An expat guide to living in Paris France
Have you ever dreamed of living in Paris and wondered how it would be?
In this Expat Interview, Gabriela shares her experience and practical tips for newcomers. You’ll learn useful information to prepare for your new life in Paris, such as the cost of living in Paris, how to prepare for moving, and other practical tips.
.Paris – The city of love
Paris is the capital of France, and it’s mainly known as the city of love or, even better, the city of lights.
Its location is fantastic as you can travel within Europe in less than 2 hours anywhere.
But what is more important to know about Paris is that its surface offers you great options for museums, parks, and 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 a job easily while enjoying a glass of wine.
How did you start moving to Paris?
My Parisian story started when I decided to try my luck for a scholarship at one of Paris’s most prestigious Business schools.
I always dreamt of studying abroad but never thought that would be possible in my case. But in June 2014, I received the answer that I would finally be able to fulfill my dream.
I have to say that my transition to move to Paris was very smooth, and this is for sure thanks to the administration of my school, which arranged everything.
Why did you choose to live in Paris?
Honestly, there were a lot of factors that made me make the decision.
I have applied to multiple schools, but for me, Paris resonates with high education.
I was quickly impressed by what the financial hub, La Defence, looks like, and the school was located in the Grande Arche, which took the decision for me.
Later on, after leaving the city, I noticed how easily I got someone’s attention when I mentioned that I used to live and study for a year in Paris.
How to prepare for moving to Paris?
The worse part of moving to Paris, or any city in France for that 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.
- Expat insurance: Don’t forget to get expat insurance to cover medical and emergency travel-related incidents.
- Money transfer: I use Wise to receive and transfer money abroad. It’s fast, and the fee is low.
- Moving tips: To make your relocation easier, check out Sirelo for free quotes from international moving companies. It will help you select one that fits your budget. Learn more here.
The 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 the cheap supermarket Lidl, where you could get fruits, veggies, and dairy products for a week for around 50 EUR)
- Going out. This depends on each of us, but I definitively considered that most museums have a free day on the first Sunday of the month.
What do you like about Paris?
Paris is a fantastic place to be, 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 tourist traps and enjoy every second of your day.
The bike lanes are pretty well organized, it is not Copenhagen, but still, if you want to use this means of transportation, for sure, it will be great, watch out for crazy drivers.
The cheese, baguette, and, of course, the wine, put them all into a bag, and go to a park and have a picnic on the grass.
Last but not least, there is always an event somewhere someday in Paris, you need to look for it.
Is there anything that you don’t like about Paris?
Of course, besides what I mentioned above, the city is also crowded and dangerous.
What bothers me personally is the constant attacks on the city, which created a constant fear of walking around the city.
It’s a bit sad and depressing seeing the police officers with big guns. This feeling doesn’t really go away but instead becomes even stronger.
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 Jim Morrison is buried. It’s really an architectural masterpiece.
Where would you recommend visiting in Paris?
The balloon ride in Andre Citron park is a must for great views over the city, especially since it’s not very well known, so not that crowded.
There are many 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.
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 immigrants, to make a considerable distinction and create a gap between you and them.
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 smelled like yesterday’s clothes at 8 am.
I was shocked when I told 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.
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 offers free French classes, and if you go to Paris for any other reason, the government also provides free courses 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.”
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 enroll in different activities like improving your French. There are always events for wine tasting, gathering together in the park for picnics, and meeting new people there.
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 to the city smoother.
If you don’t have this opportunity, 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 introduction line.
Where is your favorite place in Paris to hang out with friends?
My favorite brunch place is PaperBoy near the Republique metro station.
For a warm sunny day, I will definitely take a bottle of white wine with some cheese, fruits, and a baguette and hang out in any park.
A memorable experience that you have in Paris
This is an unforgettable experience and advice for 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 an enjoyable experience similar to some of 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 book a night in Tours, a beautiful city nearby.
Did you change your perspective about Paris after living here?
I 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.
What are your advice and tips for moving and living in Paris?
Learning basic French before moving to Paris is my first advice; otherwise, your life will be more challenging.
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.
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 was that if someone canceled 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 a few 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 the pros and cons we can handle.
What have you learned from living abroad?
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 meant to host me.
Paris wasn’t my first foreign city, so I was prepared to fight any racism or language barrier.
I can say for sure that Paris changed the perspective I have about food rather than eating because I am hungry. I learned how to enjoy the food to get the most out of each taste.
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 at any time of the year with great wine, excellent cheese, and a 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 remarkable.
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, do it.
People will never bring this up publicly unless you do it first, and even so, they will never agree 100% that Paris is not always a good idea.
The city is great, don’t get me wrong, but it also has some downsides, but in the end, if you are craving great wine, excellent cheese, and perfect pastries, Paris is your city.
Gabriela is a longtime expat and traveler, food lover, and a constant daydreamer 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.
She is relatively new to the blogosphere but very passionate about traveling and storytelling. She wants to inspire others to travel and 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.
The opinions expressed here by Expatolife columnists are their own, not those of Expatolife.
I’ve lived in France for 20 years. French people are actually some of the most polite people in the world, but they live by a very strict etiquette that is FULL of unsaid rules. If you don’t respect just one of them, they will feel that YOU are being rude to them (ALWAYS saying bonjour when you enter a room, never wearing sportswear…)
Also expat is actually a french word, “expatrié” wich is formed with “ex” (out of) and “patrie” (homeland)
Thank you for sharing :)
Nice blog. But to be honest, I find it quite remarkable you put so much emphasis on learning a little French before you go and live in Paris. That seems so incredibly logical and common sense to me. To go to a new place to live and not know the basic of the language seems really odd to me.
Or at the very least you should enroll in some sort of intensive course upon arrival. This will make your life a hell of a lot easier.
Honestly, I find it quite peculiar how some people expect the whole world to speak their language. Usually this is typical for English speakers. They have that English-centered attitude, which, I’m sorry to say this, is often a source of annoyance for non-native English speakers.
Other than that I liked te blog. :)