Paris, France Report of what it's like to live there - 09/12/21
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, several years in Africa, the USA and Italy.
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?
West Coast USA. Easy via Newark or Dulles.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. 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?
Housing is varied, but for the housing pool there seems to be a standard to max out the meters possible. So places are unusually big. The exchange of that, is further from the center, 10 min walk to the metro for a 20-30 min commute is the norm.
Public transport is so easy.
Also, apartments are old, so the water heater goes out, the elevators stop, there is no AC. The response is "wait till Monday" and so you just get used to it, but it drives some people mad.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get everything, just try different stores to see who has what you need. The ethnic stores (South American, African, Asian) will round out anything you may want.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Full furniture shipment, diplomats can buy at the commissary and employee store. So no needs.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
All of it and during COVID everyone developed a carry-out system.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
French postal system is fast across the country and affordable to send to the US.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
$40/hour for tutors/ 12-15 euro an hour for cleaning.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Everyone uses contactless credit cards (no pin or signature) and it's easy. You may need cash for the outdoor market.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Catholic Church in the 8th; Protestant American Church in the 9th, and there are Synagogues that have English.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You can get around with English, it is the common language of tourism. However, to understand signs and to get into neighborhood classes like theater, sports, zumba, football etc., French is needed. I think it would be very lonely without French.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, but it is better than most of the world.
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?
Nothing large and gas is expensive.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, it can be 3-5 days, but if you pay for the internet between the previous owner and you, then you can keep their line and have it when you move in. However, Orange is now offering 5G and would be worth getting.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Local provider. You can pick up a SIM and new number for 20 euro.
Health & Safety:
1. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
France is very 'bio' you will do well here.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are a ton of schools to choose from, searching "international schools" will open you eyes. Many folks try to keep children in French system or go for a French Bac. This is is great, but be very clear what that may mean for the college hunt. For example, being considered an international student at full fees and needing to take the TOEFL.
ICS /EIB Monceau and Victor Hugo are interesting options and very international. The EIB Monceau college and primary are French schools, with French administration, so if you don't speak French you need a co-parent to help you understand after school programs and grading. The American School is very popular, people are happy, and seem to get into university no problem. Marymount is also popular and has after school activities tied to the bus. For a working parent, think about buses/transport because that can consume your day.
2. 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?
No before and after school care, but you can work with the Mayor's office and get your child into the summer break courses (in French).
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, I learned that you don't go to the gym to sign up. You need to find the organization that has signed up for the gym. For example, volleyball has 3-4 organizations and the times and places depend on the organization.
1. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There is a hiking "randonne" group on facebook and lots of adult sports, generally starting at 8pm.
2. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Public transport is an advantage, you can walk and ride and get anywhere.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I had realized there would not be an embassy community like we are used to. Everyone has visitors and activities on their own schedule and you have to go out of your way to meet people and maintain friendships. There are clear cool kids cliques in the cafeteria. Those that meet one another for work regularly forget that there is a larger community that does not have the same information nor social invitations.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Thinking that it will be like America: it's not. From bureaucracy to what is considered "polite" you will need to learn how to behave and interact here.