Moving to Paris
Once a mere trading outpost for a Celtic tribe, Paris has grown not only into the French capital but, some would argue, into the cultural capital of Europe.
Its influence over Western politics, economics, science, art, music and cuisine is indisputable, be it as the flashpoint of the French revolutions, the home of Lavoisier or the birthplace of cinema, the cabaret and haute cuisine.
Living in Paris
Life in Paris for such an expat is a veritable assault on the senses. The City of Light is no misnomer, with Paris providing illumination to even the most experienced world travellers’ notions of good style, good food, good art and good architecture.
The city, an agglomeration of buildings, streets, canals and gardens that have accumulated since medieval times, rewards the stroller. It presents some of its delights - like the Louvre and the Tuileries - with a flourish while others - like the Paris Catacombs or the Musée du Montparnasse - need to be sought out and savoured.
The Job Market
Today, Paris no longer has the financial clout of, say, London or Frankfurt, but is nevertheless home to one of the largest populations in Europe, and has one of the largest GDPs among world cities. The corporations who are housed at La Défense - the largest dedicated business district in Europe - are some of the world’s largest and provide employment to many expats from the West and beyond.
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A high unemployment rate is currently one of France’s major issues; at the time of writing the rate was 10%. The economy of Paris, however, is booming, with the GDP of l’Île de France alone accounting for 30% of France’s total GDP in recent years.
Paris is also one of the largest tourist hubs in the world, so if you’re looking for a career in France in the travel industry, you’ve hit the proverbial jackpot. In Paris, like in all of France, language is more than a tool for communication; it’s part of la culture.
As in any international city, you can get by with English, but you’ll find employers far more sympathetic to your search if you make an effort to speak French. If you already speak French, you can find full-time, part-time, and even contractual work using the government-run Pole Emploi website.
Although Paris has the high cost of living associated with any city of its caliber, you’ll find a 3-course meal with a bottle of wine or a new car costing you significantly less than in other major cities like London or New York.
Shipping your belongings to Paris from London is relatively cheap when compared to other countries of origin.
If you catch a cold on a long walk from a métro station (around €70, or £50, for a monthly pass), you’ll be covered by universal government healthcare. France has one of the highest rated healthcare systems in Europe because of the competency and efficiency of its medical staff as well as the convenience and cost-effectiveness of its clinics. Doctors’ offices and hospitals in Paris can get extremely busy, so be prepared for a significant wait time when you go in for an appointment.
Going out for drinks at a bar can get pricey (around €6 a beer), but if you prefer to have friends over for a drink or two, you’re in luck. A bottle of mid-range French wine—i.e. good wine—will cost you less than €10 and a bottle of beer typically costs less than €2.
If you value cheap, accessible healthcare and lots of options for designer goods and quality foods, Paris is a great place to live. The trade-off is high pollution levels, a moderate safety rating, and a considerable morning commute.
Parisian real estate is some of the most expensive in the world, leading to a ‘doughnut effect’ whereby property at the centre is only affordable to the super-rich. Nevertheless, new arrivals can still find bargains in some of the previously less popular arrondissements, making the age-old beauty of Paris still accessible to the newcomer.
Now is a good time to buy in Paris. Apartment prices have been falling for the past several years, decreasing an additional 1.22% in 2014. A place in l’Île-de-France, the wealthiest and the most populated region in France, currently runs around €5,380 per m2. Rent prices in Paris at the time of writing are 27% higher than in Bordeaux and 37% higher than in Toulouse.
Due to the current economic downturn, it’s a buyer’s market right now, and prices per m2 are scaled according to the size of the apartment. (In other words, a small apartment will consistently cost you less.) Demand is high for places to rent, however, which means you could find yourself paying more per m2 for a smaller place.
If you move to the edges of town, you can find even better deals. While you may have dreams of midnight strolls to La Tour Eiffel, if you live on the outskirts of the city, you’ll save an average of €2,000 a month. Costs for a one-bedroom range from around €1,136 downtown to €835 outside the city. A three-bedroom will cost around €2,255 in the heart of Paris and €1,660 on the outskirts.
That said, if you’re patient, you’ll find most owners are willing to negotiate. Sometimes the older buildings in Paris lack modern conveniences like elevators, which usually brings the price down. Something to remember in your purchasing negotiations is that in France, owners aren’t permitted to negotiate above their original asking price.
There are a lot of great neighborhoods to choose from in Paris. The numbers of the arrondissements spiral outwards, so a good rule of thumb is that lower numbers will put you in a classy (if touristy) and expensive area, and higher numbers will put you in an edgier and cheaper area.
Family-friendly: Of course, there are exceptions to the numbers rule, and the 16th arrondissement is an upscale family neighborhood near the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Élysées, and the business district of La Défense. Lots of American families have been relocated there professionally, so if you live there, you’ll be surrounded by other expats.
If you’re looking for something on the quieter side, the 14th is one of the few areas in the city that goes to bed, and there’s a charm to its quiet streets after-hours.
Upmarket: If you want to live among the who’s who of Paris, the 7th and 8th arrondissements are your hub for designer boutiques and pricey accommodations. Your daily, iconic view of the Eiffel Tower will cost you, but money is a small price to pay to live in the place that invented flawless style and impeccable taste.
One of the oldest districts in Paris, the Latin Quarter in the 5th arrondissement is known for housing hordes of students (thanks to the Sorbonne). If you want to debate the existence of man or live within walking distance of multiple historical cafes and brasseries, this is the young, intellectual neighborhood for you. The 5th, which borders the Seine, is also home to the famous ex-pat English-language bookshop, Shakespeare & Company.
Hip & Trendy: Oberkampf is the young, grungy district of the 11th arrondissement. Like the 9th, the 11th is a cheaper, less gentrified, neighborhood, and it’s a great place to live for a strong—if sometimes wild—nightlife. It’s not as safe after hours, but it’s in the action and has grown significantly the past few years.
Up & Coming: As the largest arrondissement, the 12th (Bastille) offers a surge of affordable housing as well as access to major metro lines to get you to the city’s top destinations. It’s also home to the Gare de Lyon, one of the larger train stations with easy connections to other cities in France.
Cost of moving
Ready to pack up and head to the City of Love? Here’s a table showing the typical cost of a move for an average-sized family from several major cities.
|New York||$4,280 CAD|
|San Francisco||$5,432 CAD|
Schools and Education
Schooling in France is free, and it is mandatory beginning at age six. Many parents send their children to maternelle, early learning classes, as early as age three.
Secondary education is broken up into two parts: collège for the first four years and lycée for the next three years. In lycée, students can either choose an academic track (eight options) or the lycée professionel where they can acquire a vocational diploma.
If your family doesn’t speak French, you might want to enroll your children in an international school. Offerings include:,/p>
- The American School in Paris
- The British School in Paris
- Marymount (American, Catholic)
- the International School of Paris
- the Ecole Active Bilingue: Victor Hugo
These schools cost around €15,000 (£11,000), but immersion programs also exist in public schools and cost on average less than €5,000 (£3,600) a year. Schools like this in Paris include the Collège International Honoré de Balzac (state-run and free), The Sections Internationales de Sèvres, Lycee International Saint Germain en Laye, L'Ermitage, and several Ecoles Active Bilingues.
A city long admired for its intellectuals, Paris hosts several major universities. Top-rated schools include:
- École Normale Superieure, ranked 24th in the world in the latest QS World University Rankings
- École Polytechnique (ParisTech), which focuses on business and the sciences and is ranked 35th in the world
- Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC), one of the largest teaching institutes of science and medicine in Europe, ranked 115th in the world
- Université Paris-Sud 11, ranked 209th in the world
- Université Paris Diderot (Paris 7), ranked 210th in the world
- Sciences Po Paris (Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris), ranked 222nd in the world, which specialises in studies in the humanities and social sciences
- the infamous Université Paris-Sorbonne, ranked 227th in the world
Ranking against the world
A city that still lives in the glory days of the Renaissance, Paris is known for its intellectual, artistic communities. Nowadays it’s growing in the technological sphere, and Paris houses one of the world’s largest insurance companies and several of the top cosmetics companies.
A burgeoning cultural metropolis, Paris hosts around 940 film shootings a year and is home to at least 134 museums.
While there is a lot of paperwork to get through to become a French citizen, Paris’s high quality of life rating makes it worth it.
A day in the life
Paris, home of the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, two of the most-visited art museums in the world, is also home to a large collection of expats who have come for the culture and fallen in love with the way of life. With all the activities—traditional and modern—offered in Paris, there’s always something to do.
Enjoy a two-hour break for lunch and a midday glass of wine with your coworkers. Strut the streets in the latest designer bobo (bourgeois bohemian) look.
Snack on the best falafel of your life at L’As du Fallafel in the Marais. Attend an opera at the Palais Garnier, and be transported to the glamour of the mid-1800s in Paris. Spend a Saturday wandering through open air markets and then enjoying a picnic along the Seine.
Have cocktails at Le Meurice, one of the best hotel cocktail bars in the business. Window shop along the cobblestoned streets in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Enjoy a late night crêpe slathered in Nutella. Inhale. C’est la vie.