Paris, France Report of what it's like to live there - 05/09/22
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?
Copenhagen, Vilnius, and Jakarta.
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?
Washington, DC. Easy to travel from the US to Paris.
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?
We live on the embassy-owned compound. It is the outskirts of a Paris suburb. Commute is 45 mins-one hour to get to the embassy.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Cost of things like vegetables, wine, cheese and bread are more affordable in Paris.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
American peanut butter is very expensive here.
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Yes. Our apartment has a silver fish infestation and ant problem and unfortunately, it seems there is no requirement to do anything about it. The compound had poison spiders and caterpillars.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
There are a lot of problems with receiving mail at the compounds. Unless you are there to physically receive a package, it cannot be left. Colleagues that live in Paris often have guardian who can receive packages or they can be left at your door. Items cannot be delivered to the embassy and lockboxes are a 15-20 minute walk. You can receive letters.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
€15-20 an hour is the starting price for babysitters and cleaners (though we have four kids and it’s a long commute for our cleaning lady).
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?
4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You should know basic phrases and how to order at a restaurant.
5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Metro isn’t an option, buses are great. Older parts of the city have narrow sidewalks.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Safe, yes. For a family of 6 it costs us €60 (€120 round trip) to take a taxi from the compound to the embassy.
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?
Something small. I would recommended a vehicle if you plan to travel around France.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We have local phones but would recommend setting up a US Google phone number before you leave.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Good medical care.
2. 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?
Good to moderate.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
ASP has been great. The lower school principal is amazing.
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?
We were able to get our 4 and 2 year old into local school. You need to register with your local ministry. The amount you pay is based on family size and income. For infants, it’s easier to get into a private daycare than government run. We pay around €500 combined.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Kids are out on Wednesdays. You can sign up for Wednesday sports day but it is desirable and hard to get a spot.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Lots of expats. Overall good morale.
2. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Traveling is wonderful. France has so many different regions to explore. Mountains and skiing in the winter, beach in the summer.
3. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Every arrondissement has a beautiful cafe or garden or street to get lost in.
4. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
If you like high-end designers or wine this is the place for you.
5. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Unfortunately, though we were assigned to Paris, our housing is on the far side of a suburb. Unless your kids are going to ASP and you want them to have the shortest possible commute, then there are no advantages to living in our neighborhood.
We miss out on being able to experience Paris, as we aren’t able to partake in embassy events/activities and our work/life balance has suffered.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
We have a family home in France and felt very prepared to live here. We were not informed of the difficulties of living on the compound (not being able to have people on the compound, not being able to have any deliveries past the guard gate on the street, not being able to get emergency services to our apartment).
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
I would recommend moving here if there isn’t a chance you can be placed in either of the Embassy-owned compounds.
Otherwise, I would absolutely recommend Paris.
3. But don't forget your:
Vehicle and peanut butter.