A How-To Guide For Moving to The City of Love
Since moving to Paris, a lot of people have been asking me for recommendations in the city and more frequently aout the ins and outs of actually moving to Paris. This decision was one of the most exciting ones I have ever made in my life but also one of the most daunting ones. It takes a lot of guts to uproot your life and to settle in a new country. Personally I got extremely lucky when I moved here and I fell in with a group of girls who were facing a lot of the same unknown experiences as I was. However I can’t help but wish sometimes that I had somebody to give me all the insider tips and tricks that could have saved me from making a lot of stupid and often expensive mistakes.
Whether you may be dreaming about moving to Paris or seriously considering it in the near future, hopefully the fact that I’m sharing my experiences with you here today in this blogpost will help in making the accomplishment of your dream a little easier.
This post is of course going to be focused on moving to Paris but I honestly think that 99% of the information is applicable to any other part of France and any other country in continental Europe.
The number one question I get asked on a regular basis is whether or not you need to be able to speak french in order to be able to live here. The short answer is absolutely yes.
The long answer is that in the beginning it is understandable if your knowledge of the language is limited but unless you are willing to open up and learn french don’t expect to be thriving here. Not being able to speak the language of the country you are in makes surviving a hundred times more difficult than it needs to be. Especially if you are moving here alone or are the type of person who values your independence.
If you plan on actually moving to Paris then it’s important to remember that living in a country, adapting to the lifestyle and going about everyday tasks is a world away from going on holidays and having very basic level english conversations with people in shops and restaurants. Relying on your english alone in France is all fun and games until you want to find a job, an apartment, make friends with the locals or even face up to everyday problems that pop up. I’ll never forget the day when the electricity went out in my apartment and I had to call the electrician and try in my very broken french to explain to him that my fuse box was broken. I barely even understood the mechanics of this device in english, never mind in french! Not being able to speak the language of the country you are in limits you tenfold in what you can do and what you have the potential to accomplish so trust me when I say that you are going to want to be able to carry yourself through the language and not have to rely on google translate to get by.
Before settling into life in France I would strongly advice that you have a good, if not a basic level of french before coming. You’ll learn so much just by living here but being able to speak the language, even just a little bit is one of the most important things to consider before moving. The way I learned was of course from taking classes, watching series in french and following some french speaking YouTubers and bloggers. Even language learning apps like Duolingo and translating on Deepl helped me so much. I was lucky enough to have friends who supported me so much when I was learning the language that I’m now at the level where we can all sit and chat for hours having conversations through french the cafes and bars in Paris but it definitely took a lot of hard work and determination to get this far.
Honestly I can’t tell you what awaits you in terms of learning french but Parisians are surprisingly nice and encouraging contrary to the cliché that says that many of them can be quite rude. With that in mind I really hope that you will be able to find people who will help your learn.
What You Need To Organise Before Going
While you are still learning french, there are a number of things you can begin to get yourself organised for moving.
The first and most obvious thing is money. One of the main questions I get asked by people wanting to move here is how much money is realistically needed and just how expensive is Paris?
Honestly compared to the cost of living in Dublin where the average rent price can be as high as €1,700 to live in a tiny shed or in a shared room and where the travel infrastructure isn’t the best, the cost of living in Paris is a lot less when it comes to fulfilling your basic needs. Healthcare and education here are more or less free and transport is made quite cheap and accessible for students. (I paid €350 for my metro card and that covers my travel expenses for the entire year.)
Obviously I can only compare the cost of living in Paris to that of Dublin but there were a lot of expenses back in Ireland that I just don’t have to worry about covering here. However that didn’t mean that I didn’t have to be wise with my money because rent is still very pricey here, especially if you plan on living in the centre of the city.
There is no exact answer to the question of how much money you need when you come over. I personally worked in a boutique for a year and saved €5,000 which was very quickly blown on apartment deposits (I had to pay two months rent in advance) and then of course there is travel and possible furniture costs to factor in, not to mention the fact that you might not get a job right away.
Ideally having between €2,500 -€5,000 is a good idea and I’d even say having more is a good idea if you are going to spend your time looking for a job. Having a stash of emergency money is absolutely paramount when you go somewhere new because you never know what might happen.
One of the best things you can ever do before moving to a new city is to reach out to as many people as possible that you may know living in the area. Honestly this can feel scary in the beginning but one of the main things that counts in the beginning is having contacts, plus you never know what opportunities might arise just from reaching out.
For months before moving I was following my friend Lyne on her blog and knowing that she was based in Paris, I asked her if she wanted to meet up one day and just like that we became close friends. People definitely underestimate the power of making the first step in a conversation but honestly you have nothing to lose and only a potential friend to gain and to share experiences with. So why not just go for it?
From a more professional perspective, apps like LinkedIn can be a huge help in kickstarting your career over here and building your professional life. In my case I was lucky enough to still be a student when I came here so most of my networking could be done through my university and through the student life in Paris. Whatever your case may be however it is so important to get out of our shell and to make the steps necessary to get closer to people. This is actually one of the greatest challenges of living abroad especially if you’re the more introverted type but honestly in a place where your family and friends are thousands of miles away it is so important not to underestimate the value of having a close network of people around you.
Whatever you pack honestly depends on the size of the apartment that you’re going to have. When I left Dublin for Paris I was sure that I would either end up coming home at some point or that I was going to be spending a lot of time moving around while I look for apartments or potentially couch-surfing my way around the city until I could find a stable place to call home.
I personally left with two suitcases, a big one and a tiny cabin bag but of course my inventory has expanded since then. Honestly though Paris is the city of fashion so you definitely don’t need to worry about bringing your whole wardrobe with you when you leave home. It’s crazy how things accumulate little by little so packing light and moving as clutter-free as possible is a must because it makes life so much easier in the beginning.
Looking for an apartment in Paris especially as a foreigner is no easy task. I’ve heard so many horror stories from so many different bloggers about landlords rejecting them because their parents weren’t french or because they didn’t speak the language. (See why speaking french is so important?) While there can be no doubt that this is completely abusive and not allowed, big cities are of course going to have shady landlords lurking about the place and trying to take advantage.
The first thing you need to secure before you embark on your search for an apartment is what is called in french, un garant. This means that you need a resident in France to prove to your landlord that you can pay the rent. This rule applies less to finding accommodation in student buildings and residences but it is always important to do your research into these things before arriving.
For students or my homies out there who are ballin’ on a budget then the most important words you can know in french are the following: chambre de bonne. This is the type of apartment usually located at the top of a building and what used to be used to accommodate the cleaner. These apartments tend to be give or take 10m² in dimensions but they usually have everything you need from a kitchen to a bathroom and a bed. If you’re the type who values your own space and privacy but can’t afford your own apartment yet then this type of apartment is ideal.
Researching The Arrondissements and Banlieue
Like in any major city there are going to be some areas that are more bougie than others and obviously you are going to have to budget for this and do your research before moving. When I first came to Paris I lived in the 5eme Arrondissement which is the area of The Latin Quarter, Notre-Dame, The Luxembourg Gardens and The Pantheon. While this is among the most beautiful areas of the city, it is incredibly expensive so unless you are very lucky with your apartment then it may be a good idea to check out some of the neighbouring areas. People who are moving to Paris are always asking me for recommendations on the different Arrondissements but honestly each one is so big and so diverse that it’s hard to say which ones are no-go zones and which ones are perfectly safe. When I was checking out apartments for the first time I was looking around the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th Arrondissements because they aren’t far from the centre of the city and are very up and coming. Ultimately finding an apartment in Paris depends on luck and your determination not to give up.
The most important thing that comes before anything is to make sure that wherever you’re going to live is safe. When you are visiting different areas of the city and looking for accommodation be sure to be in tune with your gut’s response to your surroundings and the people around you. Don’t ever be coerced into signing a contract that you’re not comfortable with either. If you feel in your stomach that the situation is not right then it probably isn’t so saying no or “merci mais je vais réfléchir un peu plus,” is the perfect response to get you out of any awkward situation.
General Advice About Living In Paris
The first thing you need to do when you move here is make a french bank account. This makes employers being able to pay you so much easier and it also opens opportunities to reap the benefits given by the french state to its residents.
If you’re a student or you work part time then you may be entitled to the CAF which is a grant given by the french government that helps people with paying for their housing. This is one of the main things that you want to get sorted ASAP because it’s a monthly allowance from the french government that can go a long way. All you need is a french bank account and proof of your health insurance.
The Carte Vitale (sometimes referred to as Le Mutuel) is the french health insurance benefit which entitles you to both free healthcare and GP visits so if you’re an EU citizen or a student then it is definitely worth looking into this as soon as you get the chance because it’ll save you a lot of money in the future and plus you never know what might happen. *Touch wood.*
The Navigo is the travel card that gets you all around the city centre of Paris and even the suburbs and it is honestly going to be your best friend. Paris is not the type of city where you can walk everywhere, believe me so getting your hands on a travel card is one of the greatest investments you can have especially because there is so much to do and see in the city.
For a student the cost of the Navigo is €350 for the whole year and you can travel anywhere with unlimited journeys throughout Paris. For an adult the cost is a bit more and you have to recharge it at the start of each month but the entitlement to unlimited journeys throughout Paris remains the same.
My Experience So Far
I’m about to finish my second year studying in Paris and I definitely would be lying to you guys if I said that it wasn’t a huge mix of ups and downs. Even if Ireland isn’t so far away it can still be pretty tough from time to time to be so far away from my family. Homesickness definitely hits you the hardest during your most painful moments and there are times when living abroad can feel so isolating. And it makes perfect sense why these feelings are going to wash over you. There is nothing easy about living in a place where people have a completely different culture to you, where the language isn’t necessarily the same and where the people who have loved you and stood by you your whole life aren’t around anymore. But once you accept that breakdowns happen and they’re a perfectly normal part of the process, you can conquer anything.
I haven’t lived in Paris for that long yet but I can honestly say that I love how this city is moulding me into the strong woman I’ve always wanted to be. With each day that passes I become more and more Parisienne and honestly who wouldn’t want to be able to call themselves that? Sometimes living in a foreign city can feel like an uphill battle but the more you overcome, the more confident you become and the more you are capable of achieving in the end.
If you guys have any additional questions about moving to Paris, feel free to leave a comment below or to drop me a line over on twitter or instagram.
I really hope that this post helped you or answered any of the questions that were on your mind about moving to Paris. Thank you so much for reading as always and I’ll see you guys very soon in our next post.