Moving to Paris
I’ve finally found an apartment! And guess where? Yes, that’s right, about 100 meters from my old one… Isn’t life just a little bit too ironic sometimes? Even though it’s more than I wanted to spend on rent I’m just happy to have a (more permanent) roof over my head at this point.
Since I spent my previous four months in Paris right on Île Saint Louis I can’t say that I really need to go out and “get to know my neighbourhood” all that much, but it will be nice to come back. And even though I don’t get to explore new streets, new cafés and restaurants in my quartier (as planned) I’m very happy about “coming home” to my little island. I move in the beginning of February!
So, what’s your favourite places around this neighbourhood?
Today I thought I’d be strolling through Paris, running a few errands here and there and just enjoying the city. Perhaps even taking a photo or two for you to see! Oh how wrong you can be…
When I arrived at the apartment I had rented in St Germain (and that I had been dreaming about for almost six months now) yesterday I discovered that the apartment was in the worst condition ever. The smell of mildew hit you in the face as soon as you stepped inside, the bathroom looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in over a century, there were holes in the walls and the paint was chipping off on almost every single wall in the place. Yes, I panicked.
During two days now, while taking in at a hotel in Paris I’ve desperately been running around town, looking for a place to stay and trying to get a hold of a million people, who apparently all are on holiday at the moment. Now I’ve found a little apartment in the 5th arrondissement that I can stay in for a month. Thank god! Then it’s back to panicking again. Let’s just say that this wasn’t exactly what I had planned for myself.
So my (fun) Parisian adventure has been on hold for a little while. I hope you understand and can look forward to many more updates about life in Paris once I’ve settled in and taken care of a few things. Cross your fingers for me!
What do you say? Are you with me? See you once I’ve landed on Parisian ground again!
When you’ve gone through all the steps (like making a budget, finding an apartment, dealing with all those feelings and figuring out where to live) I hope you can breathe a little bit easier and finally start to look forward to your moving date! So when you’ve booked your plane ticket and the date is getting closer and closer you can start to figure out what to do when your feet finally hits Parisian ground for the first time.
Getting cosy in your apartment
One of the most important things to me was to make “my” apartment a place where I wanted to be, where I felt safe and at home when I first arrived. I think this is a good tip if you’re afraid of feeling lonely or getting homesick. It’s much easier to be comfortable and feel at home in your new place if you make it your own. For me this meant unpacking all of my things so that I could see a part of me in the apartment. I also brought photos that reminded me of my loved ones and my little pug — another great tip to make you feel at home.
I really need to feel that the apartment is a cosy and warm place for me to be. Perhaps it’s just me but I really like that feeling! Beautiful candles (which you can find both here, here and here), fresh flowers and a stocked fridge and pantry are all things that gives me that cosy/homey feeling. A little stack of my favourite magazines, scented candles in the bathroom and the bed made up with my own sheets are also things that make me feel more at home. Doesn’t that sound lovely?
Finding your favourite…
To make you feel even more at home I would suggest leaving the apartment to find your new neighbourhood gems! I love to try out/visit all the local boulangeries, cheese shops, wine shops, butchers, cafés and restaurants just to find my favourites. It can take a while of course but it’s always nice to see what you have to choose from.
When I arrive I’m going to buy a baguette from all the boulangeries close by to see which one I like the most, and voila, there’s my morning stop! Although just because one boulangerie has the best baguette doesn’t mean that they have the best pastries, so there you have something to keep you busy. Eating my way through the local boulangeries was one of my favourite occupations while in Paris haha. Other things to try as well are the boulangerie’s croissants, tarte aux framboises, crumble and gateau au chocolat! Mmm…
Another thing to look for is that café or that restaurant that you always can go to if you’re too tired or lazy to cook. Where you can sit and read a book for hours or simply have a quick bite before going out. In my previous neighbourhood, Île Saint Louis, this place was called Café St Regis for me. Here I could always have a bit to eat, a glass of wine in the evening or a tasty little dessert.
Your grocery store
Another thing that can be quite good to look up is which grocery store is closest to you. Which store is going to be your go-to grocery store for bigger purchases, and which one will be your go-to grocery store when you get the munchies during the evening? A few bigger chains that you’ll probably see around Paris are: Franprix, Monoprix, G20 and Carrefour. The bigger stores with these names, like one of the huge Monoprix stores for example, can be good if you want to go and make bigger purchases, while the smaller Monoprix stores (often called Monop’) is better for smaller purchases. Haha, yes, I know, a lot of names to keep track of. Monoprix also offers home delivery (thank god for that when you don’t have an elevator) and I’m sure a few other stores does as well.
Then there’s also the smaller stores, often without a specific name, called épiceries. These are often located quite convenient but they are quite expensive compared to the bigger stores. Let me just say that I probably spent a small fortune at my local épicerie… Just because of comfort.
If you’re really lucky you’ll have la Grande Épicerie or the Galeries Lafayette Gourmet close by… Or well, perhaps I should say “unlucky” since all your money probably will be spent here in that case. These two food stores are simply amazing and I could spend hours and hours in wither of them.
Where’s the closest…
Well ok, now when you’ve found all the fun stuff it’s time to find the more practical stuff… Like where’s the closest post office, pharmacy, bank, métro and bus station? Of course you can do this over time but it can always be good to know. The post office was surprisingly easy (by French standards) to communicate with and every time I received or sent a package it went smoothly. A bank or an ATM could also be a good thing to find close by, you never know when you’ll be needing it.
A pharmacy could also be a good idea to look up. I ended up going there almost every week for small purchases that I had forgotten about when packing my bags so I was very happy to find one next door. Here you’ll also find a bunch of beauty products and hair care (yes, it’s really a little gold mine) which means that you don’t have to look up a separate store for that.
I also think you should look up the bus and métro stations closest to you. Otherwise it can take you half your stay to figure out that you could have taken a bus just a few meters away from your door instead of changing métro stations three times… The Parisan métro maps are really easy to understand and so are the bus maps (once you get a hang of it). On this site you can plan your trip in advance which works really great and here you can have a look at the bus map and the métro map.
So there you have it! A bunch of things you could do when you finally arrive. Just to make sure that you feel a little bit more at home in your new city.
Now it’s just a few weeks left until I head back to Paris and I’ve already started to mentally pack my bags. But how on earth do you pack up a life into a couple of suitcases? What do you bring and what do you leave behind? It’s impossible to bring it all because there’s no chance that I can unpack everything in a tini tiny Parisian apartment… Before my first trip it was much easier since I knew that I was packing for four months but now I need to pack for… I don’t know how long. Scary!
I’ve now covered a lot of the practical things you need to think about and do before a move to Paris; like making a budget, finding and apartment and figuring out what you want to do, but I also thought that it would be important to bring up the emotional side that a move can create… And it probably couldn’t come at a better time since I’ve just had a little bit of trouble with the feelings myself.
Doubting your decision
The first thing that I try to think about every time I’m doing something out of my comfort zone is “what’s the worst thing that could happen?”. And if you have any doubts, just like I had, try to close your eyes and imagine yourself in the city that you want to move to. What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen if you make this move? That you’ll be totally alone in your room, crying, wishing you never moved? Well, just go back home then! It doesn’t have to be harder than that. And well, if you’ve already payed the rent and don’t want to loose the money — spend a few months in the city and give it a chance! I tried to think like this before my first move. The worst thing that could happen was that I had to spend four months in Paris. And really, how bad is that? Nothing is written in stone and you can always make another choice later on.
Manage your expectations
Before I made my move to Paris I was totally prepared for the fact that I was going to hate it, that I would be sitting in a corner and crying, missing all the people that I loved every single second during the first 30 days. Well, let’s just say that I was wrong. I didn’t cry every single second during the first month. Actually I didn’t shed that many tears at all. I was so afraid that my dream about Paris would be crushed once I moved there. I was so sure that I had romanticised the whole move, the whole city, so much that it was impossible for the reality to live up to my expectations. I prepared myself for utterly and total disappointment. Which might, now when I look back, have been a little bit too extreme.
What I’m trying to say is: be prepared for some tougher nights, some days when you’ll feel a little bit lonely, a few tears and some hours when it doesn’t feel absolutely perfect. I’m not saying you have to feel all those things but it’s better to be a little bit prepared if you do. Try to figure out things that you could do if these feelings occur, then they are so much easier to handle if they suddenly should bubble up to the surface.
If you still feel a little bit unsure, scared or have cold feet (just like I had), I suggest reading this post and every single comment that was left below and I’m sure you’ll feel a little bit better. At least they made my feet warmer!
I can finally tell you that I’ve found the apartment I’ll be staying in during my first months back in Paris! It’s a tini tiny flat on the sixth floor in a gorgeous Parisian building. Since my stay will be longer this time (I don’t know when, or if I’ll ever leave) I had to think more economically this time around — meaning no gorgeous window overlooking the Seine or an address on Île Saint Louis… But I think I’ll manage anyway!
My little apartment is located in the 6th arrondissement, which just happens to be one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Paris. And now I need your help. I want to know about your favourite cafés, restaurants, bars, boulangeries, pâtisseries, stores, parks and supermarkets in this great neighbourhood. I want to find that perfect croissant, that neighbourhood café I can sit at for hours and that go-to restaurant that always delivers.
Give it to me!
I realise that I have not (intentionally) written a post about how to get a visa when planning a move to Paris. This is simply because I haven’t dealt with this frustrating issue since I’m already a European citizen. But I understand that for many of you, this is a must before making the dream about moving to Paris come true.
I still know absolutely nothing about this so I’m definitely not the right person to be asking but what you could do is to check out this great, and very informative, post on the HiP Paris blog about moving to Paris as a non European citizen. Hopefully it’ll clear a few things up for you! You’ll find it here.
Now when I’ve been away from Paris for quite some time I get a little bit nervous about returning. Why? I’m afraid that I won’t like it as much as I think I do my head.
Before I made my first move to Paris I had the exact same feeling. Even though I’ve visited the city before I planned my move there I was still anxious and afraid that I had made up Paris to be more than it ever could be in my head… I was afraid that I had romanticised this beautiful, fantastic and absolutely wonderful city just a little bit too much for my own good. I was so afraid that I had made the wrong choice, that I would be super disappointed once I arrived and that my dream about Paris would be crushed.
When I arrived in Paris, in the beginning of what would become a few of the best months in my life, I loved the city, the people and everything else just as much as I had thought. If not more. It really was just as good as I had imagined it to be.
So why am I back to square one again? The same thoughts as before are running wild through my mind, just a couple of weeks before my move. “What if I don’t like it anymore?“, “Was it really that good?“, “What will happen if it’s a mistake?“, “Are you really sure about this?“, “How great can a city really be?“. I can’t seem to shake this feeling. And it doesn’t get any better when your whole life is suddenly turned upside down and everything you thought you loved is gone…
So please, remind me why both you and I have fallen madly in love with this city? I think I need a little bit of help to cure my cold feet!
Moving to Paris (or anywhere) can be stressful, confusing and quite difficult if you don’t have anyone to share experiences with. That’s why I started this series of post about moving to Paris. You can find the previous posts about moving to Paris here.
So when you’ve booked an apartment and when you’ve figured out what you want to do with your time in Paris it’s time to start organising, planning and trying to figure out everything that you need to do both before you leave and when you finally get there. These things will of course depend on the length of your stay and also on what you’re going to do there. But a few things that can be good to check of your list are the following:
If you’re planning on staying for a longer time in Paris, it can be good to get yourself a French phone number. I felt totally handicapped without having proper 3G on my phone while in Paris. This made everything so much harder! The maps on my phone didn’t work properly unless you “loaded them” before you left the apartment, if you forgot to transfer money to your bank account before going out you were in a little bit of a jam when your card didn’t work in the register and if you didn’t check your transportation route before you left (and didn’t have a paper map at hands) you could also run into some extra problems. Gosh, it’s so easy to get used to this convenience that technology provides us… Anyways, you have to options here: either you’re very organised and plan these things ahead or simply manage without them. Or you can get a cell phone plan that includes 3G in the city. Let me just say that I’m going for the 3G option next time!
It can be pretty confusing when choosing a cell phone plan in French (if you don’t know the language too well) so try to find a person who speaks English to make this little adventure a bit easier. If you buy a prepaid phone card you can also ask them to help you charge the card for the first time and make sure that everything works (which I of course learned the hard way). Three companies that you can visit to get a cell phone plan/French phone number are: Orange, SFR and Bouygues.
If your apartment doesn’t have internet you have to fix this on your own. If you’re staying for a shorter amount of time I would absolutely recommend renting an apartment with internet, since this could be a little bit of a hassle. Most often the same companies that can fix your cellphone plan can also help you with internet in your apartment, otherwise check out Orange, Alice or Free. Again, make sure to speak with someone that knows their English if you don’t feel comfortable taking this in French.
Buss & métro card
If you’re planning on taking the métro or the buses while in Paris, a metro card is a must. This will save you a ton of money if you’re used to take the public transportation. A métro card will cost you around 62 €/month (if I remember correctly and the prices haven’t changed) and you can reload the same card every month. You reload your card in the métro, with the help of the machines that you’ll find located on the walls. They accept both cards and cash.
If you’re buying the card for the first time first of all you need a photo of yourself, similar to the one you have on your driver’s license, passport or ID. You can find several photo booths in the bigger métro stations that are very easy to operate. When you have your photo you need find a cash-counter that can help you with purchasing a métro card for the first time. These are also located in the bigger métro stations. I think I got my first card at the métro station Grand Boulevards. There they will help you with attaching your photo to a card, charge it with one month’s credit and you can pay directly to the cash-counter. The next time, when it’s time to charge your card again, you can do this at one of the machines in the métro. You don’t have to go through this process again, as long as you don’t loose this card.
If you don’t think that you’ll need a métro card, you can just buy tickets. You can do this in both the machines and at the cash-counter, located in the métro as well. Be aware of the fact that in some metro stations there are only information counters and not a cash-counters that will be able to help you with your purchase. So if you want personal help instead of the machines you should go to one of the bigger métro stations.
The métro card is valid on both the métro and on the buses, and so are the tickets. For more information visit the RATP website, where you can plan your trip ahead as well, which can be really really helpful.
If crowded public transportation aren’t your cup of tea you can always get around by bike in Paris. And if you don’t have one of your own, you can rent one through the Vélib stations that you’ll find all over the city. You can also get a card for this but since I haven’t done it yet, you’ll have to visit their website for more info. My plan was to bike everywhere during my time in Paris but once I saw the chaotic traffic I changed my mind. So perhaps this is a purchase that you don’t have to do before you arrive, in case you actually change your mind.
As I mentioned in the my previous apartment post, you have to take out an apartment insurance for your stay in Paris. This protects both you and the apartment during your stay. You can talk to your landlord regarding which company you should use for this. During my stay I used the company called AutoFirst which worked out great (although I didn’t have any problems so they didn’t really come into the picture all that much).
If you’re staying for a longer time, or if it’s necessary for some reason, it could be a good idea to set up a French bank account. This can be a little bit tricky and is most often the most annoying thing to fix out of everything — especially if you don’t speak the language. I, fortunately, came in contact with an (so so) English speaking gentlemen that helped me with everything.
First of all you need to set up a meeting with a bank man. You can do this both by phone before your arrival or visit the bank once you’re in the city. This can be hard since some people won’t be that excited to assist you. I had to make three phone calls to get the receptionist not to hang up on me in the middle of a sentence. You need to be though and not get offended by rudeness. For both their and your convenience, have all the papers that you need ready to go before you arrive to your appointment. Once you have your meeting with the bank man they’ll help you with everything, and most often it’s just a lot of paperwork you need to fill out. Read everything before you sign!
But remember, they aren’t that happy to set up bank accounts for people staying a shorter amount of time (which is totally understandable), so perhaps this is something you should do if you’re staying for a longer time or really need it. Some of the bigger banks in Paris are: Societe Generale, BNP Paribas, LCL and Caisse d’Epargne.
Is there anything I’ve forgotten? Or do you have even more questions after reading this? Just leave a comment below or send me an e-mail and I’ll try to help you as much as I possibly can. Bonne chance!