Paris – one of the world’s most glamorous cities, culturally rich and diverse with a wide range of gorgeous architecture and many charming narrow street to explore. Parisians have a high quality of life, and their days tend to be focused more around family than work – it’s easy to see why expats would be tempted to take a position in the French capital!
Emergency Services: 112 (Pan-European emergency number; can be used from any phone, anywhere in the European Union in emergency sitations)
Currency: Euro (€), subdivided into 100 cents
Visas and Healthcare
Before you can get a long-term visa you must provide proof that you have health insurance – even if you’re on a Schengen visa you have to prove $40,000 worth of coverage. If you work in France for over 70 days, however, you also have access to the national healthcare system – into which you will pay out of your wage, but many people still choose to take out health insurance as you may be subject to medical expenses which would later be reimbursed. Even the public health care, however, is excellent.
Finding somewhere to Live
There aren’t really specific expat areas, so just treat finding a home in the same way you would in your own country – what sort of amenities are important for you and your family? Do you want green space? Good public transport links? Access to good schools and hospitals? You may well have to sacrifice on living space to get everything you want at the price you can afford, so it’s worth going further out of town if you are really keen on having a large place. The further into Paris you get, the more people you’ll be competing with for each property – but for this competition you’re likely to find somewhere full of beautiful Parisian charm – many of the apartment buildings are period properties.
Navigating the bureaucracy; a lesson in patience
There is a lot of bureaucracy to deal with in France – expect quite a long wait for anything official to get done. It could take up to around 9 weeks to connect your internet, for example. You’ll find you end up with a huge stack of papers documenting every process in your life – so it’s best to get organised (very, very organised). The more paperwork you bring with you to France, the better, and you will find that you cannot sort out lots of things before you arrive – for example opening a bank account is nigh on impossible from overseas.
Navigating the city itself
Unlike the bureaucracy, Paris itself is very easy to get around. 20 numbered districts and fantastic public transport (including the bike sharing Velib and 300 metro stations!) mean that owning a car is really not an essential in Paris. If you do decide to drive, note that it’s a legal requirement to carry a breathalyser when driving in France!
Speak French, at least a little
The French will really appreciate it if you at least attempt to learn their language. In fact, you may find Parisians can be quite rude if you don’t make an effort – but this will all change when you start speaking even broken French! There are plenty of evening classes you can attend, and your efforts will be well-rewarded even if your French isn’t brilliant.
The French are probably the most passionate nation in the world when it comes to food. If you don’t like wine and cheese, don’t go. Just kidding, even if you’re a teetotal vegan, still go – but be prepared to navigate a whole lot of cheese and wine. Realistically, as in any major European city it's easy to find any cuisine at any budget, but do try French dishes as they tend to be rich and delicious.
French people are friendly and generous on the whole. If you meet someone, you may find yourself being cooked dinner by them in their own home – and with dinner comes wine and conversation. If you speak English, consider joining in with an expat group activities, or if you speak French there will be a wide variety of groups available to you (e.g. the Accuiel Villes Francaises, which is set up to support those moving to a new city).
France is probably the most culturally rich and diverse place on earth, but don’t quote us on that. Expect music, fine food, theatre and art – immerse yourself in it all. You’ll find people are less materialistic than elsewhere in the west, and tend to be very open and willing to socialise.
France’s education system is amongst the best in the world. Private schools are often a good option for expats as many of them will provide classes in English as well as French, which can of course be very handy if your children don’t already speak the language. Paris is also home to a number of international schools, but you’ll also find the local schooling excellent.
Cost of Living
The cost of living tends to be about the same as elsewhere in mainland Europe – but of course Paris is the most expensive place to live in France. It is possible to keep costs down by attending free events – which are plentiful, and smaller, local restaurants can provide a romantic Parisian feel without breaking the bank. In comparison with London, you might even find Paris quite cheap!
|3 course meal for 2, mid-range
|Draught beer (0.5 litre)
|Loaf of bread
|Mid range bottle of wine
|Gas/Petrol (1 litre)
|Taxi (1 km)
|Rent - 1 bed, city centre