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MOVING TO FRANCE

9 things to expect when moving to Paris

For many, a move to Paris is the ultimate glamorous dream. but although it's undoubtedly a very cool city, you might also find a few surprises - here's what to expect.

9 things to expect when moving to Paris
Your Paris life won't be all tonsil-tennis in front of the Eiffel Tower. Photo: AFP

1. You've got no money

It's not exactly a secret, but Paris is an expensive city, especially in terms of property. It regularly appears alongside Hong Kong and Zurich in the list of world's most expensive cities and property prices keep increasing at a dizzying rate.

 

 

That doesn't mean there aren't bargains to be had, but you will need to shop around and budget carefully to cover your day-to-day existence.

READ ALSO Bargain chicken to theatre deals – locals reveal how to live cheaply in Paris

2. Your apartment is the size of a largish guinea pig cage

As well being insanely expensive, properties are not large. The compact nature of the city, coupled with the fact that it's cool and a lot of people want to live here, means demand outstrips supply for apartments and that in turn means that very small homes are let out for large prices.

Non-Parisians watching new Netflix series Emily in Paris probably didn't remark much on her smallish apartment in the city centre – Parisians guffawed with laughter at the idea of someone on a modest wage being able to afford that. 

And that's even before we get to the complicated businesses of persuading landlords to rent to you in the first place.

3. It's loud 

If you've been here as a tourist, chances are you wandered along quiet streets of Île-de-la-Cité at night and thought how romantic it all was. Now you live here you're likely to be in a more lively area, complete with late-night drunken shouting in the street and noisy scooters.

And you might not get much respite inside. Paris' historic housing stock is beautiful but frequently low on sound insulation, which means you're going to get to know your neighbours, their crying baby, barking dog and loud love-making very well indeed.

4. It's dirty

There's no getting away from this – despite a whole fleet of city employees cleaning the streets daily, Paris is dirty. People drop litter, fail to pick up after their dogs, flick cigarette butts everywhere and frequently pee in the street (that last one is mostly men).

 

All this means that the city hosts a large population of rats, and not cute cartoon ones that are training to be chefs.

5. The bread really is as good as they say

But before we get too negative about it, Paris lives up to a lot of its reputation. Yes, baguettes really are as delicious as the claim, and yes locals really do queue daily at their local boulangerie then walk home with the bread under their arm.

And those amazing looking cakes in the window taste every bit as good as they look. French women don't get fat? Well some don't, but they're the ones who jog daily and have learned to resist the temptation of chouquettes à la crème.

READ ALSO Why French women are fed up of the 'sexy French girl' cliché

6. Your spike heels are pointless

Unless you plan on taking taxis everywhere (and as discussed in point 1 you can' afford it) you are going to be walking a lot. Even if you take the Metro, there are often long walks between platforms and that's before we get into strike days.

So the best thing to do is buy comfortable but chic shoes and embrace it – Paris is a compact capital, most things are within walking distance and there's always something good to look at as you walk.

 

This is why, contrary to what you see in the movies, very few Parisian women teeter around in designer heels.

7. Not all nights out involve sipping wine and discussing philosophy . . .

You may also have certain preconceived ideas of what nights out with French people will be like.

While some French folk stick to sipping and savouring a glass or two of fine wine, plenty of others – especially the younger ones – get drunk on a Saturday night out just like in every other European city. 

READ ALSO The French drunks who prove that France is embracing binge drinking

There are (in non-Covid-19 times) plenty of loud bars and clubs and real ale bars are also a popular phenomenon in the city.

8. . . . but if you want it, there's a philosophy café and one for polyamory too

But if you love the idea of hanging out chatting existential angst, there's a place for that. Because most people live in small apartments, groups such as book clubs and language exchanges are far more likely to take place in cafés than in people's homes. From Café Philo (philosophy group) to Café Poly (for people interested in exploring polyamory) there's a group for everything.

READ ALSO Café Poly: Parisians tell their stories of multiple lovers

9. It's a modern capital city 

This is perhaps the best-kept secret about Paris, which has such a romanticised image – especially in British and American movies – that the fact it's a large 21st century capital often comes as a bit of a shock.

Like most European capitals it's busy, fast-paced, ethnically-diverse, and frequently traffic-choked with a business district and a large international community.

Of course, we happen to think it's Europe's best capital city, but we might be biased on that one. 

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PROPERTY

MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

While French cities such as Paris are notoriously expensive, there are many areas outside the cities where it is still possible to buy spacious homes for less than €100,000 - particularly if you don't mind a bit of renovation.

MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

We decided to look at where in France you could afford a property on a budget of €100,000, and it turns out there are some bargains to be had.

There are a lot of caveats while searching for property, and many local variables in place, but our search does show some of the areas to concentrate on if you have a limited budget.

We used the Notaires de France immobilier website in August 2022, and we specified that the property should have at least five rooms (including kitchen and bathroom) and a floor space of at least 100 square metres.

We also discounted any property that was for sale under the viager system – a complicated purchase method which allows the resident to release equity on their property gradually, as the buyer puts down a lump sum in advance and then pays what is effectively a rent for the rest of the seller’s lifetime, while allowing them to remain in the property.

READ ALSO Viager: The French property system that can lead to a bargain

For a five-room, 100 square metre property at under €100,000, you won’t find anywhere in the Île-de-France region, where the proximity of Paris pushes up property prices. The city itself is famously expensive, but much of the greater Paris region is within commuting distance, which means pricier property. 

Equally the island of Corsica – where prices are pushed up by its popularity as a tourist destination – showed no properties for sale while the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur – which includes the French Riviera – showed only 1 property under €100,000.

The very presence of Bordeaux, meanwhile, takes the entire département of Gironde out of this equation – but that doesn’t mean that the southwest is completely out of the running. A total of 25 properties came up in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region. One property was on the market for a mere €20,000 – but it was, as the Notaires’ brochure noted, in need of “complete renovation”.

Neighbouring Occitanie, meanwhile, showed 12 further properties in the bracket.

By far the most properties on the day of our search – 67 – were to be found in the Grand Est region of eastern France. The eastern part of France overall comes out best for property bargains, with the north-east region of Hauts-de-France showing 38 properties and and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté displaying 25.

Further south, however, the presence of the Alps – another popular tourist destination – pushed up prices in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region which showed just three results.

The below map shows our search results, with darker colours indicating more cheap properties.

Property buying tips 

In order to make a comparison, we focused our search on properties advertised online, but if you have a specific area in mind it's well worth making friends with a few local real estate agents and perhaps also the mayor, since it's common for properties not to be advertised online.

Most of the truly 'bargain' properties are described as being "in need of renovation" - which is real estate speak for a complete wreck.

If you don't mind doing a bit of work you can often pick up property for low prices, but you need to do a clear-eyed assessment of exactly how much work you are willing and able to do, and what the cost is likely to be - there's no point getting a "cheap" house and then spending three times the purchase price on renovations.

READ ALSO 'Double your budget and make friends with the mayor' - tips for French property renovation

That said, there were plenty of properties at or near the €100,000 mark that were perfectly liveable or needed only relatively minor renovations.

You also need to pay attention to the location, as the sub-€100,000 properties are often in remote areas or very small villages with limited access to amenities. While this lifestyle suits many people, bear in mind that owning a car is a requirement and you may end up paying extra for certain services.

Finally remember that government help, in the form of loans and grants, is available for environmentally friendly improvements, such as insulation or glazing.

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