Paris, France Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Paris, France

Paris, France 01/15/18

Background:

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

No. Various places in East Asia, West Africa, and Central America.

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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?

Washington, DC. 7 hour direct flight.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

U.S. Foreign Service Officer

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There are basically two options for FSOs: one of two USG-owned compounds in Neuilly/Boulogne or leased apartments downtown. The compounds are ideal for families but tend to go to younger officers, who generally aren't thrilled to be assigned there. However, units are in the process of being combined to make them more attractive to families, so things are changing. The compounds are very nice and are in quiet, safe, wealthy neighborhoods, but they are not centrally located near nightlife. The leased apartments are spectacular and almost universally loved.

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

Bread, cheese, and wine are incredibly cheap (and delicious). Other groceries are about the same. I have found Paris to be cheaper than expected. I also order many products on Amazon from the U.S.

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

Spray deodorant, salsa, anything spicy.

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

Incredible food scene. Take advantage of midweek lunch specials at Michelin restaurants. Restaurant prices are a bargain compared to the U.S. in terms of what you get, especially in the $15-40 category. However, there are probably fewer options to have meals in the cheap (under $15 category). Non-French food is also disappointing for the most part, aside from maybe Vietnamese. Asian cuisine is mostly terrible, and French people are intolerant to even slightly spicy foods. Sushi is often limited to a choice of salmon or tuna and nothing more exotic. Chipotle may be your best bet for Mexican.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic Post Office.

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

The embassy and compounds all have small gyms. There are of course gyms in Paris, but French people don't work out nearly as much as, say, people in Washington, D.C. It's not considered desirable to be seen walking around with a yoga mat, as in DC. With the amazing restaurant and bar scene on offer and tendency to meet up for drinks after work, you may find yourself struggling to find the time/motivation to work out. I did.

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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?

Yes, I use credit cards almost exclusively. Barclays has been great to work with and put an alert on my account for frequent travel in all of Europe so that I didn't have to notify them each time I traveled.

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

French is not necessary but is definitely helpful.

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

Yes, metro's are not handicap accessible. Sidewalks can be difficult to navigate.

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Transportation:

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

I have a monthly pre-paid card for the daily commute on the metro. The Parisian metro is infinitely more reliable than Washington's, and you rarely have to wait more than 2-5 minutes for a train. Other than the metro, I use Uber or Uber Pool exclusively and do not use traditional taxis. I've never had a bad experience with Uber and the price is significantly less.

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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?

I brought a medium sized SUV but did not use it often. It was nice, however, for occasional trips outside Paris. The Embassy was very helpful and found (and paid for) underground parking near my housing after a bit of trouble finding a spot large enough for the vehicle.

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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?

Yes, no problems.

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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?

Take a good, hard look at what the embassy recommends, as they are not necessary totally current on the best options. The French telecoms market has diversified greatly in recent years. I went with the company "Free," which has an office quite close to the embassy. Unlimited calls (including to the U.S.) and data for $20/month with no contract, and it works almost everywhere in Europe as well as in the U.S. You can't beat it. All you need to set it up is a credit card; no bank account required.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Suit and tie for work and work-related events. Quite formal. Outside of work, do try to dress smartly to fit in. No shorts or sneakers and definitely no white socks. Dark colors and scarves are key.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, obvious terrorism concerns, as well as pickpocketing and usually non-violent theft. Vigilance highly recommended.

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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?

Mostly okay, it seemed. Embassy MED office is great and can recommend options. SOS Medicins will send a doctor to your home if you need help, which is pretty convenient.

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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?

Varies, with occasional episodes of moderate to high air pollution. Usually only for short periods of time, though.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

I imagine it would be difficult to be vegetarian and almost impossible to be vegan here.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

It does rain more than you probably expect, but it's also not as cold as I expected. Long periods of darkness in winter, but the long days in summer are wonderful.

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

Wetter than you probably expect (think London), but overall lots of beautiful days too. And you can always sit outside on covered terraces thanks to space heaters.

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Expat Life:

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

Extremely large. Morale is generally high, but the community is not very tight-knit because people tend to scatter on the weekends and there are so many activities available during the week.

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

Drinking wine on terraces. There are tons of Meetup groups.

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

Great for all. However, single Americans may be surprised to learn that French people do not "date" in the way we do. This may cause some serious cultural misunderstandings in terms of romance. Speaking personally, I found other European expats in Paris to be much more enjoyable in terms of dating. Tinder is available and used widely, as well as a few local spin-offs.

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

It's so easy (cheap) to travel from Paris to the rest of Europe. Flights can often be found for $20-50 on the budget carriers, and if you're determined, you can fly back early Monday morning from places like Italy and still be in your office on time. Traveling within France is also wonderful, although more expensive. The food and wine scene is spectacular. The museums, the culture, the architecture.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

French people are not rude as some Americans think, and the U.S.-French relationship is strong and generally friendly (nothing like it was in the early 2000s). I never sensed any kind of animosity toward Americans. However, I did find the French to be a bit insular, and surprisingly difficult to connect with beyond the level of acquaintances. I made a real effort to speak French and learn about the culture, but unfortunately I had only minimal success and eventually found myself giving up and turning toward other expats (especially other Europeans) more and more frequently. I had more trouble integrating in France than in any other country I've lived in. It's worth noting that Paris may be more difficult in this regard than the rest of country. Romance with the French was even more disappointing.

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

In a heartbeat.

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

Cheap American wine.

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4. But don't forget your:

Salsa, umbrella, appetite, and sense of humor.

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

Dessine-Moi Un Parisien (or, in English, Stuff Parisians Like), La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life, 60 Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong, A Moveable Feast, Midnight in Paris (film).

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Paris, France 08/02/15

Background:

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

No - this is my seventh and my husband's eighth overseas assignment.

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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?

Washington, DC area. It takes about 8 - 9 hours to fly direct.

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3. How long have you lived here?

It will be two years as of September 2015.

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

Spouse of a government employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Mostly apartments and a housing compound at a near in suburb. My husband uses a local bike share and can get to work in 20 minutes.

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

Paris has many outdoor markets and we are lucky to have an excellent on very close to our apartment. I buy all of my produce, dairy, meat and ready made food there. The grocery stores in the city are small and not cheap but have almost everything you would need. We try to shop at larger grocery stores when we're out of town with our car. Paris has a DPO and we order some things (like coffee) from the U.S. Picard is a store with only frozen food and there are several locations throughout the city. The quality is excellent and the prices are good.

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

Paris is expensive but there are good choices from reasonably priced fast food or healthier lunch take away places to the most expensive fine dining restaurants.

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Daily Life:

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

Mainly through the DPO. French post is excellent and we receive local mail at our apartment.

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

We are lucky to have a housekeeper and we pay 14 euros an hour. I think people are able to find part time house help if they look but I have heard that full time child care is difficult to find.

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

Gyms are available but there aren't as available as in the States and they are very expensive. The U.S. Embassy has a gym through the employee association. There are parks and paths for running and walking and the city is relatively bike friendly with many bike share stations.

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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?

Very safe to use both and widely available. This is the first post that we've had a local bank account. We use that account to get cash and to pay local bills (phone/internet/tv). I would recommend having a credit card with a chip.

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

I know of the American Church and the American Cathedral but there are other English speaking services as well.

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

Many people speak English and there are English menus at restaurants and signs in museums but people who speak French find life here much easier and more fun.

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

Yes, it would be difficult. I walked around with my wheelchair bound mother-in-law and most sidewalks curbs are sloped for wheelchairs or strollers. Most apartments that expats would be housed in have small elevators. But riding on the metro would be almost impossible. Almost all metro stations have stairs and no elevators. Many people with physical disabilities ride the bus.

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Transportation:

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

Metro and buses are affordable (esp when compared to a city like London), safe and very convenient. Taxis are not overly expensive when traffic is light. We use Uber two to three times a month. Trains are a good value, especially when you are able to plan your travel in advance.

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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?

We have a small Volkswagen Tiguan and it is big to drive and park in Paris but nice to have when travelling. We only use our car for trips to the airport and to travel. Driving in Paris isn't necessary and can be a huge hassle.

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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?

Yes - very available. Expensive but I think it's expensive like in the U.S. :)

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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?

We have our phones through Orange and have been happy with the service.

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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?

No. The pet care is excellent. There are not many kennels but there are providers who will pick up your pets and keep them outside of Paris for a reasonable fee.

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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?

I know many expats who have jobs on the local economy but most of them are Europeans or people who have found their jobs in their home country and then were sent here for work. For those of us at the U.S. Embassy, there is the "must have visa to work, can't work without a visa" conundrum. And I think it would be very difficult to compete with other applicants without fluent French.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are many English language volunteer opportunities in France. I currently volunteer for three different organizations.

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

The work environment seems to be suit and tie. In public, it is definitely business or smart casual. People wear jeans but they are neat and with a nice top and shoes. You do not see slobby dressing and people do not wear workout gear in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

Pickpockets are plentiful and there are car and home break-ins. We have been lucky and have not experienced this personally. There is terrorism (Charlie Hebdo and other incidents) so an awareness of your surroundings is needed.

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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?

Health care is excellent and very available. I have paid cash for any doctors visits (around 100 euro) and medication is not expensive.

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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?

Good most days.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

My family has suffered from seasonal allergies here. There are very limited gluten free options here. The French do not have peanut free, gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, vegan options widely available like in the U.S.

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

Climate is definitely varied. We've had some hot days this summer (at or near 100F degrees) but the winters have been pretty mild. We haven't had snow during the two winters we've been here.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge expat community. Overall people love living here. But you have to make an effort to start building your friend circle like at other large urban posts.

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

Dinners out in world class restaurants, dinners at home, bars, cafes, movies, and concerts.

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

This city is fantastic for couples. I have heard from friends and acquaintances that it can be more difficult for families and singles.

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

Many fabulous meals; art exhibits; walking tours; outdoor markets; trips to Corsica, Dordogne, Brittany, Normandy, Pays-Basque, Lyon, Burgundy, Bordeaux.

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

Too many to mention. The good thing about Paris is that there are many, many internet resources to find things of interest to do.

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

We spend our money on local food and wine. We don't buy clothing or luxury goods but they are definitely available!

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

The food and culture are world renown for a reason. Paris is an incredible city with a wealth of opportunities. We have had fun exploring France and have traveled all over with still more to discover.

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8. Can you save money?

You COULD but we've been having fun spending here.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I feel like I was prepared before I moved here since I had visited many times prior.

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

Yes, yes, yes!

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

Car, high heeled shoes (unless you can walk on cobblestones in them).

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4. But don't forget your:

Comfortable walking shoes, umbrella, layered clothing and scarves.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

http://www.timeout.com/paris/en/the-50-best-films-set-in-paris

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

I love David Lebovitz' books and his blog. Time Out Paris (in French and in English) has great information about goings on in Paris.

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Paris, France 02/14/15

Background:

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

No - I have been all over Africa and the Middle East.

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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?

Washington DC, easy direct 6-7 hr flight.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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

U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

For USG there two options: apartments in the city, and apartments on government-owned compounds in the 'burbs. Unless you have a gaggle of small children and a spouse at home to take care of them, you do not want to be on the compounds. The commute is double the worst in-city commute (20 minutes vs 45). Plus it's former military housing, so you do the math. The apartments in the city vary in size and style, but most are plenty spacious. (I'm single and have a 3 BR 3 BATHS apartment in a nice part of the city.) It's much nicer than anything you could afford on your own as a government employee, or than most French people you encounter will have. They tend to be in old buildings that can be quirky, but charm is the flip side to that coin. Beautiful crown moldings, wood floors, marble fireplaces..

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

Not many U.S. brands but if you don't care about brands you can get whatever you need. Plus, Amazon.com.

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

None. A lot of people seem to bring U.S. toilet paper, but since the local stuff is perfectly good, and you won't have much in the way of storage, I don't recommend that.

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

McDonald's, Burger King, Chipotle (yes, 3 of them). But don't go there, eat at one of the 13,000+ restaurants in the city. It is possible to find some reasonably priced meals, and considering the fast food is double the U.S. prices, you might as well!

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

None.

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Daily Life:

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

Via embassy DPO.

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

This is changing since the French government changed its rules about sponsoring foreign housekeepers, so some of the people who are here now doing this work may have to leave. At present I have someone who comes 1/2 day a week for 12 Euro per hour. I haven't heard anything about the availability of any French citizens willing to do this work.

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

Tiny, crappy gym at the Embassy. Some other options in town that are very expensive (over US$150/month). Just get out and walk or you can run and bike along the Seine and in the huge and lovely parks.

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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?

Ubiquitous, but get a French card with a smart chip - you'll have to open a bank account anyway to pay for cable, internet,etc.

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

Not sure, probably most.

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

It definitely helps but more and more people speak English.

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

Somewhat difficult. The metros make zero accommodations -- very few elevators, etc. The buses, however, are accessible with a ramp that extends to the sidewalk. I've seen a couple people in wheelchairs use them.

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Transportation:

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

Yes and yes. Taxis are a little spendy, but Uber is here and getting very popular (except with the taxi drivers). If you will be using metro or bus for your daily commute, get a Navigo card and you never have to worry about refilling as it is set up on an automatic debit with your French bank account (see above).

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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?

Nothing too big, though people do bring SUVs. The parking spaces are tiny. You'll only need it for going on shopping or vacation trips out of the city.

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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?

Yes, the embassy arranges a cable-internet-phone package from Numericable for about 50 euro a month. You can also get it on your own from other companies.

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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?

You can get whatever you like here, but more expensive. Bring an unlocked phone and get a local SIM.

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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?

No quarantine required, good vets are available.

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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?

If you don't have EU work papers then you have to find a company willing to sponsor you. It helps if you have a unique or in demand skill set. Otherwise, there are always EFM jobs at the Embassy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

The French aren't really into volunteerism, as they expect the state to take care of things we might rely on volunteers to do. That said, there are some and you can find details by doing an internet search, key word 'benevole.'

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

The French smartly, though I see some wear jeans to work. I think its less formal than it used to be. No shorts in public please.

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Health & Safety:

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

Like any big city, watch your wallet/purse, especially on the metro. Some folks have had smartphones stolen out of their hands on the metro. Then there's the occasional terrorist attack...

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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?

Excellent medical care is available.

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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?

Usually fine, but there was a week where one could only drive every other day (based on license plate) in order to reduce smog.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

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

Summers are mild but can have a hot spell and there's precious little AC in this country. Winter will tend between 20-40F. Spring and fall are mild. Overall better weather than DC.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are several that people seem to be happy with.

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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 some, but difficult to get in to. You have to work the system early and often. This is one of the biggest challenges here for expats.

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

Yes.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge expat community but very disparate, so hard to gauge overall morale. I'd be surprised if it weren't pretty good.

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

Dining out or dining in with friends. Cafe scene, walks through interesting quartiers, movies, theatre, shopping, museums etc.

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

All, though it can be expensive to dine out with a family.

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

Yes.

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

There are some tensions, but nothing you wouldn't see in the U.S. these days.

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

Exploring all the fabulousness France has to offer - wine festivals, champagne country, museums, etc. It's nonstop.

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

There are volumes written on this See Rick Steve's Paris, or Rick Steve's France.

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

Foie gras, champagne, lavender, lovely clothes, good restaurants.

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

AMAZING food, wine and culture/museums galore. Tons to do in the city, and its easy to get around and see the rest of the country and Europe for that matter.

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10. Can you save money?

I hope not. If you are with the U.S. government and get a COLA then MAYBE, but you'll spend it travelling, if you have any sense.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I had previously lived here, so not many surprises.

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

Yes, absolutely.

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

Loud American demeanor.

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4. But don't forget your:

Wallet and sense of adventure.

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

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: Why We Love France but Not the French,

La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Best assignment yet, wish I could stay longer!

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Paris, France 06/27/13

Background:

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

No, 4th.

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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?

Washington DC, an 8-hour flight.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 1/2 yrs.

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

US 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?

Apartments in the city vary in size and layout. I think the housing is very nice.

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

Expensive but really good quality.

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

Seasoning packets. I've always needed these everywhere I've lived.

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

McDonald's and KFC. Many restaurants and cafes. Prices are varied -- as is the quality of the food.

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

Really none. We don't have screens on the windows and may get the occasional fly in the house, but
that's about it.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO

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

I am doing my own cleaning since leaving Asia -- help is much more expensive here.

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

Yes.

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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?

No problem using them.

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

Yes.

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

The internet has made it possible to stay American.

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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?

Well, let's say it helps a lot!

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

Europe in general is not good for people with physical disabilities. Many metro stops only have stairs. The
sidewalks are narrow. Buses seems to be better, but Europe really doesn't take disabilities into consideration at all.

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Transportation:

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

Local trains and buses are the best modes of transportation. Taxis are safe but pricey.

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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?

I have been doing fine without one. Just rent one for trips outside city. I wouldn't recommend bringing a large
vehicle, as parking spots are small. Also, everyone's cars get banged up because the French use touch to gauge distance.

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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?

Yes, and not THAT unreasonable.

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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?

Orange seems to be fine.

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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?

Yes.

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

You will blend in better if you are chic.

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Health & Safety:

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

You need to be aware of your surroundings -- as in any larger city. There are many pickpockets on the metro.

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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?

None. Healthcare is good. But luckily, I have no experience.

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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?

Don't come here if you like hot summers. Summers are cool, but winters have not been that cold -- just long, rainy and gray.

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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?

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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?

Huge.

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies with the comings and goings of personnel. Right now it is great ,but who knows who will show up to ruin it.

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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?

Again, It's Paris.

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

Families I know seem to be happy with the schools, and there are many family-friendly activities.
It's great for couples and singles, too.. It's Paris!

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

Yes. Many bars and clubs. Lots of rainbow shops and restaurants.

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

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

Going to the numerous museums, people watching, enjoying the cafe culture.

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

You name it and you can do it here.

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

Fine wine, pastries, great bread, fashion, travel, cooking classes and copper pots.

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

Fashion capital of the world. CULTURE at every turn. Close to fly thru out Europe.

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11. Can you save money?

No... again, it's Paris!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a heartbeat.

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

baseball caps and ill-fitting capris.

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3. But don't forget your:

sense of style.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Julie and Julia.

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Paris, France 09/26/10

Background:

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

No, also lived in Mons, Belgium.

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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?

Seven hour direct flight from Washington, DC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

21 months.

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

Wife of US State Department employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We live in a large, beautiful apartment very close to the Seine and the Eiffel Tower. Sky high ceilings, parquet wood floors and charming historical accents abound. However, ancient apartment living is very noisy. We can hear everything our neighbors above and below are doing (and we try to keep our children from making too much noise). Street noise can be a big problem at night too since we are in a fairly central location. My husband takes a bicycle to work which he loves and I can get anywhere quickly by foot or via public transport. Note that closets are not common in old apartments. Prepare to stuff your suits in small armoires.

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

I order most of my groceries online and have them delivered directly to my door for a small fee. This is a HUGE advantage. You have little grocery stores around every corner, so it's never a problem to run out for a loaf of bread or liter of milk. I will miss the convenience when we leave. As for cost, everything is more expensive than in DC, and some things are insanely expensive. Imagine buying all your groceries at Whole Foods. But, wine is cheap!

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

We get anything we need through the DPO.

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

I need to exercise daily restraint so as not to drain my bank account or bust my waistband!This is such a wonderful place to dine. BEWARE: It is insanely pricey.

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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?

You can find anything you need here: plenty of organic foods (bio), though it may be a tad bit harder to find strictly vegetarian foods.

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

We don't have screens here so it's a good thing we don't get a lot of bugs! Big, slow black flies arrive in the summer months but they are easy to eliminate. We haven't had any problems with ants or other creepy crawlies in the apartment. Note that lice is an ongoing issue with kids in school and summer camp.

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Daily Life:

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

Fortunately, we have a DPO address, and I order through Amazon.com and other online retailers regularly. We even order dog food by mail. The Science Diet we feed our dog costs four times as much if we buy it here!

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

We have a housekeeper come four hours a week to do deep cleaning and ironing. We pay 12 euros an hour which is standard to high. Babysitters charge around 10 euros an hour, too.

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

There are some gyms but they are pricey. Many people walk, jog or bike in the parks.

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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?

I use ATM and credit cards all the time. Be aware of your surroundings as you withdraw money from an ATM. I know of people who have had their money grabbed.

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

There are services in all languages and for all faiths here.

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

We have Numericable cable TV and set the decoder to broadcast in English as possible. Our TV, phone and internet are bundled through Numericable at around $110/month (for premium Hi-Def channels).

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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?

I highly recommend learning French. Many people will speak English here, but you will feel so much more integrated into the culture and vibe if you learn French. At the very least, learn greetings and other cordialities.

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

I'm amazed at how unfriendly this city is for people with physical disabilities. Even walking through Paris with all your faculties can be hazardous at times with reckless drivers, constant street construction, cobblestones, steps, and random poop piles on the pavement!

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Transportation:

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

I rely on public transportation daily. It's efficient, albeit crowded, and it's people-watching at it's finest!

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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?

Bring a small car that you are not afraid to dent and scrape. Parisians park by touch here, and you will squeeze into parking spaces you never thought possible.

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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?

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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?

Cell service is reliable and ubiquitous. Like everything, it's not cheap.

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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?

No.

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

Very good vet care. Well-behaved dogs are rock stars here.

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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?

If you speak French, yes.

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

French women like to dress to the nines. I gave up on tottering around on high-heels though. Go for a black, gray and purple (Carla Bruni's favorite color), invest in some stylish scarves, and wear stylish but comfortable black walking shoes. Men wear suits or jeans and Lacoste shirts. It is a city where people will judge you by your shoes! People are thin and narrow-shouldered here, so larger people will need to shop elsewhere for clothes.

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Health & Safety:

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

We know of numerous embassy folks who have been broken into. Professional burglars are in and out of apartments in a flash. Take care to double lock doors and keep windows closed when not home. Also, pick pockets are typical in congested areas and public transport. There are also a fair number of mentally ill people who can be quite unsettling as they rant to themselves on buses and metros. Still, I feel fairly safe here and just use common sense as anyone should in a big city.

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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?

Medical care is great. SoS Medicine is a service where doctors make house calls 24/7. Pharmacies are on every corner, and prescriptions are affordable. My daughter had her tonsils out here, and my husband had hand surgery, and we were very pleased with the care. Expect ongoing coughs and colds at least six months of the year. My children have never been so sick. I try to ply them with vitamins and carry hand sanitizer.

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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?

The air quality in Paris can be quite poor at times. I often feel like I'm breathing air in a giant parking garage. My oldest daughter has asthma and she has quite a bit of trouble here between the poor air, the damp weather, and the ongoing chest colds.

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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?

The weather here is tolerable but is one of the least attractive aspects of living here. It gets very cold, windy, rainy, and dark in the winter months. Summer is unpredictable and we are always unsure how to dress. We wore coats and scarves through the third week of May this year. I think a major reason there are so many colds and respiratory illnesses is the always fluctuating weather.

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Schools & Children:

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

Our girls attend Marymount International School and they love it. I like the fact that the school is small, the children wear uniforms (a great equalizer), and the location is very serene. Marymount offers a very nurturing environment and a strong arts program. My girls are always excited to go to school and that speaks volumes.

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

Marymount has a great 'Learning Resources' department to assist with any learning challenges.

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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?

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

Yes, the schools offer afterschool activities, and the city has wonderful programs -- though they can seem a bit cryptic to join as they are in French and require a bit of paperwork and hoop-jumping to register for.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community is enormous! It's great to be able to go out and forge your own international social circles. Tout le monde is here!

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2. Morale among expats:

Morale varies. Paris is a great place to live, but it's not easy by any means. It's a lot of work to get from point A to point B, it's very expensive, the weather can be depressing, and it's got all the hurriedness and congestion of a big city. You need to find your happy place and return to it often.

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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?

You can fill your dance card very easily!

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

I think the city can be a challenge for families with young children due to the lack of green space. Some of my friends with younger children live out in the suburbs, sacrificing city convenience for backyards. My children like it here but really miss having a yard and easy access to neighborhood friends. Families with teens would enjoy it here, and singles and couples have endless options!

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

Yes, it's a good city for everyone!

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

There is a lot of tension right now with the burqa ban and anti-Muslim sentiments. Also, Sarkozy had thousands of Romanians deported this summer. While this is an incredibly diverse city, there are interesting ironies.

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

France is a beautiful, diverse country. We have really enjoyed seeing 'every corner.'Favorite spots include Biarritz, Bandol and the Bourgogne region.

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

It's Paris! Open a Rick Steves guidebook and start your bucket list. As a foodie, I LOVE all the open air markets and wonderful restaurants. It's a good thing that all the walking and stair climbing counteract the cream sauces.

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

Wine, jewelry, porcelain, designer clothing, ..... the list is endless.

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

Paris is a stimulating city with amazing aesthetics-- from gold gilded statues to golden flaky croissants. A feast for the senses around every corner.

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11. Can you save money?

No.... seriously, come here for the extraordinary experience, but don't expect it to be cheap in any way.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I love Paris and I am so thrilled to live here. However, I am glad it is for a limited time. This city feeds my mind, but it doesn't feed my soul. You will love the food, drink, music, art, and architecture, but you will crave fresh air, a sky full of stars, and and quiet nights. It's also hard to live amongst stern-faced hurried people. I miss smiles from strangers and orderly waiting lines and random small talk. I guess that's just life in a big city. If you get out into the French countryside, you can find these things.

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

Bright-colored casual clothing, big dent-free car, and BBQ grill.

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3. But don't forget your:

umbrella, long black coat, walking shoes, camera, French phrase book, shopping pull cart, laminated metro map, and appetite for fine living!

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

My Life in France by Julia Child, Paris to the Moon, French or Foe.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Amelie, Ratatouille, Paris When it Sizzles

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is BIG CITY living, and the expat community is large and scattered. It would be easy to become isolated and insular in this environment. You need to forge your way and make it work for you. Again, this is an exciting, amazing place, but it's not easy. Keep that in mind. Especially if you have young children.

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Paris, France 04/20/09

Background:

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

Previous expat experience in France.

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2. How long have you lived here?

We have been here for two years.

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

U.S. government service.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Varies hugely depending on what your employer does for you. U.S. Embassy housing is in very bourgeois, boring parts of town. Most people have 3 BR apartments regardless of whether they are single or married with a kid. The embassy compounds are outside the city proper, but not necessarily a much longer commute. Embassy housing is way more spacious and in fancier neighborhoods than if you had to pay your own rent.

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

In general, food is a little more expensive, but the quality is often higher. We buy produce at our local outdoor market and feel like overall it's a good deal. Meat from the butcher is really expensive, but you can taste the difference over U.S. grocery store meat. We try to spend our COLA and enjoy eating the better food. We have access to the mediocre U.S. Embassy commissary, which is very reasonably priced. Some drive to military bases in Belgium/Germany (2.5/5 hours away).

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

We would bring more of our furniture because U.S. Embassy housing is generally spacious. We brought personal items like contact lens solution that are much cheaper at discount stores in the U.S. than in France. Pantyhose is really expensive here... and all clothing items can be had more cheaply in the U.S.

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

Fast food:McDonald's, its French analog Quick, Subway, KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominos, lots of doner kebabs! Decent restaurants: yes, the sky is the limit. Cuisines you can't find many places in the U.S. (for example, tons of North African, more Eastern European/Central Asian, sub-saharan African). Tex-mex is very bland. Not many bargains near the U.S. Embassy and embassy housing.

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

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Daily Life:

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

Since we have APO (now DPO) access, we get most of our letters and packages through that system. 7-10 days from the East Coast is the norm. It is more expensive but faster for people to send things from the U.S. directly to our Paris street address.

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

No info, but you can get recommendations for part-time housekeepers from the Embassy newsletter.

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

Paris has great public pools. If you want to pay for something like Club Med gym, feel free. The U.S. embassy has a small gym that is supposed to be getting refurbished. Big green spaces in the Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes.

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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?

Basically the same as in the U.S. You need a card with a chip (such as a French bank card) to use automated ticket machines in the metro, train stations, etc. The French are a little more likely to carry cash and pay restaurant checks and the like with cash.

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

Numerous - listed in the FUSAC.American Church, American Cathedral, St. Michael's Anglican, St. Joseph's Catholic, to name a few.

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

The IHT is readily available but more expensive than comparable French papers. Imported WSJ and UK papers also pretty easy to find, more expensive. Satellite is available for TV if you're willing to pay for it. Most French basic cable packages include an international CNN and maybe a couple other English-language channels (Al-Jazzeera?)Our cable package would let us pay more for a few more English-language channels.

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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?

You could get by with just "bonjour," "merci," excusez-moi," etc., but you will enjoy your interactions with the French much more if you can speak their language.

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

The metro is shockingly unfriendly in this respect. Even where there are elevators and/or escalators, they're often out of service. The RER is a little bit better, but the bus system is extensive and adapted to wheelchairs (and strollers!). There are problems with curb cuts and the like, but informative unofficial websites with this info. For tourists, folks in wheelchairs can often to go the front of lines at tourist attractions and get in for a free or reduced rate.

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Transportation:

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

Yes. Taxis would get expensive if you took them all the time.

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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?

We brought a small city car that's sold in the U.S. and Europe. It was suitable, but even better would have been not bringing a car. Traffic in Paris is bad enough that even leaving town for the weekend, the train is more relaxing. And the TGVs sure travel faster than the car!

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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?

Yes, we have been really happy with our local phone/DSL/cable combination that costs 30 Euros a month and includes free calls to the U.S. and a number of other countries.

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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?

We used a U.S. phone and purchased a SIM card and pay-as-you-go service here from one of the big companies (SFR). We were happy with that.

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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?

No.

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

Yes, quality vets that seem comparable in price to the U.S.Pet-sitting/walking adds up on the local economy at about 10 euros a day.

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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?

Hard to say. U.S. Embassy has de facto work agreement, but I know almost no spouses working on the local economy who aren't self-employed. The Embassy has a SNAP program, but it has not been able to help many spouses find work on the local economy. French language skills would help a lot.

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

Business dress at work. Paris is a fashion capital, and people tend to be dressier than in the U.S.Only wear sneakers and a windbreaker if you are actively doing sports or want to be identifiable as a tourist. Don't wear shorts here - ever?And it doesn't really get warm enough to bother with sandals in the summer.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

It's hazy on warm days, but in general nothing to complain about.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

No personal security concerns, given a modicum of common sense... safer than DC, in other words. Awareness of your surroundings goes a long way against pickpocketing, which is common. I'd avoid certain RER lines at night but feel safe alone on the metro very late as a lone female.

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

No health concerns we are aware of. Medical care is as good as in the U.S., and more affordable. Easy to find English-speaking medical professionals.

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

Significantly cooler than Washington most of the year, except the one week of each summer there is a heat wave and everyone wishes they had air-conditioning. Winters more mild than DC - no snow to speak of in Paris. Lots of grey, chilly days - including in the summer.

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Schools & Children:

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

No personal experiences, but there is a fair variety. Some people with younger kids put them in French public schools.

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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?

No personal info, but people say good things about the French creches for preschoolers and ecoles maternelles.

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

Yes, lots.

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Expat Life:

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

Very big. Lots of American/anglo tourists, too.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally high among expats, but lower in the U.S. Embassy community, where lots of people have a sense of entitlement and/or unrealistic expectations. Yes, you'll have to go out and make friends if you want to have them here.

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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?

You could never run out of new things to experience here. However, don't look to the U.S. Embassy for an automatic social life.

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

Depends a lot on what you make of it. As part of a couple, I can say it can be great for couples in terms of things to do. The French can be hard to get to know as a temporary expat, and the U.S. Embassy does not have a strong sense of community, so we would recommend looking for a social system elsewhere.

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

Yes - certainly a thriving and visible gay scene.

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

The French themselves are generally more prejudiced against people of North African or "Arab" descent than people of sub-saharan African descent. I think expats get a pass, though I have at least one South Asian friend who would disagree. No gender or religious prejudices to speak of. Many French consider themselves pro-Palestinian and there is some anti-Semitism, but Paris has thriving Jewish communities.

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

Multicultural smorgasbord of art, movies, French-language theater, other cultural events. Lots of interesting public programs, including the annual Museum Night, Music Festival, etc. Tons of French history and "patrimony."Good sporting events. Paris Rando Velo for even amateur cyclists!Wonderful travel opportunities throughout France and Europe (high-speed trains, low-cost airlines).

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

Couture?? Pastries??" Antique" French furniture at Emmaus, the equivalent of the Salvation Army? Find your own...

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9. Can you save money?

We have saved some money despite lots of travel... probably because we have foregone any shopping while here and mostly eaten our own cooking!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a heartbeat! We'd put more effort up front into our French-language skills and to meeting people outside our work community.

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

Sportswear, sense of entitlement, stereotypes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Inside voice, good manners, rain jacket.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

There's a lot set in Paris, but for actual insights? Maybe "La Haine (Hate)" for a glimpse into the disadvantaged suburbs. "Etre et Avoir (To Be and to Have)" for a glimpse into the charm of rural France. "Charade" is partly set in a fictional U.S. Embassy and is worth a watch.

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

Peter Mayle is amusing and contains some broad cultural insights, but the non-fiction ideas below are much more highly recommended.

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

Peter Mayle is amusing and contains some broad cultural insights, but the non-fiction ideas below are much more highly recommended.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Travel! The time will pass fast. The charm of France is mostly not found in Paris (despite its own appeal as a big international city). Eat and drink everything! But in moderation, like the French.

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Paris, France 12/08/08

Background:

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

First expat experience.

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2. How long have you lived here?

6 months.

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

Corporate.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

7-8 hours from the U.S. east coast.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments in Paris tend to be at least 25% cheaper than similarly sized apartments in similar neighborhoods in Manhattan, but will probably seem expensive to people coming from other parts of the U.S. Kitchens are often small and under-equipped. Commutes within the city limits rarely exceed a half-hour, except when the Metro breaks down, which can be often.

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

Groceries are of amazingly high quality (particularly if you go to specialty stores -- butchers, greengrocers, bakers, etc. -- rather than supermarkets). Depending on the item, prices are comparable to or cheaper than the United States. Wine in particular is cheap -- often just a few euros for good-quality stuff.

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

Some over-the-counter medicines (e.g. hydrocortisone cream) are only available by prescription here. Clothes, except for shoes, tend to be very expensive, and dry cleaning is ridiculously high -- bring only wash-and-wear if you can.

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

There are American and French fast-food chains but why would you want to eat in them? French food may not be what it used to be but there are still many great or at least good restaurants here. Most other cuisines are also represented, including a surprising number of sushi places, though quality of non-French food can be hit or miss.

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Daily Life:

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

The French postal system is reliable.

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

Generally available but expensive.

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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?

The French have moved to a smart-card system and people with North American credit cards that lack the proper chip may encounter difficulties, particularly for transportation -- many machines in the train and Metro stations will not accept cards without chips. ATMs are everywhere, but be careful of people trying to steal your PIN. Most ATMS are right out on the street rather than in enclosed lobbies as in the U.S.

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

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

The International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal and most British papers are widely available. Papers tend to be much more expensive here than in the United States.

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

Most Parisians in service industries now speak English, and do so willingly. Still, knowing French is a plus, especially when dealing with automated telephone systems (e.g. for ordering a taxi).

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

It would be difficult. Many buildings and the Metro have gratuitous steps and staircases. Elevators are often too tiny for wheelchairs and there are few ramps.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Same as in the U.S.

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

Trains and buses are safe, though sometimes unpleasantly crowded. Fares are similar to those in major U.S. cities. Taxis are reliable and relatively honest but a bit more expensive than in the U.S.

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3. 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?

Don't bring a car to Paris -- streets are narrow and parking is scarce and expensive. Better to rent a car when you need to get out of town (and even then, only if you're going deep into the countryside, as the train network connects most major cities and towns).

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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?

Yes. It's usually cheaper if you get it bundled with your cable TV and phone. But don't expect the cable company to meet even America's pitiful standards of good service.

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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?

Cell phones are ubiquitous here. French people tend to have better manners when using them in public than Americans do. As far as I know, all the major companies are reliable, but costs (especially roaming charges) may be higher than you're used to back home.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage or Skype if you want to save money.

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Pets:

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

I don't have any experience with this, but the French love their pets so I assume so.

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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?

Without French working papers it can be tough. Multinationals are probably your best bet.

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

People dress up a bit more formally in every setting here than in the United States. Men tend to wear suits (with ties in the winter, without ties in the summer); women in nice suits or dresses. Shorts and sweat clothes are rare unless you're working out. You will almost never see someone over 30 in a T-shirt.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good.

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

Nothing out of the ordinary for a big city.

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

The French medical system is of high quality.

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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?

Cloudy with showers (but little if any snow) in the winter; pleasant springs and falls; summer can be very variable, with cool rainy periods interspersed with hot spells (which seem hotter because there is little air conditioning here).

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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?

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Expat Life:

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

Huge.

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2. Morale among expats:

Most people I've met tend to like it here. Many have sought out Paris as a posting and don't want to leave.

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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?

Anything you could possibly want. French dinner parties tend to be long and elaborate, with multicourse meals and much wine.

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

This is a good city for everyone.

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

Yes, there is a thriving gay community including many gay/lesbian expats.

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

Yes, there is both religious and racially-based prejudice against Muslims and Africans.

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

Culture of all kinds. Or just walk around -- it's a great city for that.

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

Food and wine.

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9. Can you save money?

Depends on the exchange rate, but you will probably want to enjoy the experience here rather than saving.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, absolutely.

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

Expectations of customer service, sloppy clothes, bad manners.

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3. But don't forget your:

Willingness to adapt to the French way of doing things.

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

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Paris, France 06/15/08

Background:

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

No - Bucharest, Romania.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year, 7 months.

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

I am a U.S. Embassy employee.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

7-8 hours travel time from Washington, D.C.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Embassy personnel will either live in a government leased apartment in the city or one of two housing compounds in Boulogne or Neuilly, in the suburbs of Paris. Commute time from the housing compounds is 45 minutes door to door and anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes if you live in the city. The housing staff will encourage you to accept an apartment in one of the housing compounds, but if you are single or a couple without kids, try to get an apartment in the city. Your quality of life will be much better and the apartments in the city are NOT old, dark, problematic apartments as they housing office often portrays.

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

Food is expensive. If you are assigned to the Embassy you will receive COLA which is designed to cover the added expense so don't complain about the cost, just go buy what you need. As a single person, I shop at the Monoprix, or smaller stores like the fromagerie, charcuterie or Picquard (heavenly gourmet frozen food store).If you are assigned to the Embassy, you will have access to the military base in Belgium and can save money driving there every so often and stocking up on staples. Families usually shop at the military base once a month and supplement with runs to the larger grocery stores like Auchon. Auchon and Monoprix both deliver. Everything you want is available here, you just have to find it. There is also a China town and ethnic stores in Paris.

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

Everything is available here, but to save money, bring greeting cards, home office supplies, crock pot (eating at home saves a lot of money), car parts, tolietries, work clothes, or anything else you use frequently. You can buy everything you want here in Paris or order it through the Internet, you just have to wait for it to arrive.

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

I have seen McDonald's, Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken, but try not to eat there since there are so many other wonderful places to eat. Try to go to a traiteur (Chinese, Lebanese, etc) instead of one of the above fast food places if you are in a hurry - or even a schwarma stand - the food is much better.

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Daily Life:

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

I have access to the APO, but the local post offices are very reliable and not too expensive to send letters/postcards. You can also get money orders at the local post offices and they are all over the city.

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

Domestic help is extremely expensive. At least half of the folks have housekeepers, but usually one time a week for 4 hours, 10-12 euro an hour. If you are busy, it is a great time saver, but I would rather spend this money traveling!

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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?

I use my ATM card and pay a 1% transaction fee. There are usually not problems using your ATM card here, but check with your bank before you arrive so the fees don't surprise you. There are ATMS all over the city. If you are an Embassy employee, you will probably open a local french bank account and can use their ATM without incurring fees (after you deposit funds into your french checking account).

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

Yes, the American Church of Paris is a good place to start, but I believe there are several other english-language religious services available.

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

If you live on one of the Embassy housing compounds, you will have free AFN television. If you live in the city you need to buy a french television - multisystem televisions that receive SECAM will not work as the french broadcast in SECAM-L.There are cable companies that offer different packages, just like in the U.S. I believe Astral offers a good package for around 50 euro per month.

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

The more French you speak the better! If you do not speak French, you MUST learn some...

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

Paris is NOT a good city for people with disabilities! It is not uncommon for metros to have no escalators and 90% of buildings do not have ramps for people with wheel chairs. The French have a long way to go to improve in this area. I heard there are tourist agencies that specialize in tours for people with disabilities if you have the money to pay for it.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right side - same as in the U.S.

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

Everything is expensive in Paris since the dollar is so weak, but public transportation is good and safe. A monthly metro/bus pass is around 53 euros, but if you live in the city and will walk a lot, a better choice is a carnet (10 pack of tickets good on metro/bus/tram). Each trip is 1.10 euro. Taxis are expensive, but if you are out late at night and the metro has stopped running or if you are in a hurry, you just have to pay the price.

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3. 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?

It can be difficult getting parts for your American car here as dealers may not carry the parts for American models. The parts can be ordered, but it can take 2-3 months sometimes for the parts to arrive. Singles can survive without a car here. You can rent one if you drive deep into the country side where the train does not go. Families have a bigger need for a car. I would suggest checking with the local dealer here to see if they carry parts for your American car or buying a car here locally so you will have an easier time getting it fixed. Some folks have found cars through French Ebay or Craigslist. If you are a woman and don't speak french you wil have a hard time getting your car fixed. The French generall drive smaller cars in the city, but you can drive large or small cars in Paris. You will have a hard time parking a large American car in the city.

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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?

High-speed internet is available. If your computer is over 3 years old, you might need to purchase an internet card to receive wireless internet here (France uses a different signal of course).Newer laptops don't seem to have a problem. I have a telephone/internet combo through Orange that costs about 52 euro a month. I can talk long distance to family/friends for hours for free so it is a good deal. Customer service with the internet companies is horrible, so if you have any troubles setting up your system, you will need a French speaking friend to help you out or pay someone to come to your home and install it.

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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?

Some Embassy folks are given cell phones, but for those who aren't you have to buy a local phone, and pay for your minutes which you can purchase through the local tabac's or newsstands. It is expensive, but everyone has a cell phone. If you are here for a year or two, purchase a phone as soon as you arrive and sign a contract (one or two year). It is cheaper, but you will be locked into the contract.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Some people here use Vonage, but my internet/phone plan from Orange includes unlimited internet, local calls and long distance calls to land lines in U.S/Canada/EU countries. Just like the U.S. there are phone/internet companies that offer different plans/pricing. What works for one person living in the city might not work for another person living on a housing compound. You will pay for all local calls if you do not have a phone plan.

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Pets:

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

The French have good vets and love their pets. It is acceptable to bring your small dogs to local cafes. Watch out for poop when you walk the streets of Paris!

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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?

I am not familiar with this, but the Embassy has a SNAP coordinator to assist with this.

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

At the Embassy here (and in general), the Americans dress more than at other Embassies. Most men wear suits or keep a jacket at the office and women mix suits with slacks, skirts/blouses etc. Wearing jeans to work is not acceptable. The local French employees get away with dressing casually, but Americans are expected to dress more formally.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate pollution index.

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

Within Paris or the outlying suburbs where most diplomats live, crime is not a huge problem. I feel safe taking the metro at night and walking home from the metro stop too. You do need to take basic precautions as you would in any large city, i.e. not carrying your wallet in your back pocket or not leaving purses unzipped and always carry your purse in front of you. Pickpockets usually look for an easy target. Don't leave belongings unattended in your car, but if you apply basic common sense, you won't have a problem.

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

The Embassy has a French nurse who provides referrals to doctors/dentists in the city. This can be hard to get used to if coming from a smaller Embassy with an American nurse-practicioner, but makes sense since the French have excellent medical care. I have had great experiences with local doctors, dentists, and hospitals here. Similar to the U.S., you have to find a doctor, etc if you moved to a new area. You are expected to pay cash up front for the visit and then file a claim with your insurance company, but I have always been reimbursed quickly and have not had problems.

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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?

Usually rainy/cool. There are short stretches of hot weather, but after a few days it is rainy/cooler again. When it is nice, take advantage of it, sit at a cafe and watch the world go by...

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Schools & Children:

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

I have no personal experience with the international schools, but the CLO's office at the Embassy can provide details. You do have to do a lot of research on your own about the schools and register far in advance to guarantee a spot at the school of your choice. Most Embassy employees send their kids to the American International school, Marymount, or the British school.

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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?

I don't have experience with preschool/daycare but know that daycare is expensive. I know that spouses often opt not to work instead of working and paying for daycare. French preschools are available but I have heard that American kids can have trouble adapting if they don't speak french and the french school children often are not quick to accept kids from other countries. Try to find a British run preschool if you can afford it.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge.

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2. Morale among expats:

Amongst Embassy employees, the morale seems to be low amongst the lower ranking personnel and higher amongst the higher ranking personnel since they have larger Parisian apartments, speak French, are higher paid and have more perks on the job.

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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?

Paris has a fabulous night life. Everything you could want is here, but you need to work harder at making friends here to enjoy these things with.

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

Paris is great for couples without children and for outgoing singles. There is a lot to do and see but I know that among Embassy personnel, introverted-singles often have troubles adapting and become depressed after a few months here.

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

Paris seems to be a good city for gay/lesbian expats. There are gay bars in the city and areas that are popular with this social group. My gay friends love it here.

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

In day to day life, I have not witnessed problems with racial, religious prejudices but have heard that traditional french are not accepting of African-French, Moroccan-French, etc.

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

Paris is a beautiful city with tons of museums, exhibits, etc. I am so used to seeing beautiful buildings when I walk the streets of Paris that I take a second look when a building is not beautiful. The train system is wonderful and you can take the train to many cities in France and cities outside of France.

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

Gourmet food, wine, champagne, foie gras, cavier, antiques found in the markets outside of Paris (which are not cheap anymore)

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9. Can you save money?

Most people do not...if you are single or a couple without kids and do not have a lot of debt when you arrive, you can live off your paycheck and save your COLA if you bring your lunch to work and don't eat out a lot. If you take advantage of all the travel opportunities and wonderful restaurants in Paris, saving money will be tough.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No.

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

Notion that you will get a quick answer to your questions or that Parisians care if you think customer service is bad! Their attitude is you can go someplace else if you don't like it. Leave behind bad wine and bad food, the best food and wine in the world can be found here.

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3. But don't forget your:

Cash (it is expensive here); walking guide of Paris - the best way to see Paris is to walk the streets; comfortable shoes and umbrella.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Amelie, Until September.

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

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Planning is the key to enjoying an assignment to Paris. This is a beautiful but tough city to live in.

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