Paris, France Report of what it's like to live there - 01/28/11

Personal Experiences from Paris, France

Paris, France 01/28/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Have lived in Israel, India, and Australia.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

8 hours direct from DC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year so far.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

All embassy-provided housing is pretty awesome. Some see the government-owned housing complexes as less desirable and not a "true" Paris experience, as they're slightly into the suburbs, but it has many advantages (spacious, furnished, green space outdoors). Leased apartments vary in size and style.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It's really not as bad as expected.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Necessities (umbrellas, trash cans) are expensive, while luxuries (wines, cheeses) are cheap. When we travel to the States we stock up on PUR water filters- it's a Brita country. Tights and pantyhose are outrageously expensive. Even during the semi-annual sales, clothing and shoes are way more expensive than in the US.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

The produce is really good - lots of locally or regionally grown items, and the place of origin is always identified on the signage. There are many daily outdoor markets and a couple are devoted to organic products.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None, although there's active apiculture (beekeeping) in downtown Paris!

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The embassy has a Diplomatic Post Office. Letters and packages have come through the regular mail system very quickly.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Not as expensive as you might think, although so far we've managed to clean up after ourselves.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yep.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I'm not sure I've ever seen someone in a wheelchair on public transportation.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Filling out this survey is kind of embarrassing. Yes, transportation is safe. There are occasional strikes, but the "reduced" subway service during a strike may mean a decrease from one train every 3 minutes to one every 5 minutes.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Smaller is better.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Cheap. We have a Numericable package through the Embassy for internet and phone (including free calls to the US and dozens of other countries) for less than $35 per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The area around Tati department store is cellphone city. They can unlock anything for a small fee ,and you can find lots of cheap sim cards.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

You know when you look like a slob because people address you in English.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Even without insurance, prescriptions are cheaper than in the US. A visit to an English-speaking doctor might be 100 euros out of pocket. A colleague was knocked out by the flu and called the popular housecall doctor service. They charged less than US$100 to schlep out and treat him at his home!

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Fine.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It rains for 15 minutes every day, but you never know when to expect it.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are tons of public and private options, but you have to plan way in advance and work with the French bureaucracy.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Ginormous.

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2. Morale among expats:

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Sure. Families with young children will probably hear again and again about MessageParis -- a group for Anglo parents and children.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yep.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No more than anywhere else.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Regional travel -- exploring Normandy and Brittany. It's quick and cheap to fly all over Europe and North Africa.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Food, drink, inspiring jealousy.

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11. Can you save money?

Maybe, but we figure it'll be easier to do that at our next post where there's nothing you'd want to spend money on.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. People only really complain that the Paris isn't exotic -- it's not much different from living in DC or New York.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winning smile. There isn't a lot of public smiling here. Save it for special occasions.

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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