2012 at 8:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: Ariadne, what a beautiful idea–to see the similarities, instead of the differences. It may seem so obvious, but it’s just natural to notice things that don’t seem familiar and focus on those.
      By the way, the Belgian love of fried things can almost rival that of the US South. In the Flanders, every other store is a fry shop and most people have no problem making fries their lunch and dinner. July 20, 2012 at 3:34am Reply

  • Heidi: I am rather late to this, but how I sympathize. I’ve done this twice — first to Montreal from Oslo, and then to the small US college town I am now in. I must say it gets harder as you get older, since this time around I’m rather miserable. Of course, Montreal is plainly delightful and Canadian bureaucracy easier to deal with than the US one (I’ve heard AWFUL things about the Belgian system from friends who went to university there). In any case, I find I am just not adjusting as I would like to my new surroundings — but I’ve been comforted by some European treats I brought with me. Parfums de Rosine Poussiere de Rose is one, Lorenzo Villoresi’s Iperborea (home!) another. Best of luck to you, Victoria! July 21, 2012 at 2:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m sorry to hear this, Heidi, and as someone who experienced the small university towns, I can sympathize. Depends where you are, it may not be as cosmopolitan as what you’re used to in Oslo and Montreal.

      Please do not hesitate to write if you need any help trying to figure things out. As someone in a similar situation, I’m glad to offer my support. July 21, 2012 at 3:39pm Reply

  • kuanyin: City Hall is depressing anywhere! I remember having to wait outside a courtroom for a clerk to pay some fee for my now ex-husband with my two very young sons. Court was in session but the hallway we were waiting in was cavernous and empty with stone floors and acoustical amplification like you wouldn’t believe! The bailiff came out to tell me the boys would have to keep it down. Ummm, they were four and two! My ex waited until the last day and there was no time to make arrangements. It’s funny now, but it wasn’t then…sometimes the hardest moments are the most memorable. I think Samsara would be ultra comforting, I’ll have to recall that when I need it. Blessings! July 23, 2012 at 5:41pm Reply

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