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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

 

  1. Dawn

    February 3, 2012

    Drinking milk that doesn’t need to be refrigerated??? Aaack! I couldn’t do it. Great lists!

  2. Laura

    February 3, 2012

    Wait, what’s so bad about wearing yoga pants?! Asks the woman wearing them as she types :)

    Perhaps there is a trade off between style and efficiency.

  3. Jennifer Davis

    February 3, 2012

    What a wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing! I live in Mali, West Africa and I think I’ll start doing lists like this every now and again to remind me where I am and why I’m here (or there, rather since I’ll be heading back from the States in a couple weeks). The comment about Moses’ grade is so funny and such a difference from our US education system. Mali’s system is based on the French model (I work with an education project) and it’s a wild experience to hear educators discipline and insult/put down their students.

    I really enjoy reading your blog and how it touches on a wide variety of topics with a diversity of depth. Thanks so much for doing what you do!

  4. marine

    February 3, 2012

    Ilive in Paris for 2 years and it was the most beautiful years in my life! I miss my beautiful country! Enjoy life in Paris!
    Marine

  5. Iris

    February 4, 2012

    I love this post. I totally felt powerless when speaking Enlish…but once I busted out with my Spanish, it was a whole different story. People were a lot more helpful and friendly. I have to disagree with the whole mommy/stroller friendly things…at least in my case. I took my God-daughter and we made the mistake of taking the huge heavy duty stroller and no one ever helped us when getting on the bus. At one point, the front wheel was super whobbly and I wondered why people kept staring at the stroller, then I saw that it was totally loose, but no one cared to say anything.
    The lighting IS spectacular, I remember being taken by it’s beauty at 9p.m. one night when the sun was setting and hitting the buildings so so so beautifully. That picture now hangs in my office wall and I love saying that it was taken at 9 p.m.
    You are so lucky to live in Paris…keep enjoying :-)

  6. Briony

    February 4, 2012

    Hi Jordan,

    As an American living in Italy I can totally sympathize with all of your good and bad points about living in a foreign country. The language thing is especially difficult, even though my Italian is much better now than when I moved, even just speaking to somebody casually at the supermarket becomes a little bit frightening! Italians are also pretty big conformists, it is very strange for foreigners to even LIVE in Lake Como, you should see the looks I get just taking a walk. (Because according to my friends, Italians know just by looking at you if you aren’t Italian.)

    It’s hard for me to remember sometimes amidst all the visa nonsense and language struggles how lucky I am to be doing something many people only fantasize about- so thanks for the reminder and all of your beautiful posts about Paris! – Briony

  7. Nira

    February 4, 2012

    Love your pros and cons list. Paris seems like a dream but people need to know the realities before making a leap. For some people it may not be worth it. ….

    I love everything you write. …and I will one day move to Paris…but not till they fix their dryers.

  8. Aude

    February 4, 2012

    I am French and Parisian and completely relate to most of what you say! (Except for the washer/dryer and the milk thing: I don’t get it. I always buy fresh milk in the supermarket, it goes in my fridge and it’s all ok.) The worst: pooh on the sidewalk and the administration (what a journey to get official papers and someone nice to help you!!!!!)
    The language thing must be hard: I remember going to Austia with “Guten tag” and “Danke” as the two words I knew… But it’s a nice thing to learn new languages, right?
    Wish you a nice stay here!

  9. Kate

    February 4, 2012

    Jordan, this is a great post. I lived in Austria for a while, and there are definitely some indescribable differences in culture that make living out of the States both interesting and (honestly) tiring. But like you, I was so excited for getting to live differently that it was way easier to see all the good things (new food, beautiful cities, flowers and mountains EVERYWHERE) than the not-so-good.

    By the way, I think it’s awesome that you guys are doing this. Your lives will never be the same, and not just because of fresh-out-of-the-oven croissants :)

  10. pntszdinFluence

    February 4, 2012

    Wow! I absolutely adore this list. I have dreams of spending a summer in Paris so my inner Francophile can blossom.

  11. Jen

    February 4, 2012

    I love French milk, so much tastier. You really know it comes from a cow when you drink it, if that makes sense. There’s actually a book called French Milk – a kind of memoir of a college student who lives in Paris for a few months with her mom. You should read it.

  12. anna

    February 5, 2012

    I moved to Paris on Valentine’s day, last year. I don’t have words to express how much I love it here. One must do their “homework” before moving, or even vacationing in a foreign country. There is an excellent book called “Paris: Culture Shock,” Also, “France: Culture Shock.” If those are read before the visit, your trip will be pleasant. The French are actually quite polite. They are appalled by what they consider the “rudeness” of Americans—talking loud, not greeting the shop owner, expecting the world to speak English. Imagine how they feel when traveling the US, where most people do not speak a second language? Least of all, French!
    In regards to dealing with the French…this is a group of people who love to explain things. If one is humble, and asks a question, even something simple like, “How do I say—–?” the floodgates of friendliness are opened. I have encounter three rude French in my year here–a metro worker, and two bus drivers. I am always astounded of the kindness of the French.
    I have found that DIA grocery store carries drinkable UHT milk. Also I buy the fresh milk. I agree with the list completely. My most frustrating aspect of living here is laundry!

  13. kristen

    February 5, 2012

    jordan, i can only imagine how lovely it must be to live there. i am living vicariously through you, sweet girl.
    how is the antique shopping in paris? i am sure it is over the moon wonderful. i just stumbled upon this limoge antiques from france. keep your eyes peeled for more for me :) i will pay a pretty penny.
    http://cestsibon-kristen.blogspot.com/

  14. Erin

    February 5, 2012

    Will you be giving us a Paris eats similar to your San Fran eats? I hope so! I’m going to Paris in October and would love to know your fave places!

  15. Kacie @ A Collection of Passions

    February 5, 2012

    I’ll take it! I love that the things that are frustrating are things you can still laugh at… and the things that are great are sooooo wonderful. I could use that 10 week vacation (in Paris preferably).

    Kacie
    http://www.acollectionofpassions.com/

  16. Géraldine

    February 5, 2012

    I’m French, living in Paris, and it’s really interesting to have your vision of my country :) If you don’t mind, I just like to correct a thing about the average of vacation: it’s only 5 if you work for a company!

  17. Adriana Carneiro

    February 5, 2012

    Ooooooooooohhhh God… a day I will go to Paris… its my dream…
    I really would like to know that amazing city…

    Your blog is very pretty… I liked so much…and I’m following you…
    best wishes

    Adriana

  18. ainsley

    February 5, 2012

    Wow, what a good read! I visited France in 2006 and I miss it dearly. I went with only about 3 french words in my vocabulary… I definitely think it was very hard and I was embarrassed on more than one occasion. I remember the people not being too friendly no matter how hard I tried and smiled. And also, I remember going to the market in the middle of the day (noon-ish?) and it was closed! I think its awesome/stressful that people just go home and take a 2 hour nap or lunch! haha. Other than that, I couldn’t believe that the Eiffel Tower actually sparkled and how awesome it was to take a boat all over the Seine River.

    But really, I give you a lot of props for living there for a year and hardly speaking French, how do you manage when you are out!?

  19. Victoria@VictoryPaper

    February 5, 2012

    Thanks for the realistic insight into living abroad! Sounds like one year is just about long enough 😉

  20. Zsa Zsa

    February 6, 2012

    Sort of forgot about the lovely stuff when I read about the frowny face. I would need to eat a couple of croissants if I see that on my daughter’s assignment.

  21. Claire

    February 6, 2012

    I’m Parisian and I’d love to read this post although it was difficult for me to understand “frowny” and “errands”. I’m happy there are many things you love here (we are always afraid you judge French people so grumpy). When I go to New York, I’m so surprised to meet so many persons smiling !
    I agree with you about schools for children under 6 : we enjoy a great privilege.
    Do your children speak French ?
    Claire

  22. Jamie @ See You There!

    February 6, 2012

    Oh how I feel you on the awful hours the shops in France (or anywhere in Europe) keep. I honestly cannot fathom how they do any business at all when they’re open for 2 hours in the morning, close for a 3 hour lunch, and open again for 3 hours in the afternoon only to close before most people get out of work. When do they sell anything?? It was a big frustration for me when I lived in Copenhagen in college. Nothing was open before I went to class, and nothing was open when I got out. The weekends were the only time one could run errands and as a college kid, do you think I was spending my weekends getting groceries? lol NO. The concept of 24/7 seems to be lost on the Europeans. However they make up for it in style, food, and culture so I guess it’s OK 😉

    However, that same summer I went to Paris and a bunch of other kids and myself sat on the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower for hours one night picnicing on amazing cheese, bread, and wine, as were many other people. So we were definitely allowed to sit on the grass. Maybe that’s changed now? What a shame! That was one of the best nights of the summer, we were there til 2am.

  23. Paulita

    February 6, 2012

    glad I stumbled on your blog. I am moving to England in a few months from sunny Florida. The transatlantic move has me excited and panicking at the same time

  24. Rachel

    February 6, 2012

    and then the second you leave you will miss every single thing on that con’s list.

  25. Tina Ramchandani

    February 6, 2012

    I feel so proud for you. I have been thinking of moving to another country and I probably won’t know the language. Its such a scary thing, yet exciting at the same time and I’m really glad for you!

  26. blandine

    February 7, 2012

    Hi Jordan, grass in parks IS accessible from april to october, unless decided otherwise for conservation purposes – I checked on the city website. This was a decision of Delanoe, which apparently is controversial because the downside is, grass is now full of garbage (and THAT should be on your bad things list 😉
    But the average French person only has 7 weeks paid vacation, and the fact that stores close early is not necessarily a bad thing as it allows employees there to have some sort of life. Besides, stores opening times in Paris are wayyy larger than in the countryside.

  27. Mrs. Châtelaine

    February 7, 2012

    Oooh, so many things made me laugh on your 10 Hard Things about Living in Paris list. Especially the dryers situation and milk comment.
    We love coming to the country on weekends because there’s a big old massive American style dryer that drys things in like half an hour! Re: The milk that lasts forever, I will never get used to it, and even it makes me want to gag to think about drinking it.
    But all in all, on my own personal list about living in Paris — the positives far outnumber the negatives, and I love my life here. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

    xox Mrs. Châtelaine

  28. Emilie

    February 7, 2012

    This is really funny to read… I’m French and I hate Paris! haha! Well I have Parisians I think!
    I’ve just moved from France to Montreal, so I totally get it! 😉

  29. Emilie

    February 7, 2012

    *hate Parisians! 😉

  30. Justine

    February 8, 2012

    I can relate somewhat. I’m an American who lives in Barcelona, Spain. Our “don’t likes” are similar. It’s also nice to hear it ain’t all roses living abroad. People can be deceived by your perfect pictures!

  31. Jude

    February 8, 2012

    Even the frowny faces on assignments sounds cute. What a wonderful experience!

  32. Eliza Jane

    February 8, 2012

    What great lists! I spent some time studying in Paris, and I couldn’t agree more!

  33. Chloe

    February 9, 2012

    I can relate to all of those bad things and I only stop into Paris to work for the odd day throughout the year. I moved to Rome on a whim a few years back having never even been to Italy and it was the best decision of my life. I learnt to appreciate things anew back home (like huge supermarkets and being paid regularly by my employer…). Thanks for sharing your highs and lows. x

  34. Zelda P.

    February 10, 2012

    I understand not speaking the language when you arrive somewhere (or are just visiting). Why haven’t you learned more French? When people live in the US and don’t speak English, there is very little sympathy.

    Cold US-style milk is available is most Paris supermarkets.

    Often eggs are not refrigerated in the US either until they are set out for display. Same with butter.

    Stores with inconsistent hours is frustrating. But closing for lunch leads to a more balanced, family-friendly life.

    The dryer thing is ridiculous, I agree.

  35. RidgewoodMom

    February 11, 2012

    Thanks for sharing! There are always advantages and disadvantages of a place. But I do have to say, living in Paris would be such an awesome experience…. but the washing and drying taking all day and the pace of life might drive me bonkers.

  36. fàtima -flowers by BORNAY-

    February 11, 2012

    Paris is Paris…

  37. kim

    February 11, 2012

    my husband and i just moved to france as well. My husband’s parents are french, but he was born in australia like me. I am learning french but its pretty tough. I just blogged about the experience here: http://morganandkim.blogspot.com/2012/02/parlez-vous-francais.html
    Do you speak french fluently? would love to know how your going with the language from your experiences.
    kim

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