living in france
Here are some of the photos Alpha Smoot took of us when she was in Paris last month. I wanted some really casual family photos that showed us in our Paris apartment. I really tried not to fuss too much with outfits or hair so it would look natural and not too perfect. Alpha was great to work with, I sent her pictures of The Glow as inspiration and then she just hung out with us for a couple hours one morning. I love how they turned out, and they totally captured our Paris apartment. The last picture you can see shows us at the cafe below our apartment. Those windows were our bedrooms!
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
The best thing about moving to France so far is our schedule. When we first talked about moving to Paris I read Nichole’s post here about their schedule in Paris and it pretty much sounded like heaven to me. We were working crazy hours at the time and I thought “That is what I want.”
We work American hours so thats about 6pm-1am France time (sometimes more, sometimes less). Which means our schedule goes like this: we wake up everyday, Paul or I will walk down to the bakery to get some bread. We all get ready for the day and then go on errands and explore the city together. We go to museums, parks, shopping, eat crepes, sit, etc. Then evening time rolls around we start working, we take a break to put the boys to sleep and then work late into the night. Our kids are young so this might not work as well if they were school aged but for now its been pretty perfect. We get to hang out together every day. We love our schedule so much that we are already trying to figure out a way to extend our stay here.
I’m going to do two posts about finding an apartment. One before and one after we find an apartment. Since our family is somewhat portable, several people recommended that we find a place to stay for a month so that we can search for apartments once we get there. This is good because if you can see it in person it’s easier to commit to living there a year, you can usually negotiate cheaper rates, and you can take your time rather than trying to find something fast. The bad part about this idea is I have no idea where I’ll be living a month from now. (Super scary.) Our fingers crossed we can find an apartment we love in a neighborhood we like that is within our price range.
We decided to rent an apartment from Haven in Paris for the first month (Who is also an advertiser on OHD.) Renting short term apartments is very common in Europe (My English friends that vacation in Paris rent apartments even for short stays instead of hotels.) Besides Haven in Paris I’ve also used Vacation Rental By Owner and had good experiences.
I’ve started looking for our real apartment in advance but it can be difficult. A lot of the furnished rentals are just so cluttered, I would consider furnishing a simple apartment ourselves (I prefer sparse to someone else’s stuff) the only problem is “unfurnished” in France means it also doesn’t have a fridge or any other appliance. We are only planning on staying a year so it seems like a lot of work to round up beds, a refrigerator, a sofa, and pretty much everything else. The other interesting I’ve found is three bedroom apartments are very hard to find. We are expecting visitors so I had my fingers crossed for an extra room.
By the time someone has staged, photographed and listed a furnished apartment on a website it is likely on the high end of the going price range. I’m curious to see if we can find something more affordable in person. For our budget we are hoping to spend the same amount that we would spend on an apartment in San Francisco.
I’m secretly hoping for a partially furnished apartment. I saved the picture below from a Craigslist ad. It’s pretty much what I envision for my dream apartment in Paris. A two bedroom, sparsely furnished in the Marais with HUGE windows and a balcony we can sit on and work when the weather gets warm.
Here are the sites I’ve found helpful looking for an apartment.
Has anyone else had experiences renting apartments in Paris? Any tips?
This is my first post on the nitty-gritty of how we worked out this move to France. It has been a long-time goal to spend a year in Paris. We realized last summer it was time to move out of our tiny San Francisco apartment and we aren’t in a place financially where we can buy a home just yet. We have a small window of time that it would be convenient to move abroad. Our kids are young and not quite school age and we aren’t tied down to a mortgage. But the biggest factor that lets us live abroad is flexibility in our jobs. Paul works as an artist and freelances as a graphic designer. I blog and do some freelance writing for a few different websites.
To make this work, We had to write a proposal to work remotely for Paul’s design clients and we had to schedule and plan ahead what art shows he would be in. I do all my work remotely but I still had to confirm with my clients that it wouldn’t be a problem to be working in Paris. There are some hiccups in our plans: I like to do projects with American supplies so that my (mostly) American readership can replicate them. And Paul will have the added expense of shipping paintings back to his galleries in the U.S. But both of these problems we are working around.
The most surprising thing to me has been to realize in a lot of ways Paris is more affordable than San Francisco. If you were moving from a small town in the US it might feel more expensive but so far the cost of things is pretty comparable if not cheaper. I’m curious to find out if this is actually true when we arrive.
I have heard (but have no experience) that getting a traditional job in France is actually quite difficult and that it does not always pay well. Anne did a post on this right here. With the internet and Skype, depending what your job is–it is a lot easier to make this work than it would have been ten years ago. If your job could translate easily to a remote position, casually bring it up to your boss to see what they say. You never know, they could say “yes.”
This is a series on all the details about moving to Paris.
both photos by Jen Gotch