10 Things You Should Know Before Moving to Paris

So you’re planning to move to Paris, the city of light, the city of love. I can’t blame you, who wouldn’t want to live here one day?

While there are books filled with Paris guides and suggestions, nothing beats real insider tips from a local. So here are 10 things you should know before moving to Paris – from a Parisian.

1. Housing Will be Your Biggest Expense

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I can’t begin to count the number of times people have asked me, baffled “how can you afford Paris? It’s just insanely expensive”. I always reply that it all depends on what you do and where you live.

Now let’s get something clear, housing will be your biggest expense. By far. Living in Paris is really desirable, and for the space you get, rents are some of the highest in the world. For instance, you can count on paying upwards of €1300 per month for a small studio in the city center. But in the outer arrondissements, you’ll easily find flats that cost a fraction of the price of those in the central, more posh neighborhoods.

(Read our guide all about how to rent an apartment in Paris here)

2. The Cost of Living is Surprisingly Low

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But despite housing prices, it surprises many to learn that the ville lumière can actually be an affordable place to live. In fact, the cost of living for things like groceries, transport, and even dining out are lower than in most major cities – European or otherwise.

In my experience, groceries are a big part of what makes Paris so affordable. You can buy a loaf of fresh-baked bread for €2,50 and a kilo of pasta will set you back 75 centimes.  In Paris, I can eat for a month for less than €200, and I choose to buy mostly organic produce! You can do it for even less if you choose standard or store brands and hit up the farmer’s markets regularly.

Transport is also super affordable! For example, a one way metro ticket in Paris will cost you €1,90, but you can purchase an unlimited monthly pass (reaching all 5 zones, and the airports) for just €86. And if you’re a student, or under 26 years old, you can count on paying half that monthly price!

3. You Will Need A French Bank Account

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If you’re planning to move to Paris for the long-term (6 months or more), you will most likely need to set up a French bank account. Those moving to Paris from another E.U. country may be able to use their old bank account here, just be sure to check with your bank.

Opening a French bank account will allow you to do things like pay your rent and subscribe to things plans like internet and phone services. Plus, having a French bank card ensures you’ll avoid any foreign conversion or withdrawal fees. But just know, opening a bank account here may take awhile. You can usually count on about two or three weeks and multiple meetings with your bank for it to be set up.

First, choose which bank you would like to use and make an appointment. Banks like HSBC and BNP Paribas are international and have branches in lots of countries, which may make it easier for you.

In order to open a French account you will need:

– A copy of your passport, and visa/carte de séjour

– A current proof of residence (your rental contract + EDF, phone, or internet bill)

– An initial deposit, this is not required everywhere and the amount varies depending on the bank

4. A Good Pair of Shoes is Indispensable

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Paris is one of the most walk-able cities in the world! So before moving to Paris, you should invest in a good, comfortable pair of shoes. This is because the city is made to explore on foot.

And while the metro is super convenient, you’ll be able to carry out the majority of your day-to-day activities using your own two feet to get around. I bet you’ll be surprised to see how far you walked in a day, just doing basic errands! And speaking from experience, you’ll want a good, supportive pair of shoes in order to avoid severely sore feet.

There’s just something special about wandering around Paris, and in fact the French have a word for this: flâner. Flâner means to wander and enjoy the act of wandering – no specific destination in mind. Of course, it’s by walking around that you’ll discover the hidden gems of Paris, and find your favorite bakery, café, park, etc.

And if you want to explore Paris on foot, why not join one of our guided walking tours? You’ll be treated to an informative and fun tour by a local guide of classic Parisian neighborhoods.

5. Take Public Transport

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As I mentioned above, the public transport system in Paris is super affordable. It’s also vastly extensive and very efficient. The metro, bus, tram and even city bike system allow to you to explore the city endlessly.

And if you’re moving here, it’s likely going to be the best way to get around the city. That being said, it can be a little daunting.

But try to spend a little while studying the metro map. Learn the lines and the end stations, and try mapping out a couple different routes to school or work to see what works best. Once you’re familiar with it, navigating in Paris is a piece of cake.

Just try to avoid Châtelet at rush hour.. at least for the first couple of weeks!


6. Speaking French Helps (a lot)

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Paris is a huge international city, and it’s true that you can get by just about anywhere with English. But since you’re moving to Paris, let me give you a huge piece of advice: learn some French. Even if it’s just a few phrases, even if you have to carry a notebook with you, or keep some translations saved in your phone, it will help you. A lot.

The French are very proud of their beautiful language, and work hard to keep English from taking over. There are actual laws in place stating that the majority of films, advertising and radio programs remain in French.

Making an effort to speak French is also a matter of respect and cultural etiquette. You’ll be surprised at what a huge difference a little bit of effort can make in your daily life!

When you walk into a shop, or get on the bus, or enter an elevator you should say bonjour. When you leave, make sure to say merci, au revoir. If you’re ever unsure of what to say, or just want to speak English, ask parlez-vous anglais?  These simple phrases are so important, and help show your respect for the culture.


7. Healthcare is for Everyone

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This is one of the best things about moving to Paris! Health care is available to anyone, and it’s extremely affordable. Don’t have insurance? No worries! You’ll pay a flat €25 fee to visit a general doctor. Yep, €25, that’s it. No hidden fees or surprise add-ons here.

And if you get basic health insurance or securité sociale, you can be reimbursed for 70% of your doctor visits and prescriptions! If you’re a student, this will be provided through your school or exchange program.

Most working adults tend to add a secondary insurance, or a mutuelle which will cover the remaining portion of your bill. This secondary insurance is also often provided by your employer, so be sure to ask about it if you’ll be working in Paris.

If there’s one app that will make your life in Paris easier, it’s Doctolib.fr. This super useful app lists all of the doctors, surgeons, specialists, etc. in France. You can search by zip code, see which languages the doctor speaks, how expensive your visit will be (look for conventioné secteur 1 for the standard €25 price) and even schedule an appointment. Plus there’s options to search by availability, specialty, location, or even by name. I’ve used this numerous times and it has made my life so much easier.

8. The Metric System

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This section is geared mostly towards American expats, so if you come from a country that already uses the metric system, feel free to skip ahead.

So, if you missed chemistry class in high school, or don’t have any idea what the metric system is, it’s time to learn. Like the majority of the world, France uses the metric system, and you’d be surprised how many everyday tasks involve metric measurements!

In order to understand the weather and dress appropriately for it, you’ll need a basic understanding of Celsius temperatures. For example, in Celsius, 29° is hot, and 60° is not a temperature even experienced on earth. Quite a bit different from Fahrenheit, yeah? This has been the hardest one for me to learn, but with a little practice it becomes second nature.

Being able to equate basic measurements is definitely something you should know before moving to Paris! Take it from someone who has struggled firsthand, the payoff will be worth it. I once asked for 2kg of meat from the butcher instead of 200g. Needless to say the bill wasn’t what I was expecting and I had a very carnivorous diet for the next several days.

9. Most Things Are Smaller Than You Expected

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One thing you should know before moving to Paris is that bigger isn’t always better. In general, people in Paris are used to having less space, and have adapted to it through the centuries.

Your apartment, your shower, your washing machine (if you’re lucky enough to have one in your flat) will all likely be smaller than what you’re used to back home. This trend also follows suit in grocery stores, portions at restaurants, even coffees and glasses of water. It may feel slightly crowded at first, but with time you’ll get used to – and even come to appreciate – this cozy feeling.

10. Things Take Time

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Now perhaps this is one of the most important things you should know before you move to Paris. Everything takes time, and in Paris this goes for just about every facet of life.

One simple example is going to the supermarket. Lines are usually long, and there’s often only one or two checkout people working, even during the busiest times. Oh, and you will have to bag your own groceries, so buying a reusable shopping bag or two is a great idea! Your shopping trip may well take longer than you expected. But I promise, with time and patience, you’ll get used to this, too.

Another, perhaps more important example is eating out. A meal in a restaurant here is meant to be savored; enjoyed. Not rushed through, or quickly eaten on the go. Part of the French joie de vivre is taking the time to appreciate your life, in every aspect, even food.

In Paris, you can have a coffee in a café and linger all afternoon if you like, no one will ask you to leave. It’s not about turnover, it’s about enjoyment. So you can plan on spending an hour or more eating lunch, and two or three at a sit down dinner. And you’ll need to ask for the check, otherwise you’ll be sitting there all day! It’s considered quite rude to bring the check before the client has asked.

(You can read my full guide to French restaurant etiquette here.)

So there you have it, 10 things you should know before moving to Paris. I hope this article has been helpful to you, and see you soon in Paris!

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