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As I prepare for my move to Paris, friends, family, and customers at the boutique I work at are constantly expressing their surprise that out of all the places to relocate to, I would choose beautiful Paris.
“We hated Paris,” my sudden advisors will tell me. “Out of all the cities we visited in Europe, our least favorite was Paris. The people are rude! They called us ‘snobby Americans!’ I don’t understand why you’d move to a city with such nasty people.”
While there are, granted, the taxi cab drivers who will make your commutes miserable or the busy waiter that will roll his eyes at every pause you take while ordering, Parisians aren’t born hating Americans. We in the States are simply used to different standards of what vocal volumes are acceptable and how to greet someone. Neither of these cultures are necessarily better than the other. But when we visit another country, if we expect to be treated with respect, we should respect the customs on others’ turf.
Here are five simple tips to remember for your next trip to Paris to avoid meeting the “rude parisian” stereotype and maximize the overall pleasantness of your stay in the City of Lights.
Always greet the man or woman in charge. Whether this be while you’re ascending a bus, entering a boutique or perusing flea market stands, greeting the attendant or employee will guarantee you better service. Whenever someone is about to serve you, or whenever you are asking a service of someone (directions, recommendations, etc.), it’s an important French custom to greet the person first. Saying hello may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s so easy to forget to acknowledge the keeper of the shop when we have our eye on a cute top/rare vintage postage stamp/jar of Nutella.
Inside voices are always a good idea. If you’re looking to minimize the amount of brash rudeness you’ll experience on your Paris trip, the reality is that you may have to make an effort to lower your speaking voice, your footsteps, and your general presence to minimalism. Paris is known for being a quiet city. Restaurant voices often barely transcend elevated murmurs and metro rides are silent. In the United States, we often practice the liberating custom of being able to speak as loudly as we want in public places, but practice this custom in Paris and you’ll be the victim of stink eyes and possibly pickpockets. Being respectful of others’ dining experiences and overall peace will earn you the warm smiles of others.
Give up your seat for the disabled, the elderly, pregnant women, etc…
Another highly-regarded French custom is giving up one’s seat to help the elderly, the disabled, and basically anyone who looks like they need your bus seat more than you do. Performing this act of sacrifice as soon as an elderly Parisian walks onto the metro/bus will earn you strong feelings of approval and gratitude from the rest of your bus community.
Enjoy food the Parisian way. Although ketchup bottles are becoming more and more common in restaurants across Paris, asking for a side of ketchup for your fries used to guarantee a huffy waiter. The French take their gastronomy very seriously, and asking to change a dish to include your favorite cheese from home or substitute part of a dish for another could be a serious gastronomical offense. If you want to enjoy Paris to the fullest, trust the Parisians’ tastebuds and order dishes as they are. Paris isn’t known as one of the food capitals of the world for nothing.
And, lastly, I know you’ve heard this a thousand times before, but it’s so true: Make an honest effort to start every conversation in French. Even if it’s just for asking directions or you’re frustrated because it seems that everyone is immediately responding to you in English, this little tip will give you faster service at restaurants, sincere and helpful responses from shopkeepers, and overall a more pleasant and helpful experience in a city overrun by tourists who expect every local to speak English. If you want to make the best of your trip, try to learn at least the few essential phrases, like, “Excusez-moi, où sont les toilettes?” or, “Combien coûte-ça?” I promise, you’ll be excited to practice these phrases over and over again on your trip.
Preparing to move to another country is no walk in the park.
In order to live in France, you have to overcome a variety of legal and logistical obstacles to prove your French worthiness. An example of the mundane tasks to complete includes figuring out how you’re going to continue taking your American meds, finding a roof over your head, translating important documents to French for the notorious prefecture visits and most importantly, obtain a visa.
Surprise surprise, this little treasure came TODAY in the mail!
I know it seems like just a little sticker in a book, but in fact, this visa is the symbol of my new legal life in Paris. I can live there for a whole year. HOW EXCITING.
The process for getting the visa isn’t terribly difficult. Check out your French consulate’s website for the documents you have to put together before making an appointment.
Visiting the consulate in LA was nerve-wracking. But exciting, because it was my first opportunity in a long time to see if I could speak French well enough to trick people into thinking one of my parents was French or something.
I dressed to impress, of course.
Well, my French didn’t flow as easily as I hoped; I was so nervous. But I could tell the guy processing my papers appreciated it. He even responded to me in French!!! I was flattered, but this probably wasn’t a very good idea as now I’m clueless as to the next steps I’m supposed to take with the OFII once i’m actually in France. (LOL still too flattered to care.)
Updates on My Housing Sitch, If You Care
I’ve been trying to find housing through the American University in Paris for my first semester in Paris. I ideally wanted to be with children, because I love kids and I just relate to them better than the adults in this world who are constantly wearing poker faces and miscommunicating their feelings with tricky words loaded with hidden meanings. Kids are just easy. They’re real. And they’re fun to practice the language with.
Anyhow, I finally got my housing placement today: I got placed with a French family (WOOHOO!), which is great news for my French!!! I’ll be living with a French mom and pop and their 18-year old son (oh la la) and another student at the American University of Paris. We’ll both get our own rooms and private bathrooms.
And the icing on the cake? The family’s apartment is located in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. AKA, diplomat and ambassador haven. All of Paris’ wealthiest find their homes here. It’s an absolutely stunning and totally safe area of Paris; parks abound and the Bois de Boulogne, Paris’ largest park and outdoor haven, is a few minutes away.
**Heaven is a place on earth with my home stay family…..**
T-20 days until the big move. Can’t wait. Longing and dreaming of Paris every day…
To live the dream of waking up every morning in beautiful is something worth chasing, at least to me.
But, before I go, I’ve got to secure a roof over my head and a bed for my sure-to-be-tired feet.
Finding housing options in the City of Lights can seem daunting, but have no fear. There’s a space, a nook, and a cranny for everyone who seeks housing in Paris with a determined eye and heart.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the scientific findings of my Parisian housing research.
Chambre de Bonne: Literally translated to “maid’s quarters,” this housing situation is what you’d expect from the name: very small studio-ettes located on the highest floor of apartment buildings. Very important to note: living in a chambre de bonne means you may have to share a toilet and a shower with other tenants on the floor, and that your kitchen may be a couple of hot plates. The biggest pro (ding ding ding) is the affordability of the place. You can’t beat the cost of rent for a chambre de bonne in Paris, which usually ranges around€450 to €600. So, although very small, these tiny apartments may find their way to your heart and be “home” for a student on a budget someday.
Homestay: Living in a homestay is an attractive option for a number of reasons. If you’re nervous about living away from home, a homestay situation will allow you to integrate into a family away from home. Also, homestay programs are oftentimes cheaper than finding an apartment, and you don’t need to worry about furniture and sometimes cooking, cleaning, or laundry. Also, living in a homestay can prove to be a more culturally-enriching experience than living with other people who speak your language. It’s a great option for the traveler who fully wishes to immerse him or herself in another culture and language, and I guarantee you will pick up the language more quickly than if you were living with English-speaking roommates. If you become close enough with your host family, they may invite you out to participate in activities or trips (woohoo!). You can also check out my article on how to have an excellent homestay experience for tips.
The negative aspect to a homestay is, of course, you lose a large chunk of your independence. You are subject to the rules of a family that’s not your own, which may include curfews, house rules, etc. Also, you will have to make an active effort to meet other English-speaking travelers if you would like to make fellow expat contacts. This can be done easily, however, through language or academic classes, Meetup groups, and websites dedicated to organizing expatriate events (like Expatica). If I can give you one piece of advice to kick off your homestay to a great start: please don’t forget to bring a gift/token of appreciation for the family.
To enroll in a homestay program, ask your school or university first if they have homestay placement services. This is a great option as usually the institution has partnerships with certain families that are known to be safe and have provided excellent experiences to other students.
Larger/Shared Apartments: If you’re studying abroad through a university/college/language school, usually these institutions will offer to place you in either apartments with shared roommates or by yourself. Contact your university when you’ve decided which option best suits you.
There are reasons, however, not to go through university housing placement services. I, for one, would rather live with French-speaking girls my own age as opposed to American gals. Nothing against my people–I’d just rather be exposed as much as possible to the French language and culture as possible. As foreigner trying to find your own apartment, you have a couple of options:
Classified Ads:Fusac, Pap, and SeLoger, and even Craiglist for Paris all have classified ads of Frenchies trying to rent out space. You deal directly with other people in coming to an agreement, which may require French language capabilities.
Apartment Listings: These websites are exclusively focused on listing apartments for sale in France. Examples include French Century 21, Paris Rental, and Lodgis.
Vacation/Long-Term Rental Agencies: Some agencies provide a certain selection of apartments that are usually fully furnished. You can take a look at the apartments that these agencies list on their websites (check out Paris Rental for long-term rentals and Perfectly Paris for Paris Chic-certified short term rentals).
Word of Mouth: Got a friend or family member who lives in Paris? If they can ask around for you, they may be able to find an apartment with other Parisians, allowing you to skip the roommate search process.
Home Swap: Ever watched the movie “The Holiday?” Well, home swapping is actually a reality for many people who want a break from their own country or lifestyle. Although it may be a long shot that someone will want to give up their apartment for an extended period of time, it may be worth checking out the Parisian Craigslist every so often to see if someone wants to swap their chic and furnished apartment for your home for several months. The best part is it’s totally free housing without giving up your home elsewhere.
An example of a fully-furnished apartment you can rent through Perfectly Paris.
In case you were wondering where I will be seeking a roof over my head for the fall, I’ve decided on the homestay option.
It makes sense for me: I’m moving to Paris to hopefully one day secure a job in this beautiful city, and with this dream comes the possibility of settling down and having a family. It would truly benefit me to see the French family dynamic and immerse myself in the French culture as much as possible.
For others, who see Paris as more of a transient travel experience, a homestay may be a hindering option in regards to independence.
For a gal who plans to live in France for a while, however, this makes perfect sense.
I’ll be updating you on my homestay adventures to come.
Obtaining a visa to work, study, or live in another country is not easy. Many of my friends and family think I’m simply packing up my bags and getting on the next flight to Paris. Not so simple, my friends.
My goal is to live and work in France. I’ve felt a pull towards the French lifestyle, culture, food, and language since I first visited. Every province in France is magical, with their own respective cheeses and wine. Paris, gloomy as it may be during the winters, is still alluring. I love the quaintness of the people, the beauty in every carefully crafted croissant. I love the rich coffee and the way French people communicate. It amazes me, how insightful and beautifully their thoughts are crafted into language.
Before I get to live in this beautiful country, however, I must obtain a visa.
This article written by the Haven in Paris team discusses many visa routes one can take to living in Paris. For those of you interested in living in Paris someday, you’ll see that a viable option for living in a different country is taking the student-turned-work-visa route.
Living in Paris has always been a dream of mine, and if I hope to achieve this dream, I’m jumping at the possibility of a permanent residency in Pairs while I’m still a student.
I decided to study in the City of Lights to learn the language, adapt to the culture as best I can, make connections with professors and professionals working in Paris, and land an internship during my studies that will hopefully turn into a job.
If you share the dream of someday living and working in France, and you are also a student, then read on. I’m sorry, but my expertise on how to achieve the big move to Paris is limited to the long-term student route (this does not include study abroad semesters).
Moving to France as a student is complicated. I just read today in my Living Abroad in France book by Aurelia D’Andrea that the former president of France was super against immigration and tried to limit the amount of student visas issued because he thinks we’re all rich kids who just want a taste o’ dat Dom Perignon in a French discothèque for a night. And, although this may be the case for many kids my age, it’s certainly not the case for me (although I wouldn’t mind my first sip of Dom with a hot Frenchman by my side).
So, in order to make the move as a student:
1. Apply to a French institution to study something that makes sense. What would employers understand you moving to Paris for? Of course, studying in Paris by itself is an experience; your mind is opened to another culture, and you gain international experience, which is great for today’s resume. But, for example, it doesn’t make sense to move to Paris to study math or certain sciences. I applied to the American University of Paris under the major of global communications and I plan on minoring in French. This makes sense to me–I receive a more international education of global journalism, which is what I’d like to pursue, and I get to learn a valuable language skill along the way. You’ll have to do some research to determine where in France you’d like to study, whether you’d like to study at a specialized arts or language school as opposed to a more general university, and whether your education will be taught in French or English.
2. Make sure you have a passport, or renew your passport, well before you will be ready to travel. If you don’t have a passport, you can complete the forms online at the State Department website or in person at an Acceptance Facility, which includes post offices, public libraries, and government offices. All passport requests must be submitted through an Acceptance Facility, even if the forms are completed online (you must print them and submit them in person). Be prepared to take appropriate head shots for the passport and pay at minimum slightly over $100 for the processing fees.
3. Apply to Campus France. You should start the Campus France application as soon as you’ve been accepted to your school. The Campus France website has a variety of resources for prospective foreign students studying in France, like helpful tips on student housing or the legal restrictions on how much foreign students can work in France. The Campus France form is tedious and you have to provide documentation for all of your activities/transcripts, but it’s important to fill out the form with detail, as this information will be provided to the consulate when deciding whether to issue you a visa or not. I highly recommend filling out the form step-by-step with this guide for long-term students, as it provides extra directions that are SoooOOOOo USEFUL! You’ll also need to pay for a $100 money order to be sent to the Campus France offices along with your official acceptance letter from your educational institution. The entire process will take about 3-4 weeks for you to fill out the form, send over the cash monay, and have your Campus France application validated.
4. Make an appointment with your French consulate. There are 10 French consulates in the United States, not counting the French Embassy, and you can find the closest consulate to you here. You’ll want to make an appointment no more than 90 days before you leave, but try to schedule it as early as possible, as consulate appointments fill up fast in advance. You can make an appointment and find out what documents you will need to bring to your interview here. This will be the final step for applying for a visa to study long-term in France.
5. Prepare for your big move! Once you have your visa, all that’s left to do is to open a French bank account, sign up for health insurance, get an international phone plan….but fear not. Schools will oftentimes offer advice or services to help you adjust easily to your new life Paris. If your school doesn’t offer resources to do so, these arrival sheets provided by the Campus France website discuss step-by-step what you’ll need to prepare before arriving to France and once you’re moved in.
Oh, and throughout all this time, you should be brushing up on the language. It may seem daunting if your only knowledge of French is “Voulez-vous couchez avec moi ce soir?” But you’re moving to a different country, and you should be ready to adapt to the French culture when you’re out to dinner, buying groceries, or at the doctor’s office. Check out my article on U lala to read about some FUN & AWESOME mobile apps that help you learn languages in a SNAP. xx
Welcome to the blog that's on the pursuit of everything Paris Chic. I'm Ariana, a multimedia journalist based in Paris. Read more about me here.