The Paris Struggle
Updated: Jun 29, 2018
Hello Guys! I want to start by giving a big shout out to YOU!, I'm overwhelmed for all the messages and the good response I've gotten. YOU are my motivation, so a big THANK YOU to YOU!!.
As I promised, for this post I will be writing about how it was settling down in Paris. Let me tell you something: "Paris is NOT la vie en rose, that is Hollywood" real life in Paris can be quite a struggle. So first, Why did I choose Paris? It might sounds like an obvious choice, since Paris is the first place that comes to mind when speaking of France, but to be honest I had my doubts! I had visited Paris before and I was not dying to living here, actually I was willing to explore more of the country. I thought I could venture myself to try a new place and if anything I could always move to Paris but after giving it a second thought I decided not to do it. One year is a short period of time to waste it “trying” so I played it safe and went for Paris I mean after all, big cities are my thing! Also remember something: "Paris is a metropolis, so yes it is more expensive but yes there is where opportunities are". But Okay, right after I decided I will make Paris my new home; I started doing what I always do: Research!, I love to research and read experiences from people in my same situation, and to be honest Facebook groups are the best for this. I immediately joined as much groups as I could and started reading their questions, concerns and suggestions and this way I could get a feel on what to expect. If you havent done this already I invite you to go to your Facebook group search bar and type Paris and you will be surprised of the amount of groups there are. Just join those that you find suitable and interesting for you and your hobbies and you might as well introduce yourself and even make some contacts and friends beforehand.
So now, I got my visa in May and I was departing in August so I had let's say 3 months to get things in order. My idea was to have everything settled before arriving and I pretty much did.
I'm going to divide this post into 3 sections finding an apartment, finding a job, and last but not least all about how life in Paris works like how it is getting a cellphone line, opening a bank account, public transportation, security card and even shopping. So here it goes:
The Paris Struggle Part I
Finding an apartment
First of all a little bit of orientation, Paris is located in Ile de France which is divided into 5 zones Paris being zone 1, and Paris itself is divided in what they call arrondissements which are basically the boroughs, and there are 20 of them. So when you are looking for a place you will hear the famous arrondissements a lot.
The 1st arrondissement is the center which is around the Louvre museum, and from there it goes on an spiral shape. As you can see in the map, if the number increases the arrondissement locates further.
If you dont know Paris this can be a little overwhelming, although I visited Paris before, as a tourist I had not much idea of what this meant.
(click on the image for some Wikipedia info).
The first thing I was concerned about when I was looking for a place was the NO-GO areas, I knew it would be un-affordable for me to live in the center so at least I wanted to be sure I wouldn't get into these areas. I asked around on the Facebook groups and although a no-go area can be vague since we all think and sense differently, I would say to stay away from the 18,19, and 20 or just beware, some of us come from countries where we had to learn to be aware at all times or some others just have the ability to sense danger but some others dont, so just play it safe lol.
One of the other things I got from my Facebook Research was Budget! Not a surprise that Paris is expensive, not NY expensive tho, but people trying to charge ridiculous amounts of money just because "you can see the tip of the Eiffel tower from the window" that is crazy. Anyways, I looked at Facebook groups daily, looking at the pictures and comparing prices and areas. I discovered it would be impossible to have my own apartment. Prices for studios go for around 800-1000 euros a month and for a 1B apartment would be around 1300-1800 a month (I'm not a fan of studios anyway). So if you are in a low budget like me, your best bet is to have roommates to share an apartment, which in this case you would pay around 500-700 euros for a room so I set up my budget to 600 tops. You can definitely find cheaper if you go outside Paris, prices can drop even to 350 euros a month but of couse you always need to keep in mind commute and let me tell you something you DON'T want to have to take the RER on a daily basis. I mean its doable and its a sacrifice of couse but its definitely a pain in the ass (More about transportation later).
With that said, some help here to get you familiar. In french "roommate" is "colocataire" or “coloc" for "roomie". I based my search on Facebook groups (type "Colocation a Paris" on the Facebook search bar) and there are some other websites where you can take a look at such as la carte des colocs, le bon coin, appartager, but I think you will actually be surprised when you read where I found mine lol.
I actually found A LOT of options but they didn't seem to be what I was looking for, I found studios to be shared by two people on a bunk bed, sleeping in the living room, sleeping in the attic, or even sleeping on the same bed! I dont want to sound like a brat or anything but I like to be comfortable in the place I live even if it's only to sleep, but to feel home, to feel it's MY space if you know what I mean, and there were some others that actually met my requirements but they didn't want to commit with me since I was not physically there, even when I was willing to pay in advance. I guess they have trust issues, lol.
This made me change my strategy and to look for a short term rental, lets say 1 month so this way I could have at least a place to safely arrive and look patiently for a place but nope, this was also not a good idea because short term rentals are usually available during summer, and Airbnbs had over the top prices.
So okay, this is what I did. I kept looking at rooms day and night, saving them as my favorites, contacting them but this time instead of asking if it was available, I was asking for the requirements so I could be prepared for the next steep. And so I realized everyone would ask for different things, but I also realized the inconvenient I could have as a foreigner: They could ask for a french guarantor (Yes, needs to be french). I actually found out there are agencies to who you pay and they sign as your guarantor but hey! who wants to have to pay for that? Not me. Some other requirements are: a payslip from your work that shows you earn at least 3 times the rent, 3 months of rent (1 rent and 1/2 as security deposit) and to have a french bank account! Nobody said it was easy to be new in town.
Anyways, One week before arriving to Paris I contacted as many people as I could from my favorite list, and I made appointments to visit. For the most part I had no problem communicating either in English, my broken French or even Spanish. Then, I booked a hostel for 3 nights (I was told before it could take me up to 2 weeks to find a room, but money was tight, and I couldn't afford not finding a place so I was decided to do so) and long story short the same day I arrived to Paris, August 30th, I went straight from the hostel to my appointments, and the first one I saw was also the last one and by September 2nd I was all settled.
So, Where did I ended up finding my room? I found it during that week before arriving to Paris after a moment of frustration when it seemed like I would never find something good, affordable and still Paris, so I did something that worked out for me in NY... Craigslist! Yes! There is Craigslist in Paris! and you know how craigslist is (and if you don't just a heads up that you might find a lot of scam), so of course I had my doubts since it seemed to be too good to be truth but it was legit! And, as I well learned in NY that if you like it, get it! I didn't hesitate to tell the owner I wanted to seal the deal, and this was how i got a room in basically the same day I arrived. Remember if you see a room you like, just take it because while you think about it someone else can take it, and they won't wait for you.
I live in the 13th arrondissement which is well known as Chinatown, having the image of New York’s Chinatown in my mind I was not expecting much but here in Paris its a little bit different, I don't feel in Paris but i don't feel in China either. I love the diversity of cultures you can find here not only Chinese, and most importantly I love the fact that I'm comfortable! I have everything within walking distance: metro, bus, tram, boulangerie, supermarket, sport center, bank, etc. I have 2 roommates and I have a beautiful, spacious apartment and room with washer machine and dryer included! for the price of 550€ a month. I really feel I hit the jackpot. Most of the services are usually included, but still make sure you ask about this to have it clear, in my case I only must pay for electricity which is divided by the three of us that live here and is around 35 euros a month (We have like a fixed rate).
With this I also want to make the point that I had an idea in my head of what this arrondissement could be, but coming here and seeing it myself helped me a lot to make my decision and this is why I believe you can use what others say to have an idea but that's it, just an idea. You should always go see yourself and get your own conclusions. I get a lot of different comments every time I say I live in the 13th: "Chinatown?" "That far?" but for me it has been home and it has surprised me with my everyday findings.
I might had been lucky, but I had faith and I'm a strong believer that God will always provide with what is right for you. With dedication, planning and optimism I'm sure It can be easy for you as well. In terms of documents, I talked to the owner and she understood my situation as a just landed expat lol, so I just presented copies of my Ids, the same bank statement I presented for the visa as prove of solvency and my work contract. So don't be afraid to talk about your situation as a recent immigrant in the country and try to negotiate the documents. But wait... Did I say work contract? Yes, I already arrived to Paris with a job. Do NOT miss The Paris Struggle part II so you can see what did I do to arrive with a job and how did I look for others.
I hope this has been helpful for you and you have gotten a better idea of what it's involved in looking for a place. Please drop me a message or comment on this post with any doubts, comments, suggestions, complains, lol everything you want to say will be much appreciated!
Thank you for reading me and until the next one!