Paris Expats: Why Move to Paris?Reading Time: 14 minutes
Paris Expats: Why Move to Paris?
Photo Credit: Vitoria Beatriz Fetter
If you could just pack up your bags today, would you move to Paris? Why have so many others done just that? People’s general idea of Paris is that it’s the City of Love, and oh so romantic with la vie en rose persona with an emancipated Parisian lifestyle, but are the clichés about it true and is it really an ideal place to live?
What I do know is that it’s a place where you can be whoever you choose to be– whether that’s an artist, intellect or dreamer.
My friends share their reasons for moving to Paris and their first impressions in these snippets taken from their insightful interviews. No one person has the same reason or the same path to getting here.
The two full interviews I’m sharing in Part 2 are a juxtaposition of a seasoned expat turned French national Jim Le, 38 years old, and a musician and France newcomer, John Arndt, 33 years old. No matter the motive or the manner you arrive at the sparkling City of Light, Paris seems to have something for everyone as it attracts every type of person, whether you’ve been hundreds of times, or you’re taking the leap to move to Paris after the 1st visit!
What was your first impression of Paris?
Claire*: This is one of the clearest memories of my life. So I landed in Paris and I got my bags and I got into a taxi and I gave the address, in Montmartre, of the apartment I was renting with some girls. And I remembered driving down the highway and arriving in a north exit of the highway, near St. Ouen.
And as we came over a bridge and off the highway there was a big tree– it was in September, it was the nice time of year and it was warm– and behind the tree I saw Sacré Cœur and I just started crying because I felt so happy to be in France and I felt like it’s where I should be. I had this sensation of like ‘I’m home’, just from the taxi ride!
Hope: What shocked me the most was– when I came here as a 22 year old to move here, I came with the emoji heart eyes, the ‘Ah, Paris!’ and it was January- winter.
Winter is really hard for me as a Californian– and the lack of sunlight– it was really hard for me. In the winter, Paris is hard.
Hannah: Surprised by how dirty it is…it’s not pristine the way that you think it is, like real people live there, it’s a very real place… At the time, the trash men went on strike, which is apparently a very big part of French culture, so that was pretty funny. I guess I didn’t realize how rebellious the people are…
I was also surprised by how transient it is. People there are in and out so much that I think that it was a little more challenging to connect than I hoped it would be. You come into it with your expectations so high that almost anything that you say that was outside of what you expected would be slightly more negative just by the fact that it’s a real place.
Eric: Paris was intimidating the first couple of days…but after my third or fourth day the sun came out and I was able to walk around more and I thought ‘ok, this is what I was expecting’. Little by little I relaxed and I started feeling more comfortable, truly absorbing where I am, what am I experiencing here?
After a week, I didn’t want to leave. It really grew on me. It felt like possibility, opportunity. Not feeling hemmed in by things that I had constructed for myself. What life is supposed to look like or what life is going to look like. Saying to myself, ‘Oh wait life can be different, it can feel different’.
You can tell and feel it by the pace, it’s not New York, its not this hustle bustle place.
John: It’s an amazing city, it’s a historic city. But for the people that live in Paris– it’s really important to them that they always leave room for life and do what they value and enjoy any given day. Whether it’s going to see something beautiful or spending time in cafes or parks…but the part that I’m really interested in is experiencing Paris for plugging into the beauty and the inspiration and the culture of it.
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Why did you visit or move to Paris?
Daniel Tostado, immigration attorney in France expresses, “I generally say there are four main ways of entering France: through work, through love, through studies or through the visitor status.”
Jim: I studied Media Arts (aka Film Production) and French, so having degrees in both, I figured Paris was the perfect fit for someone like me!
I also always wanted to shoot a film in Paris, and I did so with the 2012 short film “L’Americain” about a young, reserved Parisian who takes in a mysterious American backpacker for a few days. It was to illustrate the inadvertent effects we have on the people we come across with and the lasting impressions they can leave on us. I’m also a fan of French New Wave, so I wanted to do an homage to that.
Hope: I came when I was 16 to be a nanny for 3 weeks. And I studied abroad with UC Berkeley in 2014, that’s when I said, yeah I want to be in Paris.
I wasn’t running away, but I was running towards a freedom here that I don’t experience in America, specifically, because of the culture of “go-get-it-ness” that’s like ‘oh, you should get a job and get married and buy a house’. And I think in Paris there’s not that timeline here. Things just happen later in life for people here or there’s accessibility to education so you’re not in student debt.
I think I really did come because I really felt God calling me here. And I have a heart for artists and I am an artist. And this is a place where artists gather throughout history…
Seeking freedom as an artist and acceptance and belonging. It really is a place for artists to belong.
Hannah: I’ve always been a Francophile, probably since I was 12 years old. I took my first introduction to the language and I immediately fell in love and growing up I had entertained the idea of being a foreign exchange student…
I was lucky enough to know somebody in school who lived in Paris and wanted to work with me on a short film, so that gave me the opportunity to go and do something that I loved in the city that I’ve always wanted to visit.
And it really helped having a friend there because it made something that seemed impossible really possible.
Now I’ve been 5 times since 2015. I’ve spent 6 months of my life in Paris! I usually come about once a year in the spring, late summer or fall.
Eric: I started to find myself daydreaming. I had a good job, I had good friends, I was a homeowner, and yet I still felt dissatisfied. Like this isn’t exactly what life was supposed to look like. But wait, if I want it to look different, no one is going to make that happen, it has to be me. Allowing myself to think where I want to move, where I want to be, suddenly opened up the possibilities. If I can move across town or across country, I can move across the world.
I started realizing that the times that I felt the most at peace and the most at home was when I was in Paris. Something about being here.
I had studied French, I have a basic knowledge of the language. After my first trip in France, I decided to continue studying French…
It took a couple of years of soul searching and figuring out ‘what do I want to do, where do I want to be?’
For me it felt like a God thing. As a person of faith, I try to honor God with what I do, and so over time I felt like it was something I wanted to do and something that God wanted me to do.
John: To have more days to experience with beauty. To wake up everyday and be able to say, ‘I can’t believe I get to live here.’
It’s the first time in my life I’ve felt lucky to live somewhere.
So when I was living in Minneapolis, I never woke up in Minneapolis and said, ‘I am so lucky to be here’. No! But here, all the time I look out and I go, ‘oh my god, this is my life, I can do this. This is the thing that is actually possible.
To be able to live in that frame of mind and to make things in that frame of mind, that is really important to me and I feel like Paris is a good zone for that.
In Paris, I’m always a little afraid and just trying to soak things up because it’s a new situation. I like that, just by living here, I will be expanded over time. Every time I go out it’s sort of a learning experience.
When I got to Paris–It’s so cheesy, but when the Eiffel Tower Sparkles every night, I have this feeling of beauty. It starts with a feeling. My hope about moving to Paris was that I would make more time to make beautiful things just for the sake of making beautiful things.
Claire: I moved to Paris in 2009, I had just turned 23. I got accepted to the Jacque Lecoq acting school. It’s a school that is based on the poetry of the body. And this is what I wanted to study because I wanted to connect to my body.
When I arrived, I basically left my whole life behind in Australia – my boyfriend at the time, my family, I arrived in Paris and I barely spoke any French and I knew nobody.
I planned to be in Paris for one year, but it has now been 11 years.
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Photo Credit: Mahkeo
What do you love about Paris?
John: Like the smallness of it, I like the fact that the buildings are not built super high. Like you can see the sky.
That feeling like I’m in the center of a great city and can see the sky is readily available to me. I like that there are beautiful sculptures. There is room for all these beautiful things.
Hannah: There is nothing like a croissant from there for a single Euro. I love that the Eiffel Tower sparkles. I love the architecture, I love that everything is mostly cohesive, you feel like you’re in a snow globe.
Also, the air there is just Paris. Like I know when I step out of a taxi and I’m in Paris. I can feel it in the air. I can smell it in the air– you can smell the bread… I don’t know it’s just charming in all the ways you would imagine it would be.
All the cliches about it are true. And they’re actually made more rich by the fact that it’s real than anything else. I think I was pleasantly surprised by how accurate all the cliches were.
One of my first weeks in Paris, I saw this kid in a striped shirt with an armful of baguettes. And I was out of my body, so thrilled! Another thing that I love is that you can drink on the streets there. All the basic enjoyments in Paris are all super simple. It’s simple things like eating and drinking and being with people, and picnics and walking…
That lifestyle is really pleasant.
Jim: The food! Bread, cheese, charcuterie, pastries, wine… Also love the Haussmannian architecture – that never gets old.
Hope: I came up with the term “gold dipping”. I love gold dipping in Paris. You’ll be walking, even at night, and the streets are gold. You’re just walking and drinking in this magic feeling of the city… There’s just gold everywhere and you can kind of dip your fingers in it.
Not every day is like that, but there are just moments like that where you can find… and as an artist I wanna be surrounded by beauty. And so Paris is the place that I feel the most surrounded by beauty other than nature.
Also, experiencing culture in a whole new way and having a global perspective living in a city and I think people are the landscape here.
Claire: I love the authenticity of the French… I was very drawn to the revolution spirit. I love the French revolution and the people really claimed back their rights. And I find that spirit very present in the French people.
I love the cakes.
I love that as an artist you can live and live well… I think France opens up so many opportunities for people to be independent workers and to be artists. At the same time you can’t grow as an independent business if you’re a small business– and this is a problem. As a student as an artist and a small business owner you can really live your life.
I love the beauty of the city, with architecture that dates back older than my actual birth country.
Eric: I loved that I didn’t get in a car for a week. Within five minutes I was at an incredible restaurant or historic sight or a hidden little park- there’s so much to see when you walk out your front door.
There is so much packed within one kilometer, there’s not one grocery store, there’s not one boulangerie, or one cafe, there are dozens of then hundreds of them and you experience so much within that little radius. It’s almost overwhelming, but in a good way…
I feel like I’m a part of history. And here is where so much has happened and I like that, I feel like I’m a part of that.
If you had known about Céline Concierge, would you recommend using our services? Would you recommend Céline ?
Jim: I would have needed help finding an apartment as a freelancer. I had a lot of trouble finding a place.
Back then there weren’t a lot of concierge services like that. I didn’t even know that those kinds of services existed. So if I had known that there was a service like that, I would have taken upon myself to find a place to live because I was struggling. I think I was looking everywhere.
Even French people, they have a hard time finding a place to live. It’s not just expats. It’s a universal problem for everyone. It’s a competition, it’s a war.
How has Céline Concierge helped you in that past?
John: I couldn’t believe that getting a piano was possible, I thought it was going to be the deal breaker for the apartment. I thought the owner was going to say there’s no way you’re going to get a piano in there.
Turns out there’s Celine Concierge who is able to take care of all the details for the piano. Looked up all the different piano options, interfaced with the stores, got me all the pricing, and made sure the piano got moved in and was intact. And so I arrived with the piano that I needed that was beautiful, ready to go.
It felt like a miracle.
Would you recommend Céline Concierge in the future?
John: Yes, unequivocally. You made everything so much easier for me, especially the first week or so moving in. In what can be a very lonely and confusing and isolated experience, just knowing that I had someone who could help me figure out any detail that confused me at any point…you made such a huge difference.
Anyone that does anything in the realm of what I’m doing now, I couldn’t recommend working with you more.
As you can see, Paris attracts people from all walks of life. First impressions of visiting or moving to Paris are mixed, to say the least. No matter their experience or approach to getting to Paris, these dreamers all have one thing in common– that was to go to Paris.
If you fantasize about walking the cobble stones streets, drinking wine on the terrace of a Parisian cafe and building a life in France, you aren’t alone!
Yet, one thing to be aware of is that dreaming about living in Paris is one thing, while doing it is quite a different story.
Rest assured though, it is 100% possible as these people are proof of that, but moving to and living in Paris comes with many challenges and red tape for foreigners. That’s why I want to tell you that if you, like my friends, dream of getting to Paris, don’t wait.
Contact me today for your 1-on-1 consultation to start that journey. One of the main services that I provide is for relocation to France. You can check out the full list of all my services by clicking here.
*Name is changed for personal reasons.
Check out the other parts of the series:
We explore the idea of an expat and what motivates people to move to Paris.
There’s an introduction to the 6 friends I interview throughout this series.
We’ll dive into first impressions and why they moved to Paris along with what they love about the place.
Full interviews with Jim Le, a seasoned expat turned French national & John Arndt, a musician and France newcomer.
We’ll cover how people move to Paris and what lessons they learn from living here. We examine learning the French language and what their biggest frustrations are.
Full interviews with Claire A*., an entrepreneurial drama therapist & Eric Davis, a design professional in the construction industry
We’ll continue to explore the challenges and struggles of living in France. I also ask what they would tell their younger selves if they had the chance.
Full interviews with Hannah Smith, a seasonal visitor and digital nomad & Hope Curran, an art student attaining her master’s degree.
Finally, you won’t want to miss this detailed interview with my friend and immigration attorney Daniel Tostado.
He gives us an insider’s scoop on the different Visas to be able to move to France and ways to apply.
Full Interview with Daniel Tostado, immigration attorney in Paris.
For more insider secrets check out:
6 Mistakes Expats in Paris Want You to Avoid for the best advice on how to live in Paris
Coronavirus Quarantine: 10 Things to Help you Deal and ideas for productivity
Coronavirus: Is Travel to Europe Possible in 2020, your guide on how to stay proactive with your travel plans this year
The Best Things to do in Paris this Summer (that are off the grid)
Discover and embrace these 10 Secret French Lifestyle Rules Revealed
Where to stay in Paris: Insider Secrets to book Luxury Apartments to discover alternatives to booking luxury hotels.
Find out what the key is to your next Parisian adventure in this blog post The Secret to Your Ideal Luxury Holiday Today