I always feel really bad when someone contacts me with a glimmer in their eye, dreaming of living in France. My life in France has been anything but a straight road, and in fact the destination is often obscured by bureaucracy. But that bureaucracy is a bonding force in its own right, through shared experiences. Last summer Kasia invited me to reflect in her series “The Dream Life” about my life in Paris and why exactly I fight so hard to stay here. And on this episode of The France Project I get real feisty about life in France. This page is designed to be a resource to share all sides of life.

My first stint in Paris was in 2001 as a student (I arrived 2 days before 9/11), two years later I returned to work as an English teaching assistant through the French Cultural Ministry (where I fell in love with working 12 hours a week and had two weeks of vacation every 6 weeks), and then in 2009 I returned to pursue a Master’s degree at the American University of Paris. Being on a student visa is the easiest way to get to France, but wanting to work in France more than part time, once I graduated, it came the time to change my “status.” You can read about my current status – limbo – here.

The recent road to my continued life in Paris, has been a most convoluted, path which is like the worst part-time job ever. But the secret to surviving bureaucracy is humor. Over the past couple years I’ve been sharing the less than perfect moments of life here in a column I dubbed {Un}Glamorous Paris (it’s not all picnics and champagne toasts unfortunately) to take a humorous look at life.

Living in France is full of surprises. Sure it involves paperwork and intense visits to the Prefecture (which may even have you writing a 50-page business plan); it also involves feeling like you’re being herded like cattle to have your mandatory chest X-ray. But then you have those everyday moments that make you laugh – like trying to understand the French swimming pool (here too), or venturing into one of the public “spaceship” toilettes.

The reality is that living in France is not the same as visiting France (read about all that fun stuff here). As the #1 tourist destination in the world you can expect to have loads of visitors (I probably average 3/month). Be warned, they will also expect to stay with you rent free (here are some tips for dealing with that, and some lovely alternatives). Unfortunately, as I have recently lived in 10m2 (100sf) and 12m2 (129sf) apartments, staying with me is just not an option (makes one thing easier). Find another apartment in Paris you say? No thank you, that seems worse than a visit to the Prefecture sometimes. My latest attempt to find an apartment is another reminder of the nightmare. After 4-months of “nomadicity” I did eventually uncover some secrets to finding an apartment in Paris. Just don’t be surprised if your first Paris apartment looks something like this.

Anyway, that’s just a start. Clearly, despite all this, I still love it here. (Check out all the fun stuff to do in Paris here). But just don’t say I didn’t warn you! Also, don’t miss all my tips for dealing with bureaucracy, and please, consult an expert (here or here), not just other expats if you’re planning on diving in head first!

UPDATE: French Bureaucracy, Explained – this post synthesizes many of the ideas above.

You may also enjoy my Bloggers Guide to France to discover different regions of France.


DISCLAIMER:  These are my tales of life in Paris, based on my own observations and experiences. I like to tell my story with humor and sarcasm, so don’t take me too seriously. I’ve done my best to keep information and resources up to date, but it’s always good to double check because laws are always changing. Also, as I mentioned above, please consider consulting an expert who understands the various statuses and legalities of life in France.

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