I did a semester abroad while I was at university around 10 years ago now. I was utterly in love with expat life in the city and I've always dreamt of going back. My husband recently got an exciting job offer in the city, which would allow both of along with our 3 year old son to relocate to Paris for 2 years. I'm super excited about going back, but my husband is apprehensive about the language barrier for us, but mainly our son and also how we'd intergrate as Americans into local Parisian society. His colleagues tell him city residents are really unfriendly, that is not what I remember though. I suppose things could have changed.
Are there any expats living in Paris who could tell us a little bit about the reality of expat life in Paris? What are the downsides of living in the city? Are people really unfriendly?
Look forward to getting your insights.
I think you'll find living long-term in Paris to be very different spending a university semester in the city. You'll need to factor in a lot more practical matters - finding accommodation, negotiating a solid employment package, making friends with locals, etc. Obviously, the city would have also changed a lot in the past 10 years and having a child also complicates the relocation process.
Paris is a great city which accounts for its large expat population. However, there are downsides to living anywhere. For a start, the cost of living in Paris is high. The language barrier may be an issue but if you are willing to invest time and effort into learning French it won't be insurmountable. I suppose determining whether locals are friendly or not, depends on an individual's experience. But I think it is important to be positive and open-minded and make an effort to get to know colleagues/neighbours, etc. If all else fails, remember there are loads of expats in Paris with whom you are likely to share common ground.
Making new friends through your child's school is also an option - you'll likely meet lots of expat parents that way. Have you decided on a schooling option for your son yet?
For an overall picture of life in Paris take a look at the recently updated Pros and Cons of Moving to Paris
Best of luck,
Thanks for your input. It is good to get an accurate picture of the realities of expat life. I'm still keen on the adventure though.
As it looks like we'll initially be in Paris for 2 years I'd think the best option for us would be an American school, failing that a school that one which followed the IB curriculum. Do you have any recommendations?
About the language concerns, you and your husband might struggle a bit, but at three years old your son will probably pick up the language quite quickly. Many people like to complain about how "unfriendly" the French are, but the reality is that they are just not expected to be as open as some other cultures might be. They are friendly when they want to be, not because society expects them to be. This can take an adjustment of your expectations. I agree with the previous answer that living here is very different from a study abroad semester. Depending on what neighborhood you're living in, 15th, 16th, 7th, there are a ton of American expats and students floating around. Lots of English is spoken, but there is an expectation that you will at least make a little effort with a "Bonjour" before launching into whatever you want to say or ask.
Also I find living in Paris comparable to living in any other major city in terms of prices. So if you're moving from NY it might not seem THAT expensive as everyone claims.
I would say though that 2 years is just enough time to get used to living here before having to move away!
If you do end up moving here, I know a great private French tutor who can help get you to operational fairly quickly depending on your level of dedication.
Thanks so much for your insights. It is great to get some feedback from someone actually living in the city.
Tell me, how did you go about making friends when you were new to the city? Are there any particular groups or resources you'd recommend for meeting people?
How long did you take to pick up French? I've tried to learn before but I lose momentum each time because I have noone to speak to, but that shouldn't be a problem in Paris, I suppose.
Also, which neighbourhood would you recommend for a small family? My partner will be working in the heart of the city but it is also important for us to have open space around us and be able to be outdoors as much as possible.
Hope to hear from you soon.