Last week, I noticed a spike in my blog statistics. I can’t tell who looked at my blog, but I could see that several were from the Fodor’s travel forum.
For those of you unfamiliar with this forum, it’s a virtual meeting place where a handful of experienced travellers tend to browbeat novices (like Fight Club, starring Rick Steves). A few mercenaries provide valuable input, one of whom is a friend now. She had posted a link to my blog.
The specific question was from half of an American couple who hope to spend a year or two of their retirement in Paris. Clearly, they had done their homework on the process but were confused/concerned about their ability to secure an apartment.
A sample of paraphrased Fodorite inputs: You must pay a year’s rent in advance! You will owe loads and loads of taxes!! Plan on 30k of startup costs!!! They will force feed you and cut out your liver!!!!
To which I respond: I paid a very modest two months deposit. American retirees must commit to not work in France, so taxes shouldn’t be an issue. That’s a joke? That’s geese.
Now for my story:
Two years ago (almost exactly, on May first!), we moved into a tiny Parisian apartment I had found on VRBO. I picked it for one simple reason: it was cheap (and the photos looked charming).
As it turns out, we loved the neighborhood–the 11th near Richard Lenoir and Oberkampf. And while at 270 square feet the apartment was tiny, we felt comfortable in it. Months later, when we decided to spend a year in Paris, I emailed our landlord to explore a yearlong lease. Fatefully, she wanted to get out of the short-term rental business and replied that she would gladly rent the apartment to us. We agreed on a price and a start date one year hence. (And since price is important, I’ll share it. 1250 euro–roughly 1350 dollars–per month, furnished and including all utilities, wifi, and building costs.)
Ten months later, on our way to the United States for Christmas, we stopped in Paris, signed a one page lease that my landlord had printed from the internet, and gave her one month security deposit plus the first month’s rent (cash–she provided us with a receipt).
By the middle of December, we had a visa stamp in our passport to stay in France for a year. We completed the French side of the process as soon as we arrived. If our schedule had permitted, we could have returned to France as early as late December, but we requested a visa for February first.
I’ve recounted both sides of the process previously, so I won’t repeat myself, other than to say it wasn’t onerous.
Some number of the Fodorites warned of the difficulty of living in France (language, bureaucracy, isolation, etc).
Again, I can only recount my experience.
Paris is one of the easier places we have lived. There are an amazing number of diverse things to do and see. The French people are welcoming. Pat joined a photo club that he found on Facebook and a petanque league that he stumbled upon on the streets. I joined a writers group that I found on Facebook. This July, I will take my second writing class at the American Academy. We joined the American Library and bought annual passes to the Louvre and the European House of Photography. I attend author events at Shakespeare and Company. And our American friends love to visit Paris. (‘Friends season’ kicked off this week!)
Oh, and we travel. I’m posting this as we prepare to run out the door to catch the TGV to Aix en Provence for three days.
Granted, our apartment fell into our laps, but I’ve met tons of Americans who live in Paris. It can’t be that hard, right? (and it certainly can’t be impossible!!)
But I would make one recommendation to anyone who wants to live here: Come and stay for the 90 days granted to Americans visa free (and for non-Americans, come for however long you are allowed to stay visa free). You will meet people, explore groups you might want to join, and validate your choice of neighborhood. You can take a French class (in my neighborhood, I execute my day to day tasks in French). There are apartment rental agencies all over town. Window shop. Go inside and talk. Join a Paris expat group on Facebook. Apartment questions are asked all the time; ask your questions.
During these 90 days, you can ensure that you and your spouse won’t kill each other in the confines of a small apartment in a foreign city (something I touched on recently in a NY Times article as part of a reader roundup of love on the road).
Perhaps at the end of it, you will decide that 90 days is enough. Or maybe you will become nomads, shuffling around the world just ahead of any visa requirements. Maybe you will go home and get permission to return to Paris for a year. Or forever. (And no, that’s not a hint. I believe we will leave after our year ends, but I’ll let you know what we decide, and why, come September)
I believe in dreams: If your dream is to run a marathon, lace up your sneakers. If your dream is to eat an entire chocolate cake, grab a fork and a chair. If your dream is to live in Paris, buy the plane ticket.
Come. Just come!
Categories: A year in Paris