I’m not going to sugar coat Paris in this post, because enough people have done that before me. Instead, I’ll be honest, tell you about my personal experience, and try to answer the questions that I have gotten the past year I’ve lived here.
Why did you decide to move to Paris?
I had always known that I would move to France one day, ever since I started learning French in middle school. There was something about the beautiful language and the hidden culture, that revealed itself more and more the more you learnt, that caught my interest. It also helped that I had discovered St Tropez, Nice, Cannes, Camargue, Biarritz, Arcachon and Paris, of course, on holidays with my family. However, it was only when I started looking into American universities after the IB that I realized I wasn’t ready to leave Europe, and that The American University of Paris(AUP) was the place for me.
What do you do in Paris?
I study International Business & Administration at AUP, and I’ve also taken on some part-time jobs. Last year, I gave courses in both Norwegian and English to French kids, which I will start up with again soon. I also got elected as Treasurer in the Student Government, so I’ll be working at school next semester as well.
What is the environment like at AUP?
Some will say it’s the most welcoming community you’ll encounter in Paris, and others will say it’s more like the clicks you see in Mean Girls. I think it can seem like a little bit of both, but as long as you’re outgoing, and try to meet new people(not just during Orientation Week), you will make friends for life. Sure, I have spent a lot of time with the Scandinavians(read: name of click), but because you have small classes of 15-20 with loads of different people, you hang out with people from all different nationalities just as much, and that is the most valuable thing AUP has to offer. The community is so small you will recognize most students you pass on the streets in between classes, yet it is so big it represents the entire world because of the diverse backgrounds each students come from. Most people will either have a dual citizenship, have lived in at least two different countries, or know several languages fluently before even starting their studies at AUP. And despite all our differences, we have an awesome time together.
Is it expensive to live in Paris?
Now, I answer this bearing in mind that I have lived in Norway 18 years of my life. I think food, alcohol and going to restaurants is relatively cheap. Finding a place however, is expensive. Paris is one of the most popular cities in the world, and it is pretty small. Ultimately, monthly rent is higher here than in Norway. The biggest difference perhaps, is that you would pay 5000-6000 kr for a renovated, small studio in Oslo including a washing machine, IKEA furniture and even TV and Wifi included. In Paris, you can’t expect anything except for the number of square meters indicated. Most studios in Paris are old, and you would typically find a small chambre de bonne(top-floor room where the maids used to live in old Paris) without a private toilet, for around 500-650 euros. Add another 100 euros, and you can find a decent studio that will still fit a student budget. I’ve heard New York is even more expensive, but there it is okay to live outside of Manhattan. Paris however, is quite closed off by the peripherique(highway encircling the city of Paris), and most people would prefer to live inside one of the 20 arrondissements rather than in the banlieu(suburbs). That way, you’re almost guaranteed to get anywhere in 30 minutes by metro, and you can get home easily with a cab no matter how late you go out.
Which arrondissements are good to live in?
I could do an entire post about the differences in the arrondissements of Paris, because it is like 20 different cities within a city. Still, some people prefer the 15th and 16th arrondissements because they are typically calm, close to the Eiffel Tower and AUP, and safer than the 18th, 19th and 20th arrondissements. There’s always more people in the 18th-20th, and I’ve had several friends who got robbed there. But then again, that can happen in Champ de Mars(the parc by Eiffel Tower) too. I prefer the more lively areas, because the 16th is pretty dull at night, so I’m moving to the Marais(3rd) this year where there’s a bunch of restaurants and bars I can’t wait to try out, and there is still a cosy ambiance in the area.
Where do you look for a place?
If you’re considering studying at AUP, get help from the university. They have loads of contacts with apartments cheaper than the general market, so it’s worth trying out first. Then you have the agencies that are happy to help English speakers, typically Lodgis and ParisAttitude. I would highly recommend seloger.fr though, because they normally have at least ten new studios per day. I found my place using an agency that advertised a place there, and once you get in touch with the agency it is easy to fix a rendez-vous. You have to be able to go and see the place though, both for your own good and for them to verify that you’re a real person. My experience is that you should call them, not email. I sent about thirty emails without responses, but once I started calling they were happy to help. Welcome to France.
What do you need to have when looking for an apartment?
Money for the deposit, agency fee and first months rent, plus documents indicating who you are(passports) and what you’re going to do in Paris(study/work). If you’re a student, they would normally require you to show your parents’ past paychecks as well, but even some agencies don’t accept that when the parents aren’t French tax payers. In that case, move on to the next apartment you find interesting. And try to get in touch with every single potential one, before they are taken, which often takes less than a week.
Should you live alone or with someone?
I got this a lot when I was back home over summer, and it’s really just up to the individual. In Norway, it’s easier to find a big flat with several bedrooms to share, but in Paris you find a lot more studios for one. I thought it was fine to live alone the first year, and since we spend so much time around university and going out during weekends, I think it’s nice to have those few moments during the week alone. Or with Netflix. Same thing.
Do you speak French, and is it hard to learn?
I don’t speak French fluently, but I can make myself understood in most situations. Ordering food, signing bank contracts, meetings with agencies, giving courses, helping people on the streets, asking for help myself and other every-day things normally go just fine, and then I improve every time I fail. Bars are a great place to get better, so I think every person only speaking a few words should start there. It’s not easy to learn, but if you learn the basics through courses back home or here in Paris, and take initiative yourself, you’ll have a much easier time. Those refusing to learn the language are basically shooting themselves in the foot, because it’s still a city where the people are proud of their language and culture. Their going to appreciate your effort no matter how little you speak, and once you continue making efforts by reading the newspapers, speaking to French people and believing you can learn it, you will.
Paris is not for the lazy daisy , and the bureaucracy, the language and the living standard will test you. But despite and because of it all, I’m in love with this city.