So You Want to Move to Paris….

Rue Ternaux Inside

Tiny, affordable, and all we need

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!

Rue Ternaux Outside.jpg

And with a view I love!

Paris Dinner one

Looking for a photo of our apartment, I realize I take a lot of dinner pictures

Paris Dinner two

Like this…

Paris Dinner Three

Or this…












Categories: Life in Paris

Tags: , , , , , ,

17 replies

  1. Looking into trying Portugal for a month at end of year. Think I have found a charming place at least on paper. Good reviews. Heading to US for Grammy Poppins summer vacation duties and then Jenny’s wedding in August.

  2. The New York Times! Oh my goodness! I’m so glad you provided a link. Your article brought tears to my eyes. If we were better friends, I’d feel like I could say that I’m proud of you. But since we’ve only shared one conversation over dinner on one evening, I’ll just say, “Well done.”

  3. Actually, the Fodor forum is pretty helpful. I especially value the detailed trip reports so when I’m planning my own trips I can get a better idea of how long it REALLY takes for drive from one part of Norway to another, or how long to stay in a town (travelers may express their regret that they didn’t give a spot more time). It’s a lot of work to plan a trip to NZ for a month and those of us who do that kind of traveling need all the help we can get. And that’s how I found your blog! I’m looking forward to its future episodes.

    • Thanks Pam… I’ve given up on the Fodors forum (it makes me feel like I’m back in high school!). But I’m glad you found me. (And that you use it)…

      • Enjoy, Linda! (How can Jenny be getting married? In my mind she’s 15!)

        Portugal is a great winter choice to me. Some warmer weather, less expensive. I can’t wait to hear how that turns out!

  4. The internet forums are filled with very knowledgeable people. And with some jerks. I use the Fodors and Rick Steves forum occasionally and value the info from people who have actually been to places I am thinking about. Especially with regards to places not covered so well in the guidebooks like the Adriatic Coast of Italy, Lerici, smaller town in Normandy and Brittany, etc. I have used the Michelin Green Guides but I find they seem to leave out evaluative information as do other guide books (to wit, I stayed in Vannes which gets a nice writeup and was a decent town but it turns out its not really walking distance from town to the Gulf, something travelers mention on forums but guidebooks omit).

    Anyway, the jerks and condescension are the price of the “free” resource.

    • We all should use what works, Mike. I’ve retired from the travel forums, but there’s no need to explain or apologize for your choice.
      I like reading fiction to prepare for a trip. One of Ken Follett’s books in his 20th century trilogy covers the time from WW 2 to the fall of the Berlin wall. Nothing brought Berlin alive for me like that book. Living full time on the road allows me to do much more in real time. When I know I have 2 1/2 months on Lake Atitlan, I Relax and plan much of it once I arrive and from local advice.
      The most important thing is to go. And enjoy!

  5. Dream on lady. Guessing around the same age as Emily. 37. Scary huh!
    Your blogs and Pat’s photographs have been such an inspiration for me to get out of a rut. I found my apartment on TripAdvisor and I already feel the owner is going to be a friend. Excited to add another country to “visited” column. Who knows I may really like it.

  6. Julie! I loved seeing your story in the NYT piece! That’s so exciting–and it was really well told.

    From our tiny experience in the Netherlands, apartment hunting in a country that’s not your own requires flexibility, patience, stamina, and humility… a little bit of serendipity… but it’s absolutely possible. We loved our Dutch apartment–a friend actually took it over when we left!– and the stressful search for it just became another good story.

  7. Love your blog. We are planning a year-long sabbatical to Basel in June and are looking forward to a weekend trip to Paris in July!

  8. Hallo! I’m an American living in Germany — Garmisch. I found your site from your post today at Amis de Paris on Facebook. I see from this entry that you rented an apartment for a year, and got a visa. But it’s now a year later, so I wonder if you rented the same apartment for another year? Also — did you have to renew your visa? In Germany, foreigners can get a retirement visa for one year, then two years, then two years (again), and then for five years. I’ve been here for 8 years.

  9. Ok, I see your time line correctly now. Your first year isn’t up until this Sep. Well, I’ll be interested to see what you guys do!

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