Paris Expats: What it Means to Live in FranceReading Time: 11 minutes
Last Updated on April 28, 2021
Paris Expats: What it Means to Live in France
Photo Credit: Pierre Herman
Living in France, for me as an expat, means the opportunity of a lifetime. It means growth, maturity and culture clash – but not in a negative way – rather an intertwining of cultures. It’s my American/ Texan/ Latino/ Hispanic/ millennial/ entrepreneurial/ Christian identity coalescing with the Parisian/ French/ European/ traditional/ Francophone culture and lifestyle. For me, it’s the best of both worlds, I’m not losing any part of myself, but gaining a whole other element and identity that I didn’t know I could be. I mean, my parents did name me Selene. The American version of the very French name Céline. Was it always in my destiny to one day live in France and be a part of the French community, the French identity?
Read below for what my friends describe living in France means to them. They confess what their biggest challenges were and still are throughout their France journeys.
My friends and fellow francophiles Hannah S., 29 years old and seasonal visitor has been to France every year since 2015, and Hope Curran, 25 years old and Fine Arts student at La Sorbonne, share their unique stories with me. Both have had a love with Paris and all things French since they were 12 years old. Their stories suggest that you can live in France, find community and integrate into society whether you come as a student or are a seasonal visitor. It’s what you make of your experience and time in France that matters most.
To check out the full interviews of other Expats living in France, click here. Thanks for reading and sharing!
What does living in France mean to you?
Hannah: I’ve only lived in one place pretty much my whole life, and going to Paris challenges me in a way that I’m not challenged in my everyday life. Paris is a different lifestyle, a different living situation, it’s a different language.
It forces me to be brave, it makes me live smaller and it makes me get out of my comfort zone. It makes me chase after something that I really want, but I’ve also spent enough time there that at this point, it feels a little bit like home.
Claire*: It means the representation of me and my own family, my own world.
Hope: If I’m on the train I get to see the world. Everyday you get to experience culture in a new way – have global perspective – I love the beauty of that.
People are the landscape here!
Eric: There are people from all over the world.
I just love that Paris has a way of pushing people together, in a good way.
People here are more open-minded, they can sit and have a conversation with you and they will listen to you.
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What is your biggest struggle/challenge with living in France?
Jim: Finding an apartment! I spent my entire first year in Paris subletting short-term rentals, crashing at friends’ places and even spending four months in a hotel (don’t worry, I got a sweet deal)! As a freelancer, it’s really difficult to lease an apartment because they always turn you down unless you have a full-time work contract. I found better luck through Le BonCoin and going directly through the landlords themselves rather than apartment agencies.
Hope: I came with two suitcases of my life, transition is challenging for me.
Transitioning my whole home and life and way of being into a new culture…I was suddenly an étrangère.
I probably did a lot of things wrong, honestly to try to be here – that wasn’t culturally sensitive.
Something that I learned last year after a really hard season of feeling like I really wanted to leave, when I did come out of that and finally got my resident permit renewal, I was like ‘oh, I do belong’. And then suddenly I needed to start playing the American card a bit more.
Like having that excuse, almost for being different. I can play the American-card now and I’m not ashamed of it.
A lot of me growing up was in Paris.
Hannah: Language barrier, the conversion rate. It can be really isolating and lonely. I don’t know why but if you talk to people who actually live there they will tell you the exact same thing. Paris is hard and there isn’t a clear explanation for why. Everything you do is going to be challenged somehow, getting from point A to point B is a trek.
I’m from Texas and everything is bigger in Texas. Spaces are a lot tighter in Paris.You can feel a bit claustrophobic sometimes and you have to make a big effort to make your experience worth it. At least in my experience you do.
But on the positive side, people were not as snippy as I thought. I haven’t really had a hard time with people in Paris at all, I think if you’re eager and positive and kind people are not going to be frustrated with you or roll their eyes that you’re in their city.
Eric: The housing and the visa process were so intertwined. For me and the visa I was on I wouldn’t have been able to get it without the housing. And the housing was like, we’re going to assume you’re going to get the visa, but we need to be sure you have the job. So it turns out that I was able to keep my jobs.
That’s what I’ve learned is that there are a lot of Catch-22s. You need A for B and you need B for A. And everybody has a different way of getting there.
John: Did I ever tell you about my experience in February letting someone book me a car to the airport instead of getting an Uber myself?
Last time I had to fly back to the states someone was like “oh no don’t do Uber here I know a better way” booked me a car..I went on total trust as if I haven’t traveled around the world consistently for the last 15 years
Car arrived at the airport and shows me the bill €180.
I told him I wouldn’t pay him that until the police told me to.
So we waited in front of the airport for two hours for the police to arrive.
And when they did they all were shocked at the price, but the officer said “In France, everything is a game. Today, you lose”.
Claire: Bureaucracy! In order to get an apartment contract you need a bank account, in order to get a bank account, you need a phone account, and in order to get a phone account, you need to have an apartment.
I think that in the end, the bank lady was kind enough to open up a bank account so I could get a phone and then use my bank account to get my rental contract. So she just did me a favor…
I also found Isolation was quite difficult, I found it hard to break into friendship circles with the French– and I still do. I have a few very close french friends, they are one or two. I’ve never broken into a circle of friends, so to speak. I find the French women especially very difficult to make friends with– Parisians actually– let’s be specific here.
For more French Lifestyle read:
Is ‘Emily in Paris’ Accurate? Part 1 | 7 Things the Show Got Wrong
Is ‘Emily in Paris’ Accurate? Part 2 | 7 Things the Show Got Right
How to Plan a Trip the Smart Way: 5 Tips to Plan Your Next Trip
What would you tell someone who is like you who wants to live in France/Paris?
Hope: Right now, I would say if you really want to do it, then do it. You’ll find a way even though there aren’t always answers.
Anyone can come to Paris for 3 weeks and enjoy it, but don’t feel like you have to move here. I would also say take a vision trip for 2 weeks to see what Paris is like. A lot of people can have rose-colored glasses in Paris, so I would tell them to dream big, but take your time.
I think so many people buy the one way ticket and they don’t have a plan and end up leaving.
It’s not for everyone to live here long term, sorry to say it…
Claire: Do it!
In my experience, Paris has something for everybody. I really feel like you can be a family with kids going to a local school and you’ll find a great community here. You can be a business person who’s looking for great restaurants and you’ll find that. What’s great about Paris is that there’s really something for everybody.
What is great about it that there is something great about it for everybody.
You can open up a door to whoever you are into Paris.
Eric: I would tell them if they are considering a move, go ahead and do it. Start the process, don’t do it haphazardly. Don’t be too intimidated by France or the move. It is doable. I’m proof of that, you’re proof of that. There are resources for people if they want to do it
Don’t be afraid to come here, come here to assimilate, to fit in and not complain about the differences but be excited about the differences.
Do it when you still can, not one day when you retire. If you want to be here, why put it off?
For me, I thought, ‘if I don’t do this, I’m gonna regret it’. It would be hard for me to live with myself for not trying.
What would you tell your younger self?
Hannah: Dreams are put on your heart for a reason, and doors can open for you to follow them. If you see that happen, go after it.
Jim: Take French classes earlier!
Claire: Don’t stay in Paris if it’s too challenging. I would have said pray about it.
I would have said, don’t waste my time going on dates with so many bad French men – I genuinely would have said, ‘don’t waste your time’. The things I could have done with my life, if I hadn’t dated people.
If you had known about Céline Concierge, would you recommend using our services? Would you recommend Céline ?
Hope: If I had known before I came, I would have loved help with housing especially, moving to Paris and finding an apartment. I would have used your service for housing and the visa process.
But having contact with someone in the country is super important coming in and I think that would be the most valuable thing. Just knowing there’s someone here if you have questions and not being alone and finding out about different communities that exist.
Hannah: Céline, you have so many good ideas for things to do, so having someone who has experience is helpful for pointing you in the right direction. Because you’ve already done those things and have personal experience, I trust that you know how to navigate French bureaucracy.
How can Céline Concierge help you in the future?
Hannah: If I moved there relocation services, for sure!
Accommodations, pet relocation, basic steps and tips and tricks like how to set up a bank account and which visas to apply for. All the things you need to do to get set up in a foreign country.
Would you recommend Céline Concierge services?
Hannah: Recommend for sure! I trust your expertise, I would turn to your resources and blog posts for direction.
Hope: Well, Céline I have recommended you before. I love recommending Céline Concierge– so you can take my word for it!
Because there are so many people who have asked me questions that I don’t have the capacity to answer or it’s a question that you need a professional for.
Your services are really tailored to people who want to do Paris well.
Living in France is a proven way to reinvent yourself. It’s also a wonderful place to pursue your dreams and live a wonderful lifestyle. But at the end of the day residing in France isn’t just croissants, champagne and camembert.
The struggle is real. It’s about learning a new language, lifestyle, culture and it’s about assimilation. It comes with its proper challenges and struggles, but my friends’ testimonies indicate that going through the journey is a learning process that doesn’t have to be a painful one. Their takeaways could help you get 10 steps ahead if you’re considering moving to and living in France.
By taking the advice of these expats who have bridged the France journey before you, you can likewise come to France, reinvent yourself, merge your culture, and live out that French lifestyle you’ve been aching to live.
You can do it too, but don’t convince yourself that it has to be a battle. I’m here to offer my support and be a personal resource for you. I’ve also been through what my fellow expats have been through and we can all agree that having someone to turn to who’s been through it before is a game changer.
Contact me today for your FREE 1-on-1 consultation to start the process so you can experience the Paris of your DREAMS! One of the services you may find useful is for relocation to France. Check out the full list of all my services by clicking here.
Finishing off the series, Part 5 of my Paris Expat Series is a vital interview with French immigration attorney Daniel Tostado. He discloses all the important details for you to get started with the visa process along with some essential resources. Read What Visa you Need to Move to France.
*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:
Take a coffee break in Paris with The Top 4 Best Coffee Shops in Paris
Explore the highlights of the city in this Paris 101: Landmarks & Monuments blog post
To find out more about me, your Paris concierge, you can read my blog post Why I moved to Paris
Where to Stay in Paris: A Brief Breakdown of all 20 arrondissements to discover each area in a nutshell
Céline Concierge suggests Parisian-Inspired Luxury Christmas Gift Ideas
Fall in love with Paris in December, Extraordinary Things to Do
Romance and love, My Perfect Valentine’s Day in Paris