Paris, France Report of what it's like to live there - 07/28/20
Personal Experiences from Paris, France
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No - Bamako.
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?
North Carolina. There were direct flights pre-COVID. Now a connection is necessary through ATL or JFK. Very easy to travel to/from Paris, in general.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Embassy provided housing: I live in the Neuilly compound in a 2-bedroom apartment. Commute time to Embassy is about 25 minus by bike, 35 minutes by public transport. Pros of the compound: ready-made community, right next to the Bois, quiet, AC in the master bedroom. Cons: 15-minute walk to nearest metro (though it's possible to take a bus to the metro), outside of the city, not "Parisian" feeling, far from nightlife, you live next to colleagues (hard to 'leave' work), most leadership forget that not everyone lives downtown. Put it this way, during the yellow vest protests that got violent, the compounds were safe and quiet. On the other hand, during transportation strikes, leadership required us to come in anyway at our own cost, assuming everyone could walk in easily.
Several small but fully stocked groceries nearby, plus boulangeries and pharmacies. La Defense malls a short metro ride away.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Everything available or easy replacements simple to find. Slightly more expensive than U.S. prices, but so much more variety available in many items.
3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Ubereats, Deliveroo were popular food delivery services. Too many restaurants, cafes, fast food, and other options to list. Good Mexican food not easy to find.
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
There are mice/rats outside - never saw one inside.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO or Pouch. Local post readily available as well.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Runs the range. I had a Ukrainian housekeeper that charged 12 euros an hour and generally worked 3 hours on one day a week. Nannies, housekeepers, pet walkers all available on the market.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Gyms are not as prolific as in the U.S. I didn't join one but heard they are expensive. There are different types of sports facilities, such as pools and row clubs.
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?
Credit cards are widely accepted. Most European cards have a PIN, most American cards don't. Also, they primarily use contact under certain amounts, but many US cards don't work with contact.
ATMs are common and safe.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
All kinds. I attended tri-lingual Jewish services (French-English-Hebrew).
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
French helps a lot but is not required. Tons of schools, classes, clubs and tutors available.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It felt like a lot of places (including metro) only had steps, not elevators, or often intermittent elevator service.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
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?
I did not bring a car and do not regret it. Renting is easy and affordable when needed.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes - it was installed before I arrived.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
The company "Free" had good products: sim cards for visitors, phone plans, etc. There are several local providers.
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?
Qualified vets: Yes, though finding English-speaking can be a challenge sometimes.
Walkers/Kennel: I used Rover.com to find walkers and lucked out with a few really good ones. For kennel services, I used Rock'n'Dog Pensione Familiale in Normandy. For 7+ days, they don't charge for pickup/dropoff, and they're excellent with dogs with behavior issues (anxiety, aggression, reactivity, etc). Lots of outdoor time, walks, and socialization.
Quarantine: No quarantine required upon entry to France.
Other considerations: Parisians are wildly judgmental if your dog is not perfectly behaved and also like to tell you how to handle your dog, which can be frustrating. Also, many Parisian dogs are off leash; while most are eerily well behaved, some are not and will run right up to other dogs. Worse, the owners will assure you it's ok, even if you assure them your dog may eat theirs. Learn the French for "mean dog" if your dog doesn't love other dogs or spontaneous petting by strangers. There are some poo-bag dispensers, but bring your own and don't contribute to poopy sidewalks.
Places to Take your Dog: the Bois (keep an eye out for prostitutes and their johns); Ile de Puteaux; Sceaux (dog park in NW corner); Fontainebleau forest; many restaurants outside of Paris welcome furry friends.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
At work: business smart, but also depends which office you're in. After-hours events are often dressed up.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Petty theft, some physical attacks particularly in/near parks. Purse-snatching. Lots of pickpockets on the metro.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Healthcare available. The French are often more blunt/direct than American counterparts and this is also true in medical offices.
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 - lots of pollen in the spring.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Seasonal changes are often hard on those with even minimal allergies.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Winter months are quite dark. I found a 'sun' light very helpful.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Some pretty hot days in summer ("canicule"), but usually these are short-lived. Winter is more rainy than snowy, and not terribly cold.
1. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Paris is both great for singles, and hard. Great because any activity you want to do is there: sports, dance, clubbing, meet-ups, hiking, sight-seeing, etc. Hard, because it feels like the French are fairly insular - they have their communities and aren't terribly open to new people, much less expats. If you can find a core group to do things with, or if you're happy to do things alone, you'll be good to go. I think these same traits are true for couples and families, to be honest. CLO generally focuses on non-working spouses and kids.
2. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
I found it difficult to make friends with locals. There was no reciprocation of interest and many people just didn't seem interested.
3. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Food & Travel! Normandy was lovely, Loire Valley, Beaune, Fontainebleau, etc. Explore!
4. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Parisian clothes, antiques, all kinds of cheese/honey/etc.
6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Easy to get everywhere else in the country, the EU, and the world.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely! I would try to get out more often on weekend trips.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Kraft products, judgmental attitude of the French (because they have the same for you and it helps no one).
3. But don't forget your:
Fan/portable AC, sense of adventure, $$$.