Are Parisians really fleeing to the countryside since lockdown?

While the pandemic has shaken the entire world, lockdown was an opportunity for some to reflect on their way of life and to decide they wanted a new one out of the capital.

Are Parisians really fleeing to the countryside since lockdown?
Photo: AFP

The nationwide lockdown in the spring meant two months confined at home – and for many people in Paris that meant small apartments with no outdoor space.

An exceptional situation that led many to reconsider their lives and even some to conclude they wanted to leave the French capital.

Leaving Paris as soon as lockdown ended is what Félicitée and her husband Maxime decided to do – after being confined with their three boys in their 67 square metres appartement in the 10th arrondissement.

“It was the quickest but also the best decision we have ever taken,” 36-year-old Félicitée told The Local.

In less than four weeks, the couple had told their landlord they were leaving, and found a house in Dieppe (Normandy), for almost the same rent.

“It’s where we are both from, our families are there as well,” says Félicitée whose desire to live closer to her loved ones was not new but has been “exacerbated” by Covid-19.

A feeling that is shared by 17 percent of French people, according to an IFOP (French Institute of Public Opinion) survey issued last June.

READ ALSO: 'People have been waiting for this moment': Weary Parisians try to return to normal after lockdown

Looking for bigger and greener

“Our cue was being locked up in our tiny Parisian apartment, we wanted a better life and moving out to Pau really brought us an undeniable quality of life,” Léon told The Local.

He and his family decided to leave the capital for the commune of Pau in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques département (south west France).

Photo: AFP

“Life is beautiful here, we’re close to the sea, the ocean and the mountain but also quite close to several big cities,” Léon said.

Indeed, according to Paris je te quitte (Paris I'm leaving you) after the end of lockdown, 59 percent of Île-de-France inhabitants said they wanted to live in a less stressful environment while the same percentage wished to get closer to nature.

But other than the fresh air, the cost of life in provincial cities is also more interesting for these newly installed families.

“In Pau, rents are lower than in Paris and even though we earn less, we also tend to consume less here,” said Leon.

A rise in house prices in provincial cities

But if smaller towns are taken by storm by Parisians, won’t this new phenomenon, if it becomes a trend, impact the prices of these – usually – less expensive places to settle?

According to what Aveyron-based real estate agent Jean-Stéphane Villain told France 3, since the end of lockdown, the houses in his southern French département get sold very quickly, targeted by former big city inhabitants seduced by the idea of a quiet télétravail environnement.

Indeed, 23 percent of the French said télétravail (working from home) could influence them to move, according to a survey published in June by French opinion poll institute Ifop and housing network Optimhome on the Covid-19 crisis’ impact on the French and on their view of the housing market.

This new clientele could even replaces Brits, who before the pandemic were the ones to frequently invest in in the region, Jean-Stephane Villain said.

READ ALSO: Ten things you need to think about before buying a house in France. 

But as the demand rises, so do the prices.

“The arrival of all these people made the market rise significantly. Today, housing costs €1,000 per square metre more,” told France Info Tours-based real estate agent Helianthe Patte.

READ ALSO: What is happening to house prices in France amid the coronavirus crisis? 

Is Paris really deserted?

But though it seems like many decided to ditch their Parisian life to go quieter, is Paris really getting emptier and so, cheaper ?

“Lockdown made me rethink my professional choices but not my life in Paris, it’s indispensable for me to be here in order to find a job,” told 27-year-old publicist Anaïs.

A placard reading “furnished apartment for rent” on an appartment building in Paris. Photo: AFP

Apart from its other effects, the pandemic also shattered the French economy.

“With the economic crisis looming and business failures piling up, employment is going to concentrate around big cities, especially for young people looking for their first job,” Franck Vignaud, President of Le Laboratoire de l’immobilier (a body of experts studying the market of newly built properties) told The Local.

And though some decided to head to the countryside, others tried to find greener places near Paris and this could contribute to an increase of prices in the capital's inner and outer suburbs.

Property prices in the inner suburbs (Petite Couronne) are set to increase by 9 percent, while the outer suburbs (Grande Couronne) could see increases of 6.1 percent for flats and 7.6 percent for houses respectively, according to numbers in the analysis by Les Grands Notaires de Paris.

“The ‘going back to the country’ myth collides with the reality of the job market,” said Vignaud.

And indeed, cities in general don’t seem to be less popular than before lockdown.

Between May 11th (the end of official lockdown in France) and August 31st 2020 and compared to the same period in 2019, cities continued to occupy an important place in real estate searches (for buying and renting) on website Se Loger.

By Gwendoline Gaudicheau

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Plumbing Emergencies in France: Who to call and what to say

Plumbing ermergencies are common in France, so here's our guide to what to do, who to call and the phrases you will need if water starts gushing in unexpected areas.

Plumbing Emergencies in France: Who to call and what to say

How do I find a reliable plumber and avoid getting scammed?

First, try to stick with word-of-mouth if you can. Contact trusted individuals or resources, like your neighbours and friends, or foreigner-oriented Facebook groups for your area (ex. “American Expats in Paris”). This will help you find a more reliable plumber. If this is not an option for you, try “Pages Jaunes” (France’s ‘Yellow Pages’) to see reviews and plumbers (plomberie) in your area. 

Next, educate yourself on standard rates. If the situation is not an emergency, try to compare multiple plumbers to make sure the prices are in the correct range. 

Finally, always Google the name of the plumber you’ll be working with – this will help inform you as to whether anyone else has had a particularly positive (or negative) experience with them – and check that the company has a SIRET number.

This number should be on the work estimate (devis). You can also check them out online at If you want to be extra careful you can also ask to see their carte artisan BTP (craftsman card). 

READ MORE: What is a SIRET number and why is it crucial when hiring French tradesmen?

Who is responsible for paying for work?

If you own the property, you are typically the one who is responsible for financing the plumbing expenses.

However if you’re in a shared building, you must determine the cause and location of the leak. If you cannot find the origin of the leak, you may need a plumber to come and locate it and provide you with an estimate. You can use this estimate when communicating with insurance, should the necessity arise. 

If you are a renter, the situation is a bit more complicated. Most of the time, water damage should be the landlord’s responsibility, but there are exceptions.

The landlord is obliged to carry out major repairs (ex. Natural disaster, serious plumbing issues) that are necessary for the maintenance and normal upkeep of the rented premises (as per, Article 6C of the law of July 6, 1989). The tenant, however, is expected to carry out routine maintenance, and minor repairs are also to be paid by the tenant. If the problem is the result of the tenant failing to maintain the property, then it will be the tenant’s responsibility to cover the cost of the repair.

Legally speaking, it is also the tenant’s responsibility to get the boiler serviced once a year, as well as to maintain the faucets and joints, and to avoid clogging the pipes.

READ MORE: Assurance habitation: How to get home insurance in France

If you end up in dispute with your landlord over costs, you can always reach out to ADIL, the national Housing Association which offers free legal advice for housing issues in France. 

What happens if the leak is coming from my neighbour’s property?

Both you and your neighbour should contact your respective housing insurance companies and file the ‘sinistre’ (damage) with them.

If you both agree on the facts you can file an amiable (in a friendly fashion), then matters are much more simple and you will not have to go through the back-and-forth of determining fault.

If having a friendly process is not possible, be sure to get an expert to assert where the leak is coming from and file this with your insurance company.

As always, keep evidence (lists and photographs) of the damage. Keep in mind that many insurance providers have a limited number of days after the start of the damage that you can file. Better to do it sooner than later, partially because, as with most administrative processes in France, it might take a bit of time.


Plumbing has its own technical vocabulary so here are some words and phrases that you’re likely to need;

Hello, I have a leak in my home. I would like to request that a plumber come to give me an estimate of the damage and cost for repairs – Bonjour, j’ai une fuite chez moi. Je voudrais demander qu’un plombier vienne me donner une estimation des dégâts et du coût de la réparation. 

It is an emergency: C’est une urgence

I have no hot water: Je n’ai pas d’eau chaude

The boiler has stopped working: La chaudière ne fonctionne plus.

I cannot turn my tap off: Je ne peux pas arrêter le robinet.

The toilet is leaking: Mes toilettes fuient.

The toilet won’t flush/ is clogged: Mes toilettes sont bouchées

There is a bad smell coming from my septic tank: Il y a un mauvaise odeur provenant de ma fosse septique

I would like to get my electricity / boiler safety checked: Je souhaiterais une vérification de la sécurité de mon installation électrique / de ma chaudière

I can smell gas: Ca sent le gaz

My washing machine has broken: Ma machine a laver est cassée

Can you come immediately? Est-ce que vous pouvez venir tout de suite?

When can you come? Quand est-ce que vous pouvez venir?

How long will it take? Combien de temps cela prendra-t-il ?

How much do you charge? Quels sont vos prix? / Comment cela va-t-il coûter?

How can I pay you? Comment je peux vous payer ? 

Here are the key French vocabulary words for all things plumbing-related:

Dishwasher – Lave vaisselle

Bath – Baignoire

Shower – Douche

Kitchen Sink – Évier

Cupboard – Placard

Water meter – Compteur d’eau

The Septic Tank – La fosse septique

A leak – Une fuite

Bathroom sink – Le lavabo

The toilet – La toilette

Clogged – Bouché

To overflow – Déborder

A bad smell – Une mauvaise odeur

The flexible rotating tool used to unclog a pipe (and also the word for ferret in French) – Furet 

Water damage – Dégât des eaux

The damage – Le sinistre

And finally, do you know the French phrase Sourire du plombier? No, it’s not a cheerful plumber, it’s the phrase used in French for when a man bends down and his trouser waistband falls down, revealing either his underwear or the top of his buttocks. In Ebglish it’s builder’s bum, in French ‘plumber’s smile’.