It sounds incredibly romantic, to move to such a famous, beautiful city, but knowing exactly where you want to be, how much you can spend and where you’re going to be working will make a difference to your comfort levels.
Paris is, without a doubt, one of the most beloved cities on earth. With a plethora of galleries, museums and historical sites, as well as some of the best shopping, fashion and food around the globe, it’s natural to dream of living in the City of Lights. France’s statistics provider, INSEE, estimated that 8,529 Brits were living in Paris at the beginning of 2017. Even with the large numbers who flock to the countryside to retire, it seems Paris is still the most popular location with ex-pats.
So how can you make the dream a reality?
Areas to Live in
Paris is separated into arrondisements or neighbourhoods, organised by number. The lower numbers are closer to the city centre, and the double digits get further out. Living in the centre of the city is always going to be more expensive, but the neighbourhoods that are further out offer more greenery, more space and better value for money, as well as being well connected by the Metro and other services.
If aiming to live in the 1st or 2nd arrondissements, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful buildings, the buzzing financial district and tourists. The 3rd arrondissement is upmarket, stylish and filled with boutique shops, theatres and museums. Housing is classically French in style, and space is minimal.
The 4th arrondissement is the Latin Quarter, housing the Sorbonne and home to students. It’s vibrant, colourful and there’s great restaurants, bars and clubs. The area is lively, and shops cover everything from small independents to chains. You can find everything you need.
The 6th arrondissement, Luxembourg, is beautiful, relaxed and expensive. Surrounded by the greenery of the Jardin du Luxembourg and in the heart of the left bank, the area left behind its seedy roots and is now a quiet and pleasant neighbourhood.
The 7th arrondissement, Palais-Bourbon is great for families, hosting schools and the American University in Paris. With views of the Eiffel Tower and home to the Musee d’Orsay, this mainly residential area is relaxed, with great connections to the rest of the city.
The 8th arrondissement is Champs Elysees, and is expensive, with the bars and restaurants on the Champs Elysees offering a vibrant nightlife, but the surrounding streets remaining quiet and residential. Traffic in this area can be particularly bad.
It is much more likely that you will choose to live somewhere in the double digit arrondissements, which, whilst being further from the city centre, are well connected, better value for money and offer more space. Each of these neighbourhoods still has a lot to offer, including green spaces, punting on the Seine, great restaurants and cafes, and shopping. The 16th - Passy – is popular with ex-pats due to the American college, and is home to lots of great restaurants.
The 10th and 11th arrondissements, Popincourt and Saint-Laurent, are multicultural, artistic neighbourhoods to the North East of the city. They are well connected, with the Gare du Nord train station, as well as bus routes. There are a great mixture of shops, from independent delis to supermarkets, and boutiques to larger shops selling imported goods.
The 19th and 20th arrondissements are a lot cheaper, and the homes are more modern. These areas are well populated and busy, with lots of bars and restaurants, and a buzzing nightlife. The areas are well connected, and multicultural, with a great range of shops available.
Whenever choosing what kind of area you want to live in, it’s about prioritising. Are you willing to pay more to be central? Do you want to be part of the café culture, easy access to museums and galleries, or are you more about ensuring you have enough space? Are you craving interesting bars and restaurants, or are you after a quieter scene? Choose areas carefully, and research on ex-pat websites to see what they recommend.
Property in Paris is priced per square metre. Most ex-pats say they end up living in smaller properties than in England, but this is also down to location. The city centre can offer some reasonably priced studios, but if you’re moving with family, there will be fewer low cost options. If you’re in the city, the likelihood is you’ll be in an apartment. If you want a house, you’ll have to look further outside the city centre.
Property in each arrondissement varies in price, but the cheapest options will be 3,000-5,000 Euros per square metre, increasing to prices of 13,000 per square metre for the city centre. There is a balance between the old fashioned, stylish apartments associated with Paris, and the new builds further out. The new builds, whilst not having the same aesthetic appeal, usually use space well, and some offer underground parking.
Property sales in Paris can be through an estate agent, or direct from the owner, and everything moves quickly, with many properties being snapped up on the day they are advertised. We suggest knowing which area you want to be in, and how much you’re willing to pay before anything else.
Whilst there is a cliché about most Britons moving to France to retire, the high proportion continue to work, and living in Paris, which is on a par with London in terms of living and rental costs, it’s necessary.
Unemployment rates in Paris are currently at 10%, so those wishing to work in the city will need to ensure they are either well educated, working in a specialist sector, or that they speak good French. If you do not have these skills, jobs will probably be limited to hospitality or tourism sectors. It is worth learning French as soon as you decide to move. It will not only open up your job options, but will make moving and settling in a lot easier.
If you are from an EU/EEA member state, you are welcome to work in France without a visa, though if you are still not working within 6 months, you may need to show proof that you are looking for work. Otherwise you will need a visa granted by the company who have employed you.
Wages in Paris are just slightly higher than the London average, and the Parisians have a 35 hour working week.
The healthcare system in France is one of the best in the world, and it’s currently being updated. The Protection Universalle Maladie (PUMA) system is a public healthcare system open to expats living in the country for more than 3 months. Until recently, some elements of healthcare, like appointments or treatments, were paid upfront by the patient and then paid back by the government at a later date. By the end of 2017, this practice will have been phased out, with no upfront payments.
The healthcare system is paid through your social contribution tax, which is about 8% of your income, unless you earn below a certain threshold, however, the government contribution is determined by the seriousness of the illness, and whether it is ongoing. So where someone with a chronic illness may have the entirety of their medical bills covered, it is on a rolling scale, so you may be required to pay a small percentage when receiving treatment.
It is important to register for insurance, and your healthcare card (Carte Vitale) as soon as possible. The process of getting a healthcare card can often take a long time, so be sure to get an ‘attestation de couverture sociale’ which will allow you access to healthcare until the card arrives.
Private healthcare is also available, but ex-pats living in Paris often only have good things to say about the public healthcare system. Costs for medications are often minor, and the system is ranked third best in the world.
Cost of Living
Rental prices are very similar to those in London, but wages are slightly higher, meaning the squeeze is a little less intense. There are certain things in Paris that are definitely expensive – clothes, for one. The French attitude to clothing is simple, high quality and classic. It is easy to spend 50 Euros on a plain t-shirt, as the French do not really do low cost, low quality clothing goods.
Whilst overall utilities are on a par with London costs, internet can be expensive, with 23 Euros a month for a low level internet speed. With so many wonderful restaurants in Paris, fine dining can set you back a pretty penny.
However, a lot of the food is incredibly reasonable, with prix fixe menus available in many restaurants, and the staples like delicious bread, cheese and wine, along with fresh market food all available at great prices.
Travel costs are reasonable, with a monthly, all-encompassing pass, and it’s really worth just using common sense in terms of costs. Coffees, snacks and alcoholic drinks are all going to be more expensive in tourist areas, with a cocktail costing about 12 Euros and a coffee about 5 Euros. Finding a café on a back street is probably going to be more reasonable.
There are a great variety of international schools in Paris, but if you’re considering moving further out for a house, remember that the schools are all based in the city centre. The range of schools in Paris is excellent, with great bilingual and international options. The majority follow the IBL system, though The American School Of Paris offers an American syllabus.
In terms of childcare, there are a number of nurseries in Paris, and childcare assistants are usually very highly trained. If considering at home childcare, an au pair may be an option, and often these jobs are taken by English-speaking young people, who may be travelling from Britain, America or Australia as a way to experience the country.
Travel in Paris is quite well organised, with the Metro, buses and trams. The Metro is very busy, but covers the span of the city, and is quite straightforward to navigate. You can get a Navigo card which will offer unlimited travel within 5 zones for a month, for only 73 Euros. This also includes access to further out stops from the city, including the airport and Disneyland. These can also be bought weekly, and are open to tourists and residents.
Driving in Paris is not recommended. The city is well served by public transport, and traffic and parking are both problematic. Some ex-pats who have cars in the city only use them for driving out to different regions at the weekend.
The French are dedicated to their 35 hour working week. As such, it’s important to remember that most shops are closed on Sunday, and some close in the middle of the day during the week. If you’re used to 24 hour availability, it’s time to be a little more structured and plan in advance.
If invited to meet someone at 7pm, the French expectation is that you will arrive 10-15 minutes after. However, this does not apply to business meetings!
Always, always, say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. Parisians have a slightly unfair stereotype of being rude, but going into a shop to ask for something without even a brief bonjour is the height of rudeness. Take the time to nod, make eye contact and offer a greeting before demanding anything.
In terms of being safe, the first thing anyone says about Paris is to watch out for pick pockets. Don’t leave cash in easy to pilch places, like open bags or back pockets. Don’t bring out big wads of cash when paying for items. Paris is, overall, a very safe city, but there are those who target visitors. Keep your money and valuables out of sight.
Things To Do
Where to begin? The City of Lights has a wondrous amount on offer, from museums, galleries and gardens to monuments and cathedrals. The tourist attractions are endless, and yet sometimes Paris is about simple pleasures. Sitting by the St Martin Canal with some good wine, or relaxing with a hot chocolate in a café, Paris is about savouring and enjoying your experiences. Browse the markets, or see the city by cycle, hiring out a ‘Velib’ and making use of the 250 miles of cycle paths in Paris. Whether you’re drinking cocktails in the Latin Quarter or strolling through the Jardin Du Luxembourg, Paris has an enchanting array of activities at your fingertips.