Have you ever dreamed of living in Paris and wonder how it would be? In this Expat Interview, Gabriela will show you what it’s like to live in Paris as an expat. You can understand Paris from an expat’s viewpoint, and get to know important information such as the cost of living in Paris, good and bad things about Paris, and how to prepare to move to Paris, etc..
Paris – The city of love
Paris is the capital of France, and it’s mainly known as the city of love or even better as the city of lights. Its location is amazing as you can travel within Europe in less than 2 hours anywhere, but what is more important to know about Paris is the fact that its surface offers you great options for museums, parks and also the opportunity to have amazing walks. It’s a great place to study, especially if you are interested in fashion or finance and of course, this will come with the perks of finding easily a job while enjoying a glass of wine.
Let’s get to know a bit about Gabriela – our interviewee today :)
My name is Gabriela, and I work in an asset management company in the Netherlands as data business analyst. Also, I have started blogging at the beginning of 2017 because I wanted to share my stories worldwide.
I moved to Paris in August 2014 and planned immediately to stuff myself with as much cheese and wine as possible. This is how I find myself living in Paris, but I couldn’t live there for more than a year, even though there are things that I liked about the city and I came back a few times after moving out, just for weekend visits, Paris is not really meant to host me.
1. How did you start moving to Paris?
My Parisian story started when I decided to try my luck for a scholarship at one of the most prestige Business School in Paris. I always dreamt of studying abroad but never thought that will be possible in my case. But in June 2014, I received the answer that I will finally be able to fulfill my dream. I have to say that my transition to move to Paris it was very smooth and this is for sure thanks to the administration from my school, which arranged everything.
2. Why did you choose to live in Paris?
Honestly, there were a lot of factors that made me take the decision. I have applied to multiple schools, but for me, Paris resonates with high education. I was easily impressed how the financial hub, La Defence looks like and the school was located in the Grande Arche, which really took the decision for me.
Later on, after leaving the city, I noticed how easy I get someone’s attention when I mention that I used to live and study for a year in Paris.
3. How to prepare for moving to Paris?
The worse part of moving to Paris, or any city in France for the matter, is to find a place to live. The landlords have so much power that basically you will feel like having an interview. In my case it was very easy, I didn’t experience the process as hard as it can actually be since the school offers to be the “Guarantor” for any student as long as you pay your fees in due time. Also, they help with opening the bank account, settling in the city and getting your Pass Navigo, the transportation card.
4. Did you experience any discrimination in Paris?
I am a Romanian, which means a lot in Paris, from being called a gypsy to listening to a French school colleague telling me how “our government paid your people 500 EUR in the past and a plane ticket to go back to Romania”!
This was very demotivating for me to learn the language and honestly, I think that even though French people don’t like to be called names, they tend to do it to others. The word expat doesn’t exist for them, but rather immigrant, to make a very big distinction and to create a gap between you and them.
5. How to deal with culture shock in Paris?
Before relocating to Paris, I lived in Miami and London, so this wasn’t my first time as an expat, but I have to admit my shock was more related to seeing how dirty the city is. I was shocked when I was in the metro and everyone was smelling like yesterday’s clothes at 8 am. I was shocked when I said to a salesman that I am a Romanian and he just turned his back on me and never paid attention to me.
How did I overcome all these? I moved out of the country as soon as I finished my studies.
6. How to overcome difficulties during living in Paris?
The hard part is not speaking French. I used to take classes when I was little, but since then I never practiced, so I only remember the grammar rules and my vocabulary just vanished. The school offered free French classes, and if you go to Paris for any other reason, the government also offers free classes in the evening, so that is also an option.
Nobody will speak to you in English and if by any chance they do understand “a little bit” they will most likely speak still in French, just because they do not feel comfortable and “you should just learn our language”
About Paris, France
7. What do you like about Paris?
Paris is an amazing place to be in, especially if you are young without too many life problems.
The architecture is impressive, you can walk for weeks and you will not be bored and of course, you can still avoid the touristic traps and enjoy every second of your day. The bike lanes are pretty well organized, it is no Copenhagen, but still, if you want to use this mean of transportation, for sure it will be great, just watch out for crazy drivers.
The cheese, baguette and of course the wine, put them all into a bag and just go to a park and have a picnic on the grass. The last, but not least, there is always an event somewhere someday in Paris, you just need to look for it.
8. Is there anything that you don’t like about Paris?
Of course, besides of what I mentioned above, the city is also crowded and dangerous. What actually bothers me personally is the constant attacks on the city, which created a constant fear that you can just see walking around the city. It’s a bit sad and depressing and seeing the policemen with big guns, this feeling doesn’t really go away, but rather becomes even stronger.
9. What are your favorite things to do in Paris?
Definitely the picnics and walks around the famous Jardins. My favorite spot is Buttes-Chaumont park, with the beautiful cascade and great hills for a run (if you are up to it). Another great place is the Pere Lachaise cemetery, where among others Jim Morrison is buried, it’s really an architectural masterpiece.
10. Where would you recommend to visit in Paris?
For great views over the city, the balloon ride in Andre Citron park is a must, especially that it’s not very well known so not that crowded. There are a lot of other spots with a great view, like Printemps and Galleries Lafayette terraces, Sacre Coeur and Arc Triumph, but since these are so crowded I advise you to be patient.
11. Cost of living in Paris
Rent is, of course, the priciest expense, it’s almost impossible to find a nice place below 800EUR, so be prepared since Paris is the definition of an expensive city. In general, I managed to keep my budget under 1000 EUR per month,
Transportation (Navigo card around 80 EUR per month and with a 50% discount as a student)
Food (most of my groceries were from cheap supermarket Lidl, where you could get fruits, veggies and dairy products for a week with around 50 EUR)
Going out, this depends on each one of us, but I definitively took into consideration that most museums have a free day on first Sunday of the month.
12. Is it easy to make new friends in Paris?
For a student, making friends it’s always easy since you have a group to hang out with. As a worker, the first step is to go out with your colleagues or to enroll for different activities like improving French, or there are always events for wine tasting, gather together in the park for picnics and there you can definitely meet new people.
13. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?
In my case, it was actually with both, since most of the expat colleagues from school already knew Parisians, which made my transition in the city very smoother.
If you don’t have this opportunity, just go out to a bar and start a random conversation with expats or tourists.
Locals are not as friendly as you would expect, especially if you approach them in English, so “parlez vous anglais? should be the first line of introduction.
14. Where is your favorite place in Paris to hang out with friends?
My favorite brunch place is PaperBoy near Republique metro station. Definitely, for a warm sunny day, I will give up going there and just take a bottle of white wine, with some cheese, fruits, and a baguette and hang out in any park.
15. A memorable experience that you have in Paris
This is a memorable experience but also an advice for the people looking to live or travel to Paris.
A day trip to the Loire Valley to see the chateaux by bus in the spring was a wonderful experience similar to some Wes Anderson’s movies. I had a small picnic in the woods right next to Chateau Chenonceau under the warm spring sun and went up the iconic staircase in Chateau Chambord. I would encourage people to stay more and maybe book a night in Tours, a beautiful city nearby.
16. Did you change your perspective about Paris after living here?
I have visited Paris 2 years before moving there, and my initial thoughts were that I would never like to live there, but then again, you don’t get a French scholarship easily. Every single good or bad thought I had about Paris, while visiting, proved to be right while living there for a year, hence I could say that my perspective about the city didn’t change, but about the Parisian dream and the bohemian way of life, yes, definitely it’s a different thing.
17. What are your advice and tips for moving and living in Paris?
Learn basic French before moving to Paris it’s my first advice, otherwise your life it will be much harder. If this step is complete, go out every day and enjoy the “Je ne said quoi” lifestyle Parisians have, because this is a unique way of living, which you will never find in other cities in the world.
18. Would you recommend others to live in Paris?
I am still conflicted about what opinion to share about Paris in general. I loved my life there, with the great food and amazing places to see, but what I liked the most is that if someone would cancel on me within 5 minutes of a meeting, I would find some activities immediately. Parisians like to have a good time, hence, I never had a boring day.
On the other hand, the bureaucracy and the dirt are few of the things that will make me say a definitive NO to Paris.
In the end, it’s up to each one of us to decide what are the pros and cons we can handle.
Paris wasn’t my first foreign city, so I was prepared to fight any racism or language barrier. What I can say for sure is that Paris changed the perspective I have about food, rather than just eat because I am hungry, I learned how to enjoy the food, to get the most out of each taste.
20. More thoughts on Paris
Do you know in which city in the world you can have a glass of wine for lunch? Do you know where you can go and have a picnic in the park any time of the year with great wine, amazing cheese, and warm baguette? Au Petit Bonheur la chance, you guessed correctly – this is Paris! This magical city is known as the city of love, but love for whom? Probably for the city itself!
There is something so magical in the air that every spot is special. The city with je ne sais quoi, is not always a good idea, but most of the time it is, therefore, if anyone has the opportunity to live the Parisian dream for a few weeks/months, just do it.
People will never bring this up publicly unless you do it first and even so, they will never ever agree 100% that Paris is not always a good idea. The city is great, don’t get me wrong, but it has also some downsides, but in the end, if you are craving for great wine, amazing cheese, and perfect pastries, Paris is your city.
More about Gabriela
Gabriela is a longtime expat and traveler, food lover and a constant day-dreamer who is very keen to share her stories about traveling and exploring our beautiful planet. She is the voice behind “I am Foodie Traveler”, a collection of stories and impressions from her wanderings around the world.
Relatively new the blogosphere, but very passionate about traveling and storytelling, she wants to inspire others to travel and to see the world with their own eyes. You can get to read her work at I am Foodie Traveler or get in touch with her on Facebook or Instagram and watch her adventures on YouTube.