Feb 2

10 Things I Love and Don’t Love about Living in Paris

One year! It’s been one year since we moved to Paris. I can’t believe it. Moving here was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. I’m SO glad we did it. People always ask what it is like to live here and honestly, it is better than I imagined. Not to say there aren’t hard things. Neither Paul or I speak French (we’ve picked up a little since we moved here) so that has made some things a lot more difficult. In general I’m an optimist who tends to brush over the bad parts of things so I made a list of my 10 things I love and don’t love about living in Paris. (You know, to be fair and balanced.)

10 Awesome things about Living in Paris

-Cheese. There is nothing like the quality and the variety of choices.
-Bread. Fresh warm bread is available on most streets to the average person for about 1 Euro.
-People Dress Well. Wearing yoga pants in public isn’t acceptable. You put on lipstick just to go around the corner to get bread.
-The city is beautiful. Light reflects off the white stone buildings in the most amazing ways.
-The French expect things from their government (in a good way.)
-Have you a had a croissant from the bakery first thing in the morning? It is life changing.
-People are well trained for their jobs. Even a vocation like a florist has years of training before they work.
-The French average 10 weeks of vacation a year. Americans average 3. (They got us on this one guys.)
-The Eiffel Tower sparkles. It sparkles!!!
-I feel much more supported as a mother. (There are places on the buses for moms with strollers, people will always stop to help you carry a stroller up and down the metro steps. Preschools are excellent and are state supported so they are free or cheap.)

 

10 Hard things about Living in Paris

-Washers and Dryers take forever. Really, all day.
-Dryers don’t really dry, so you have to iron everything.
-Customer Service involves power struggles and pouring out your heart about a personal drama.
-Moses’ teacher gave him a frowny face on an assignment. He’s three. (ha!)
-People feel a need to conform or “fit in” here.
-I have a hard time drinking milk that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
-They don’t let you sit on the grass at parks. (It’s so pretty and green and you can’t touch it.)
-Efficiency isn’t a thing, it takes all day to run just a few errands.
-Stores close early and have inconsistent hours.
-I have a renewed compassion for anyone who moves to a new country without speaking the language. You feel powerless.

photos by Paul Ferney

 

143 Comments

  • rae says:

    My family moved from NYC to Kingston, Jamaica and while it is very different from Paris (and NYC for that matter), I can relate to a lot of what you wrote in your pros list. As a mother, I am amazed by all the support and I help I receive…anything from being moved to the head of the line at the bank to having my groceries carried to my car. People are polite and friendly and while sorting out business can be a bureaucratic nightmare, the customer service is impeccable. Oh, and you must always look fashionable…shorts and tank tops are for the tourists.

  • rachael says:

    even the negatives feel not so negative. this really goes to show that there are amazing things and not so great things about where you’re living! i still can’t get the image from my mind of people walking down the street with a whole baguette in their hand, from when i was in paris!

  • Natalie says:

    Wow that crazy! I didn’t know all that about paris! I’ve never been. Crazy! Although your pro column seriously makes me want to go. :)

    Natalie
    http://www.projectdowhatyoulove.wordpress.com

  • laura says:

    wow that is so interesting that you don’t speak french, and moved to paris! i get nervous about visiting because i only know the most basic [if even] french. that’s so brave of you, i’m incredibly impressed! the good news is your children will probably pick it up… if only my parents had been that smart :) enjoy the ride! i would love to live abroad some day.

    retail girl

  • Congrats on your first year! It’s been fun reading along and I’m so happy for you that you got to have the experience! One of these days I hope to spend more than a few days in Paris – a month would be heaven!

  • Heidi says:

    You are so lucky to be living this life. My husband and I went to Paris in Oct of 2009 and rented an apartment for a week. I def left a piece of my heart there. Have you been to Miss Mannon? Yummy treats there!
    We also did a day trip to Reims. Very cute town and everyone was so friendly. I also love how simple and yet pulled together the French Women are. I love how they don’t wear a lot of makeup but yet know how to be classy.
    Keep enjoying the adventure,
    Heidi

  • Tillie says:

    All this makes me want to do is get on a plane and run away to paris. *Sigh*

  • Karen says:

    From San Francisco: merci!

  • Yes I am with you on the dryers … Italy is included on this one although it is getting better … :)

    I love Paris … love love Paris … a baguette with great cheeses … and the sights … I miss it.

  • linda says:

    I always felt american government don’t really care as much as other countries… With all the 10 good things you mention, I think I can live on with the 10 hard things.a

  • sobrina says:

    what a brilliant list!! i already want to move to paris, but your list (even the hard things list) makes me want to move there even more!!!

  • Zsuzsa says:

    In HUngary people are well trained for their jobs. It is normal and it have to be so. A florist is a florist, a lawyer attended law school, a doctor attended medical school. What is the problem with it? I do not understand.

    The hungarian average 4 weeks of vacation a year. I am 30 years old, I have 30 says (6 weeks) payed vacation. But I have no money for travelling and wellness and actually for holiday.

  • Tan says:

    lol oh the milk! I lived in Portugal one summer and I just couldn’t drink milk that had been sitting in the cupboard!
    I’ve heard great things regarding parental and familial benefits in France. My fiance plan to move to Europe in a couple years and France is on the list of maybes. Perhaps Paris!

  • I love everything on your love list – great compilation! I was a little confounded by what you meant about the need to “fit in” but after reading the comments, I see where you are coming from. I’ve had two kids in the French education system for 5 years now and I do worry about what the school system will do to them moving forward – it’s definitely not as encouraging and rah-rah cheerleaderish as my schools back in the US.

    The problem for me is more so that being different, thinking differently, “drawing outside the lines” is not encouraged or appreciated here. Things must be done in a certain way and if you get creative about it, you will be slapped down. I recall when I was applying for business insurance and because I am not in a standard business model, it took me a long time to find a company that could offer me the coverage I needed. I was met with lots of no’s, we don’t do that, etc. My French husband said to me, “What do you want? These people are trained to ask you a series of questions, they need to tick off their little boxes, and if you don’t fit into one of those boxes, they don’t know what to do with you.” For me this was the epitome of the explanation of the French in general and this idea has stayed with me ever since – it explains a lot whenever those “No’s, we can’t do that” pop up in any aspect of life!

  • Peggy says:

    Loved your list of ten best and ten worst……and totally related…..especially to not knowing the language but the good outweights the bad!…….moved to Spain when my children were 5 and 14 and the best part was the wonderful experience for my children….it changed their lives forever in a very positive way…….children’s minds are like sponges and they pick up languages very easily.

  • Vanessa says:

    I love this! So honest from both the pro and con side! The cons seems pretty rough but the pros seems AMAZING! :)

  • Leah says:

    I moved from New York to Tel Aviv to be with my boyfriend, and I think it took two years to adjust… actually maybe I still am adjusting. Yes, there is nothing like moving to another country and hardly speaking the language to feel powerless and dependent. But it is also exciting, challenging, and ultimately I hope makes me smarter and stronger. Also, after the move, the world just seems smaller… (in a good way :-)

  • I moved to Amsterdam 1.5 years ago and agree wholeheartedly with this post. There are some incredibly charming aspects to living abroad but then sometimes I miss the ‘American way’ of doing things — fast fast fast. Imagine if Target existed here, I would get so many errands done in one stop! But no its first the pharmacy… then the grocery store… then this, then that!

    Good luck and enjoy life abroad!! It’s so great!

    x
    Jeanelle

  • Caddy says:

    A lovely list, I was in Paris last November and happened to be on top of the tower as it sparkled that was a treat to see. Two nights later we went to Trocadero to watch it sparkle from a distance and I so agree with you on how the white marble makes everything pretty.

  • Katherine says:

    This is a great post. Thanks for your honesty. It seems to me that that pluses far outweigh the minuses. I feel the same way about living in Belgium (for 10 years now). I am self-employed and work part time; there is no way I would be able to have the same set-up in the US as I would not be able to afford health care. The US is great for cheap consumer goods, but fails to provide basic services for its citizens (such as health care, publicly funded child care, a social safety net), IMHO. I see what you mean about conformity, but I think the US has the opposite problem. There is a cult of the individual, to the detriment of society as a whole. The tax rates for the wealthy in the US are risible. And when no one wants to contribute to society (mainly through taxes), the result is decaying public services and increased privatization, which hurts the middle class. My husband, who is Belgian, always says the strength of Belgium is its middle class. That’s why I’ll stay in Europe, for the foreseeable future. I could go on and on on this subject, but I’ll stop now :)

  • Delphine says:

    Jordan,
    Go and take your kids to the “Buttes Chaumont” in the east of Paris. I know it is far away from the 7th arrondissement where you live, but it is a real wonderful park where you can run on the grass!
    I am a Parisian girl, and am as sad as you are for these stupids forbidden things as sitting on the grass.
    The cute “Jardin de Belleville” is also a “free sitting place” park, and the view on Paris is beautiful. Ok, far away also…

  • Beaula says:

    Hey Jordan, thanks for your post on moving abroad. My boyfriend, two dogs and I just moved to Cornwall, England 3 weeks ago. Im quickly learning the bad and the good! Before we moved it was really reassuring to read you and your sister’s blogs about moving abroad. I can’t complain much as I don’t have kids!

  • Vivi says:

    I have been living in Paris with my french boyfriend for some time and I can so relate to most of your list! Even though I learned speak the language I still had hard time getting me understood sometimes, etc.

    I’m actually from Finland and currently we’re living here. It’s funny how both me and my bf have noticed that we behave and dress slightly differently in here than in Paris- for example, he just got a pair of red jeans in here, and he said to me: “They’re cool but I can only wear them here. In Paris I just can’t.” Me too, I have some clothes that I feel I can only wear here or over there! It’s quite funny, actually.

    Nevertheless, we were just speaking about Paris and all the places and things we miss from there… And it made a long list, so it’s really worth it to have that “Paris experience”!

  • Hi Jordan,

    I’m french and parisian and i think you 100% about averything.
    But I don’t undersatnd the milk thing could you please explain ?
    And FYI, i don’t put lipstick to go to the bakery, or to bring my kid to school, i wear sweat pants and uggs, and i’m the only one in that case, i think maybe i should live in LA ! :)

  • I meant 100% right of course

  • It was really fun to read this post, especially because I’ve been living in New Caledonia for a year now (as expats), and even though it has NOTHING to compare to Paris (this is a “Survivor” island) there are lots of similarities due to the french culture. I agree, I think I’ve never eaten so many croissants in my life, and my husband can’t resist the croissant au chocolat et aux amandes every morning at 5.35 am!
    My washer takes 2 1/2 hours, but I found a setting that does the job in 30 min so that’s what I’ve been using, and here you hang your clothes to dry, which I wasn’t used to, and I’ve been having difficulties to adapt to the stiffness of the clothes, especially the towels, nothing like a warm soft towel!
    And being a tropical island you would expect lots of fruits and veggies, but the case is quite the contrary, though I can find so many different fancy cheeses is ridiculous!
    And I’ve been having the same problem with milk here, we are used to fresh milk in Canada and having to drink UHT milk is really not fun.
    Thanks for sharing this post, I really enjoyed it ;)

  • agathe says:

    funny list ! we often have 5 or 6 week of vacation, but the rest of your list is really great! (I’m french, you understood …)

  • irene says:

    I’ve been to Paris several times and lived in France and I love it. SO much that I’m dating a French guy hehehehe
    But it’s true they close the shops too early, in Spain it’s later and shcedules are completely different.
    They dress … amazing. I can’t never look like that even if I try for hours and they do it in a second. I hate that!

  • Alyse says:

    As an American family of 4 (2 toddlers) living in Northern Italy we really loved your lists! Thanks for sharing your insight–it is appreciated and makes us feel like we’re not alone!

  • lily says:

    I can totally relate to the love/hate after living in Holland for two years. Those inefficient washing machines drove me completely crazy (who would have thought!)

  • Cora says:

    one question: why don’t you try to learn french¿? don’t you need it for your job??
    no offense, but it may seem kinda selfish to live in a non English speaking country and expect everybody make the effort to speak your own language. don’t you think?

  • Great post – I really enjoyed it! I’m amazed at how you’re coping without speaking much French.

  • Insomnia says:

    I moved to Belgium 10 years ago, it was hard, but I was in my teens. So I learned the language very fast. Good luck to you!

  • Jennifer says:

    I just stumbled on your blog and love it! I so want to go visit Paris and will be reading along about your adventures. Have a croissant for me!

  • Christine says:

    I can very much relate to this post. I’ve been in Berlin over a year now and still struggle with the love/hate thing. Should definitely make a list to remind me of the good things for those bad days :)

  • nadia says:

    Oh the cheese! oh the dryers tell me about ( jeans are the worst)
    it would be great to get a list of a Parisian living in NY or SF
    would be a fun read!

  • Yes…the always dressing up would be tough, but if I’m going out to buy great cheese, probably worth it!

  • jacqui says:

    Oh you hit the nails on their heads with the cons! I am laughing out loud, all so true. Having lived in Paris for 6 months as a college student, I can corroborate every one. I lived at the Union Chretienne de Jeunes Filles (like YWCA). Oh lord those old broads were something else!
    And yet I still long to return. My favorite city on earth.

  • Molly B says:

    I lived in the South of France for 19 months. I miss it so much and I want to go back and live there again. When I first arrived, my French was poor, I thought the people were rude, I ran from the stinkiest of cheeses and the milk really bothered me.
    By month 19 I was fluent in French, I came to realize that the french aren’t rude, (you just have to show them that you are trying very hard to learn their language and you don’t want to Americanize them. Our loud boisterous ways tend to overwhelm them.) I would also only eat the stinkiest of cheese and when I arrived back home, American milk tasted so weird and was difficult to digest, it literally took me years to get used to.
    Have you been using one of the dryers that you have to empty out water half-way through the cycle and it basically makes the room a sauna? I got really good at finding places to hang laundry to dry in my apartment. I did meet a lot of people who ironed everything. Maybe I didn’t realize it was because they had to!
    Have you noticed that small children have better grammar and are easier to understand than adults?

  • Megan Flowers says:

    I lived in San Francisco for 5 years in my twenties. Originally from Los Angeles. I found getting errands done in that city such a hassle (more navigational wise though) so I imagine if you say Paris is tough it must be really tough!
    YES! a fresh baked croissant in the morning is life changing!!! When my husband and I were in Paris we got up before sunrise (jetlag) and walked to the Notre Dam. We got a croissant and baguette for our walk. It was amazing! We still talk about it 4 years later. That was one of the best mornings of my life. Sitting there waiting for the church to open eating our goodies on a Paris spring morning = Magical!!!

  • Rachel says:

    I enjoyed this post so much, and it was interesting for me to read, as I live in both London and Northern France (not Paris, but I am familiar with Paris), but I’m moving to California for a year later in the year. It was an interesting perspective switch, and reminded me of a lot of the things I love about France! Also, I feel you on shop hours, working out where things are open in my village is a total nightmare!

  • kelley says:

    Paris is a totally amazing city and somewhere i think everyone should visit.
    I went once in my 20’s and we walked on the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower. The police/security was yelling at us and blowing his whistle. we were completely clueless as in the USA the parks are for walking in, not going around. And the grass was so pretty and green (obviously that is how the keep it that way-NO WALKING ON IT!). Truly i felt like we were those “silly, stupid Americans”.
    kelley

  • Judy G says:

    Hi Jordan,

    Love your feelings about living in Paris. I have traveled quite a bit around Europe and find the language barriers challenging yet exciting! I love, love, love the European way of life, but one thing – schools are not free – they are paid for with extremely high tax rates.

  • Marion M says:

    Hi Jordan,
    This is funny how you describe Paris ! I agree with a lot of things. It’s true that when I came to US as a tourist, I really missed the bread ! About the dryers, do you mean that in US they are faster? Again, I’m so pleased that you be in Paris. <3
    :) Marion

  • Marija Taraba says:

    Where do you go for picknick ( as you wrote before) if you can not sit on grass…confused??

  • Audrey G says:

    well i have to tell you that the average in france is more 5 or 6 weeks of vacation ! but still it is very nice ! i would love to move to san francisco for myself !

  • carole says:

    Dryers still don’t dry? What is the deal with that? It was true when we lived in England 20 years ago when they were first introducing dryers to the market. I just assumed it was a glitch they would get worked out. Do they not get it? Do they lack the power to run all those dryers? It would be truly revolutionary to their way of life if they could make dryers work.

  • Elena says:

    I agree! Thank you for this post! It makes me feel like I’m not alone! :)

  • I must know…..can it be possible that the Parisian croissants are more life changing than those fresh from Tartine? Because those have changed my life for the better!

  • I totally understand so many of these from living in Germany, which makes me wonder how similar the two cultures are. I wrote a whole blog just about Germany if you want to see: germanyfromanamericanperspective.blogspot.com

    As for the grass restriction, Germans say that grass is for dogs to poo on, so that’s why it’s off-limits.

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