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13 simple hacks to make life in Paris easier

13 simple hacks to make life in Paris easier
Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP
Undoubtedly one of the world's most beautiful and fun cities, Paris can also be tough and expensive place to live. Here are some tips to make your life in the French capital a little easier.
1. Realise you’re not in the movies
 
Paris features in film and TV a lot, but it’s rarely a portrayal that locals recognise with its clean streets, enormous apartments and swooning romance around every corner. In reality, Paris is a large modern metropolis with all the issues of any other big city in the 21st century – litter, graffiti, crime and traffic.
 
There’s even a name – Paris syndrome – for the disconnect between Paris’ romantic image and the reality. So if you’re living in a tiny apartment in a decidedly unpicturesque area of town, you’ve just stepped in dog shit and you still haven’t found true love with an unfeasibly attractive Parisian then you’re not doing it wrong, you’re just living like the locals do.
 
2. Consider going outside the périphérique
 
There’s no getting around the fact that property in Paris is expensive, as well as hard to find. So consider whether you actually need to be in the city centre.
 
Once you go outside the ring road that defines the actual city of Paris and get into the suburbs, you get a lot more space for the same money. And if you stay in the inner suburbs – the petite couronne – you will probably be well connected by the Metro and able to access most parts of the city in less than 40 minutes.
 
 
3. Walk 
 
As public transport systems go Paris has a pretty decent one. The Metro, bus, tram and train network is quick, efficient and relatively cheap.
 
But do you actually need it at all? Paris is a very compact capital – you can walk across the entire city in two hours – so you may find that it’s just as quick to walk, as well as being better for your health.
 
So invest in a pair of comfy shoes and really get to know the city from your own two feet.
 

Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP
 
4. Or cycle
 
If you want to move a little faster than walking pace, Paris is becoming an increasingly cycle friendly city, with a big expansion of the cycle lane network.
 
Before investing in an expensive bike, try out the Vélib’ bike hire network to see if cycling is for you. Actually, maybe don’t buy an expensive bike at all – bike theft is a big problem in Paris, so get a cheap one and accept the fact that it might get stolen.
 
In good news, the city’s public transport network has created the Liberté pass, which is specifically designed for sporadic users who might usually cycle to work but will get the Metro if it rains, so you will always have flexibility.
 
 
5. Use the parks
 
Property with an outside space is a rarity in Paris so unless you’re looking at the top end of the market you are unlikely to have a garden. But the city does have some truly beautiful parks which are very widely used by locals. So whether you’re looking to stretch your legs or just lounge in the sun with a good book, head to your local park for some outdoor time.
 
For walking we really like Buttes-Chaumont in northern Paris, designed to look like a (miniature) Alpine valley, while Montsouris is for our money the prettiest park, perfect for whiling away an afternoon reading, dozing and people-watching.
 
And if you like a little more space, the Bois de Vincennes on the east or Bois de Boulogne on the west cover a total area of 18 square kilometres.
 
6. Don’t feel that you need to tip
 
There isn’t a big tipping culture in Paris – or elsewhere in France come to that – so while you can leave a few coins as a pourboire (tip) if you’ve had particularly good service, there is no need to add extra onto your bill as a matter of course.

A visitor walks near the clock in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP
 
7. Take advantage of free museum Sunday
 
If you’re a fan of culture or history then you’re definitely in the right city, but you don’t need to spend a fortune.
 
On the first Sunday of the month all the museums run by city authorities – which includes a lot of big names like the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay – are free. Once you’ve checked out the famous museums you can make a start on the decidedly more weird ones like the museum of hundreds of stuffed animals (or the Musée de le Chasse et de la Nature to give it its full name).
 
8. Free exercise sessions
 
It is unfortunately a total myth that people in Paris live on pain au chocolat and red wine and yet somehow to stay slim. The people who are in good shape – and that’s by no means everybody – get that way by eating healthily and taking some exercise, just like everywhere else.
 
But before you shell out for an expensive gym membership, check out the free exercise options. With an increasing number of pedestrianised areas jogging is hugely popular and there are also outdoor gyms in many parks and public spaces. If you prefer to exercise in a group, the City of Paris runs free exercise classes on the banks of the Seine on Sunday mornings. 
 
 
9. Use Meetup or groups
 
Paris isn’t the friendliest city so it’s not always easy to make new friends when you move here, especially if you’re not working or studying.
 
Many people find the first few months quite lonely, but in good news there are plenty of groups you can join or language exchange sessions where you can find people in similar situations and improve your French into the bargain. Check out the app Meetup for some suggestions.
 
10. Apps will make your life easier
 
If you have a smartphone there are an increasing number of apps that make daily life in Paris a bit easier, especially for people whose French is not fluent. Here’s our pick of some of the most useful – from booking medical appointments or restaurant tables to finding a condom in an urgent romantic situation.
 
11. Watch your bag and pockets on the Metro
 
Violent crime in Paris is thankfully quite rare, but pickpockets are a major problem – especially on public transport. Keep a close eye on your bags or pockets when on a crowded Metro or bus, particularly in areas popular with tourists.
 
 
12. Don’t forget the markets
 
French markets tend to be thought of as a rural and small-town thing, but in fact Paris has many excellent food markets that will often be a lot cheaper than supermarkets.
 
Each arrondissement has its own market, and in the suburbs most of the communes have a regular market too, in addition to the big markets in Belleville and Barbès. Bargain hunters might enjoy checking out the marché aux puces (flea markets) too, but the brocantes (vintage or antique markets) are very expensive compared to the genuine bargains to be found at brocantes outside the capital.
 
 
13. Learn French
 
If you don’t speak any French at all, Paris is probably the best part of France to be in since many people do speak at least some English.
 
But unlike cities like Stockholm or Amsterdam, it’s hard to get by speaking only English and you will get much more out of the city once you begin learning the language.
 
French classes are easy to find and there are also many ‘conversation exchange’ groups where you can help out a French person learning English and in exchange get some French tuition. At the very least, learn bonjour and then say it – a lot.
 
What are your tips for life in Paris? Share them in the comments below.

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