Why would you live in Paris when you can live in the banlieues?

Oliver Gee
Oliver Gee - [email protected]
Why would you live in Paris when you can live in the banlieues?
A photo taken on July 18, 2012 shows buildings of the Pablo-Picasso district in the northeastern Paris suburban town of Nanterre. Photo: AFP

The suburbs around Paris do not have a great reputation, it has to be said, but you'd be foolish to dismiss the idea of leaving the City of Light to live on the other side of the Périphérique.


It's cheaper to rent
Finding an apartment to rent in central Paris often seems an impossible task for many. Not only that but the rent prices are the most expensive in the whole of the country at an average of around €1,000 a month.
And what's more - you'll likely be living in a shoebox-sized flat after forking out a fortune. 
But once you cross the Paris ring road, called the Péripherique, you'll get a much better bang for your buck. 
"I'm renting in Boulogne-Billancourt (to the west of Paris) and it's almost at Paris prices, but for the same rent in Garches (a little further to the west) I'd get twice the floor space," Yann Rousselot, an Englishman who works as a translator, tells The Local. 
"Often Paris apartments are old buildings, have cardboard walls and rundown elevators, in the burbs because building regulations aren't the same, you get actual sound insulation and a more modern infrastructure."
The Seine river in Levallois-Perret, with the the business district of La Defense in the background. Photo: AFP
It's cheaper to buy too
The same logic applies for buyers too. Central Paris is so small and crammed that there is serious competition to buy a home, and you'll no doubt pay for it through the teeth. 
The map below, courtesy of Meilleurs Agents, shows just how much the per-metre price drops as you move out of central Paris (in the red). 
"People just can't afford Paris anymore," says Canadian David Hayhurst, who lives in Asnières-sur-Seine, to the north east of the Paris. 
"And I bet our apartment has doubled in price since we bought it in 2007."
It's a slower pace of life
Life in Paris is life in the too-fast lane, says Rousselot, who has lived in the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt since 2001.
"I like the small town feel of my suburb, the thrumming, impatient city just wears me down if I stay too long," he tells The Local. 
He says his favourite time to head into central Paris is between 2am and 5am, when the streets are empty.
The Rothschild park, in Boulogne-Billancourt. Photo: Moonik/WikiCommons
Paris is right next door
Many Parisians joke that the suburbs are miles away from civilization - but they probably don't even realize just how close they are to their neighbours. 
"I love the fact that I can get to Paris really easily so I can enjoy all the benefits… but I don't have all the people and the noise on my doorstep," says Janet Marie Kildare, a Brit who has lived in Montrouge to the south of Paris for four years.
She says within 15 minutes she can have the "noise and the go go go" of Paris. 
"I love being in Paris, its feels like I'm in the centre of the world. But then when I step out of the Metro when I come home, it's all quiet and calm and relaxing. It doesn't feel like you have to choose between the two."
The Montrouge Town Hall. Photo: Mbzt/WikiCommons
And the Metro is often closer than you think
We've all heard this one before: "You live in the suburbs?! Do you have to take the RER to get home?"
Sure, many people in the suburbs do have to take the RER commuter trains to get home, but it's a total myth that the Metro lines don't run to the suburbs. 
If you actually take a look at the map, you'll see that only Line 2 and Line 6 don't extend beyond the périphérique ring road of the city that marks the end of Paris and the start of the suburbs. 

All the rest travel out into the banlieues - sometimes at both ends of the lines. 
A brave swimmer takes on the ice in the Canal de l'Ourcq to the north east of Paris. Photo: AFP
And Paris is about to get closer
Yep, in case you hadn't heard, there are huge plans underway to make Paris and its suburbs into Greater Paris - or Grand Paris in French - by making major extensions to the public transport lines. 
By 2030 they aim to have added four more Metro services, Lines 15 to 18, to the current network.
Read more about it here or check out the map below (central Paris is the darker grey part in the centre). 
It's a lot quieter in the suburbs
Of course, Paris is unparalleled in France when it comes to irritating noise. Motorists beep horns (constantly), police and ambulance sirens go off (loudly), and party-goers stumble noisily through the streets (drunkenly). 
"You just can't sleep at night in Paris, it's incredibly noisy," says Canadian David Hayhurst, who lives in Asnières-sur-Seine.
And what's more, a lot of the old apartment blocks in Paris have extremely thin walls, so you can add your neighbours' noises to the mix all too often. 
The rooftop of the BETC advertising agency, in the northeastern Parisian suburb city of Pantin. 
It's a lot greener
Paris isn't very green. Sure, there are the Bois des Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne parks, but they're practically in the suburbs themselves. 
In fact, Paris has the least green space per inhabitant in the country - by far
The capital has just 4m² of green space per person, compared to a national city average of 31m².
"Walking a dog in the city feels like a chore, in the suburbs, you would do it without a dog," says English translator Yann Rousselot, who lives in Boulogne-Billancourt.
Forêt de Meudon to the south west of Paris. Photo: JmDinge/WikiCommons
There is often a strong community feeling
Many of those who The Local spoke to said that the people just seemed warmer in the suburbs and more open to having a conversation. 
"If there are three people ahead of me at the butcher, I'll expect a half hour wait," said Hayhurst, who has lived in Asnières-sur-Seine since 2007. 
"They're even chatting away with the cashiers in the supermarkets," he said.  
"Also there is a lot less "entitlement" in the eyes of the strangers you meet, I don't know if that makes sense, but suburban folk seem more humble to me, more relatable," adds Yann Rousselot. 
And it's better for the kids
Many parents are quick to point out that there is a better quality of life for children in the suburbs - for many of the reasons listed above, in fact.  
"You have to consider the pollution problem that exists in all major cities and Paris has recently been one of the worst affected," says Ed Hayes, who is set to move to Saclay to the south with his wife and two children. 
"But for me it is as simple as having a garden or a local park for them to run around in, roads that are safe for them to ride their bikes on, friends they can go and call on, or any other reason they can find to get out and about."
And lastly - It's turning into the new cool place to work
Paris is growing too big for its own inner city boots, and more and more companies are taking the leap and opening offices outside of the ring road. 

A great example of this is the BETC advertising agency, pictured below, in Pantin in the north eastern suburbs. 
The company, which Forbes magazine called the "Ad agency of the future" took over a derelict post-industrialisation building in the area, which was better known previously for its criminality than its architectural heritage.
It now has up to 1,000 people working in the building.
The BETC advertising agency, in the northeastern Parisian suburb city of Pantin. 



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