Moving to Paris
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.
This is a post in my series about moving to Paris. If you’re thinking about making a move to Paris, you can check out my previous posts in this category as well, you’ll find them here. This time we’ll talk about finding an apartment in Paris.
Finding a nice apartment in Paris at a reasonable price is like the saying: “finding a needle in a haystack”… You might think that I’m exaggerating, but I can only speak from my own experiences. If you’re not in the city when it’s time for you to start apartment hunting, or if don’t know anyone there who could help you (which was my case when I made my move) it can be a little bit harder. Perhaps hard isn’t the right word… More like “expensive”. Because that’s just what it is. Expensive. At least by my standards! I’m from Stockholm, where the prices haven’t yet reached those extreme heights.
Renting through an agency
So if you’re (just like I was) totally on your own and apartment hunting from another country when it’s time to look for an apartment, the easiest (and safest) way to do it is through an agency. Instead of contacting the, probably French speaking, landlord directly you use the services that an apartment agency can provide. On their websites you can calmly scroll through their list of possible apartments until you find one that suits your needs and budget.
So what’s the downside you might wonder? Because this sounds awfully comfortable… Well, it’s the price. When you rent through an agency it’s often more expensive. Not just because of the rent itself can be higher, but also because of the “agency fee”, which most of the agencies have, is quite often pretty high. This is an amount you pay to the agency for using their services and most of the time it can be around one month’s rent.
But if you’re not in the city, or don’t know anyone in Paris who could help you with finding an apartment, signing documents, paying down payments etc. etc. it’s pretty hard to do it in any other way. I also thought that it felt quite secure to go through a legit agency to avoid the possibility of I ending up on the street, in the beginning of February, with a contract for an unexciting apartment.
Renting on your own
Since I have yet to experience this alternative I unfortunately can’t help you too much with this option. But my teachers told me that if you want to rent an apartment directly from the landlord you have to assembly your own “dossier”. This is like a folder where you gather references and recommendation letters from previous landlords and people you’ve worked with. I also think that you might (!) need a French bank account. My teachers also warned us about the fact that most of this process is done in all French, which makes this alternative quite hard for those of us who don’t speak French all that good just yet…
Now I’m making this option sound totally impossible and like a complete horror story, that wasn’t my intention. I absolutely think this is doable if you have the right conditions, a little bit of luck and perhaps some help. But for me this was at the time, unfortunately, just not possible.
Something that you have to take out when renting an apartment in Paris is an apartment insurance. This is something that the agency you rent your apartment through can help you with and if you decide to do it all on your own you can probably ask your future landlord about it. It’s not especially hard but it’s good to be recommended a legit and good company for this. Unless you take out an insurance you probably won’t be allowed to rent the apartment in Paris, since this is obligatory. But again, I can only speak from my own experiences and about what I’ve heard.
The prices for renting an apartment can vary a lot and it all depends on your wants and needs. It’s of course cheaper to live outside the city centre or in a smaller apartment, and more expensive to live more central or in a bigger apartment. I chose to live more central, but smaller since I was on my own. I wouldn’t recommend living too far from the centre if you’re by yourself. Some neighbourhoods can be quite rough in Paris, so once again: do your research before booking anything. Or read more about finding a neighbourhood that suits you here.
A studio apartment in Paris, that you rent through an agency and that’s located quite central can cost you anything between 700 €/month to 2 000 €/month. In most cases electricity is not included in your monthly rental price, which you’ll have to pay as well. Do your homework before signing any contract and see what other “hidden fees” you might have to pay. Do you have to pay for gas, internet or TV-cable for example?
Since the prices for an apartment can vary so tremendously in this city I would recommend you to look at a few apartment listings that seems interesting to you so that you can create your own price idea and then set a budget and stick (!) to it.
You will also, most likely, have to pay a “security deposit” for your apartment. This is probably something that you have experience with if you’ve ever rented an apartment or house for a vacation or anything similar before. The security deposit is a sum of money (sometimes equivalent to one month’s rent) that you have to pay the landlord for any possible damages you might cause in apartment, or to its interior. If everything is fine and in the same state that you found the apartment in when you arrived at the end of your stay you’ll get the money back.
What to expect
Also make sure to check what other household appliances the apartment has, like washing machine and dishwasher etc. etc. To have a washing machine was to me totally priceless but I managed fine without a dishwasher. All apartments doesn’t have an elevator, so if you need one, be sure that the apartment you’re interested in has one. Bathtubs are also a rare luxury in Paris I’ve come to learn. And for me, something I didn’t know before I rented my apartment, was that the hot water didn’t last for a whole shower. Small things, I know, but it’s better to be prepared for these kind of things.
Don’t go into this apartment hunting too naive is an advice I want to pass along. I’ve had friends who have ended up with mould in their bathroom and a washing machine that started leaking all over the floor. You never know, so be quite thorough when you examine the photos of the apartments. Of corse this doesn’t happen to everyone, I was fortunate enough to not have any of these problems! Something that you, most likely, can prepare for is the lack of sound proofing in the apartments… At least this was the case for both me and (all of) my friends. I heard absolutely everything at my little place, both from the apartment above and from the one next to me. Bring earplugs if you have a problem with the noise or simply try to get used to it.
In my little series about moving to Paris, we’ve now talked about planning your trip, making a budget and finding a neighbourhood that hopefully suits both you and your needs. Although more posts are still to come in this little series I thought I’d share what I did in the French capital and why I decided to go in the first place. So here you go!
Why Paris you might wonder… Well, let’s just say that it wasn’t a decision that came to me overnight. I initially planned to move to either Rome, Florence or Milano since I’d studied Italian for a couple of years and because my family and I have visited Italy since I was a little kid. But for some reason I ended up in Paris. Without know a single word of French.
I think the idea came to me when I made my third weekend trip to Paris in March 2011. I was just drawn to the city and its charm. It felt more modern and perhaps a bit more different to me than Italy did at the moment. When I came back from my trip (and after going back and forth a lot) I finally decided to start planning my move to the city of light.
It took a lot of encouragement from both family and friends since I’m a total control freak, but finally it was decided. I was moving to Paris during four months (and thereof the name of the blog) in the spring of 2012. Why I decided on four months was a mix of a little bit of everything I think… I was too scared to make a complete move and not having a going back date, although I wanted to stay longer than just a normal vacation. It was also a financial question for me since I didn’t work while in Paris, I just wanted to enjoy the city.
What did you do?
After I made my decision to actually take the chance and go, it was time to decide what I was going to do with my time in Paris. And since I didn’t know a single word of French the choice was quite simple. I needed to learn the language! So while in Paris I went to the Accord language school, which suited me perfectly. You’re placed in a group according to your own level (which for me was super, super beginner) so that you can learn as much as possible. After a while you can go up a level when the teacher feels you’re ready. I learned so much, in such a short amount of time and my experience with the school was better than I ever could imagine.
I went to school during the mornings, from 09am to 1pm, which was great. With these hours you had time both to study and to see the beautiful city! It was a fantastic experience. Meeting all different kinds of people, from all over the world, who were all there for different reasons. You really learned a lot and got to meet so many different cultures and people.
How did it turn out?
To come to Paris I had to quit my job, leave both boyfriend, family and friends at home — which at the moment almost felt impossible. But in the end it was all worth it. Four months turned out to not much shorter than I had imagined. The time just flew by. That’s why I want to encourage all of you, who that are thinking about doing the same thing as me. And please, don’t stress out (which I totally did by the way), it’s easier than you think. You’ll gain an experience for life and you’ll hopefully want to do it all over again if you’re anything like me. And that’s why I am!
When I first came to Paris, in early February, I spent my first days in the city exploring my new home and my new neighbourhood. I had been in Paris three times before my move but for some reason I’ve never sat my foot on the little island Île Saint Louis in the middle of the Seine before, which was going to be my new home in Paris during the next couple of months.
I arrived in Paris when the weather was really cold. Almost exactly at the same time that so called “killer cold” came to Paris and the rest of Europe. Somedays it was even too cold to hold the camera upright in my hands. But despite that horrible cold Paris managed to charm me right away, and fortunately I felt like I was home within a couple of days.
I was really lucky to feel so at home right away, and I really hope that those of you who are thinking about moving to Paris, get to feel the same way too. These are some of my very fist photos that I took of the city.
When you’ve decided about what you want to do during your time in Paris, and when you’ve decided when you would like to go, you can start thinking about where you would like to live. So this post is all about finding out where you would like to live in Paris!
Paris is divided into different neighbourhoods, called arrondissements, and in Paris you can find up to 20 arrondissement. Outside of these arrondissement you’ll find the suburbs (les banlieues). Where you would like to live is very individual and I recommend doing a little bit of research before deciding (but perhaps this is just a thing I like to do, it could be the control freak inside of me…). Anyway, here’s a few, very basic, words about the different arrondissement in Paris, (from my point of view) that might clear things up a bit:
Here you’ll find places like Place de la Concorde and Rue Saint Honoré, which are both packed with designer stores. Place Vendôme, Jardin du Palais-Royal and the Louvre of course. The biggest park in this arrondissement is the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries. Because of all these places the neighbourhood is also very well visited, both by tourists and locals.
This arrondissement is pretty businesslike since many companies are located here, but it’s also here that you’ll find the lively and youthful street called Rue Montorgueil and the area around it. The gorgeous Opéra, which also is a big métro station in the city, is located on the border of the arrondissement. The neigbourhood goes from Place Vendôme and Les Halles all the way up to Strasbourg St Denis.
In the third arrondissement you’ll find the famous neighbourhood called Le Marais. Here the buildings are lower and the streets are smaller. For a minute you can forget that you’re actually in a big city… There’s a lot of cozy cafés, popular restaurants and bars in this area and Le Marais is also very popular during evening and nighttime.
The fourth arrondissement includes a part of Le Marais but also Hôtel de Ville, Place de Vosges, a part of the bigger island Île de la Cité (where Notre Dame is) and the smaller island Île Saint Louis. It was in this arrondissement I stayed during my time in Paris, on Île Saint Louis, to be a little bit more exact, and I loved every single minute of it. This neighbourhood will always have a special place in my heart.
The fifth arrondissement is for example home to the Panthéon and the famous university Sorbonne. This neighbourhood is called Quartier Latin and it’s full of small and cozy streets. Jardin des Plantes, a huge park (that actually includes a zoo) and one of my favourite outdoor markets; Marché Maubert are also located here.
This arrondissement is called Saint Germain and it’s one of my favourite neighbourhoods in all of Paris. Here you’ll find gorgeous shops, cozy cafés and the amazing Jardin du Luxembourg and Place Saint-Sulpice. The sixth arrondissement is also the home to the famous Café de Flore, Le Deux Magots and the luxurious department store Bon Marché.
In the seventh arrondissement you’ll find the famous Eiffel Tower, École Militaire, Les Invalides and some of my favourite restaurants in the city. Some people call this the “Upper East Side” of Paris and I can understand why with all the gorgeous buildings and expensive cars along every street. This arrondissement is also where many embassies are located.
Here you can find the grand Champs Elysées, the beautiful Park Monceau, Place de la Madeleine, Grand Palais and the super expensive Avenue Montaigne. This is one of the best areas to indulge in some very, very expensive shopping. The president also lives in this arrondissement, at Palais de l’Élysée.
The ninth arrondissement is perhaps most known for the huge Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, but there’s so much more. The area goes all the way up to the beginning of the charming Montmartre and Pigalle. It seems like there’s always a new and hip café or restaurant to try around here!
10th & 11th arrondissement
Both of these arrondissements are just getting more and more popular by the second. It feels like new and trendy restaurants, cafés and shops are opening up every single week. It’s here you can find Place de la Bastille, Canal St Martin and the popular bar street Rue Oberkampf.
… You might notice that quite a few arrondissements are missing for my little list but that’s just because I don’t feel that I know them well enough to write about/recommend/not recommend them to you. Of course it’s more expensive to live more central, just as most other cities around the world. Some people prefers to live smaller, but more central and others choose to live bigger but perhaps less central. It’s all up to you and what you want.
This is the second part of my little series about moving to Paris. You can find the first post here.
…Now when you know what you want to do during your stay: Start planning! Before looking at apartments, signing up for a new cellphone number and getting insurance you really should start planning your stay. A few questions you should ask yourself are:
How long do you want to stay?
When do you want to go and how long do you want to stay in Paris? That could be good question to figure out before going any further. During which season(s) do you want to be in Paris? And which time is the best to go depending on what you’ve decided to do during your time?
What is your budget for an apartment?
Set a maximum price for what you’re willing to spend per month on an apartment before you start looking, and stick to it! It’s very easy to change your price limit once you actually start browsing through the list of apartments… The price for an apartment in Paris can vary a lot, depending on where you would like to live and how you would like to live.
If you’re not in Paris yourself and don’t have anyone there who could help you with the apartment hunting, the safest thing is to find an apartment through an agency. It’s a little bit pricier, but it’s better than getting scr**ed, which can be pretty common unfortunately. I’ve heard horror stories about mould and apartments that doesn’t exists… I would absolutely recommend getting your apartment through an agency, it can feel safer to have somebody that could get in contact with if something turns out to be wrong. The agencies usually take an “agency fee” for their services. The fee can vary but it’s often around one month’s rent. You usually have to pay a security deposit as well, which you’ll get back at the end of your stay — if the apartment is in the same condition that you received it in.
To give you a rough idea of what it could cost to rent an apartment in Paris (through an agency) I would say that it cost you anything between 600 – 2 000 € (for a studio that is). For 600 €/month you often get very few square meters and the toilet or bathroom is usually shared with the other residents on the same floor. For 2 000 €/month you can of course get an apartment with a bigger surface or/and with a better location. Don’t forget that you usually have to pay for gas, electricity and sometimes other things on top of the rent. For a cheaper option you can live together with a roommate, or live together with a family. It all depends on what you’re looking for.
…But more about apartments later on!
What are you planning to spend on food?
Make a little budget for your daily food purchases and things you need for the apartment. This amount is also very individual and can vary a lot depending on your habits. Remember that it’s cheaper to shop at the bigger stores than going to your local épicerie (= often a very very small grocery store located very central). Even though it can be quite comfortable, it can ruin your budget in the long run! Monoprix, Carrefour and Franprix often have bigger stores around the city with somewhat better prices.
What will your living expenses be?
Don’t forget about all those macarons (≈ 1,50 € each), baguettes (≈ 1 € each), croissants (≈ 1,10 € each) and tarts you’ll be buying! All the new clothes you’re going to want to shop for and those café au laits you’ll be drinking. Those bus tickets (≈ 1,90 € each) or bus/métro cards (≈ 62 € per/month) you’re going to have to buy. All those movie tickets you might want to purchase and those glasses of wine you want to spend your evenings sipping… Don’t forget bout your cellphone bills, the costs for electricity and gas etc. either. These are important expenses as well, and it’s good to make a plan for this too!
But most important…
DON’T STRESS YOURSELF OUT. It’s going to be fine. I wish someone would have told me this before I started planning my move! When you’re at this stage everything feels a million times harder than it actually is.
This is the first post in a little series of posts that I’m doing about moving to Paris! Since that’s the most frequent question asked when I get e-mails from you guys I thought I would share some tips that would have helped me before my move. Of course I can only speak from my own experience, but I hope it can be to some help at least, for those of you who are thinking about doing something similar.
One of the first things you should try to figure out is: What do you want to do during your time in Paris?
If you already know the language you can apply for a job during your stay in Paris. Of course I understand that this is a bit harder for those of you who don’t live within the European Union, but everything is possible if you put some hard work behind it. If this is your plan I would recommend learning to write your CV in French and according to their format. Since I’ve personally not done this yet, I don’t have that much experience.
Another option is to study in Paris. You can either study at a university full time or just study the French language for example. The latter is probably more suiting if you’re staying for a shorter amount of time. During my stay in Paris I attended the language school Accord in the 9th arrondissement. At Accord you can study however long you want to — anything between a week and one year, or even more! There’s people of every age and origin imaginable so you’ll fit in no matter how old you are or where you’re from. I was more than happy with my choice and I had an amazing time and really learned a lot. I’ve also heard great things about the classic Sorbonne.
Shorter courses are also a great option for your stay! There’s a ton of different things to do. I would love to just go to Paris and take several different courses if I had the opportunity… You can, for example, take cooking classes at La Cuisine Paris and finally learn how to make the perfect croissant or macaron, take courses in photography with beautiful Paris as your backdrop, study fashion at Paris College of Art in the fashion capital of the world or learn classical French cooking at the Le Cordon Bleu.
If neither of the above suits you, you can of course just go and enjoy the city! There’s a bunch of different things to do in Paris and you could be busy every single day if you wanted to. There’re so many neighbourhoods and places to see, museums to visit and cafés and restaurants to try out. But it can get quite lonely since you don’t meet people, as you do in all the above choices… To fix this (if you want to meet people that is), there’s something called Co-Lunching, where you literally meet a new group of people over lunch. There’s also arranged walks through Paris which you can sign up for! Normal guided tours or something called food/sweets tours where you eat your way through the city of lights. Could it get any better than that?