Moving to Paris
So you are moving to the city of light! Good news! However, Paris and the French organization in general can be painful for the unprepared. Several Japanese tourists moving to Paris have suffered the so-called “Paris syndrome” – a shock after discovering the difference between the dream city they imagined and the reality of Paris. For example unsafe streets (compared to Japan perhaps, but Paris is not unsafe compared to many other cities), a crowded metro and administrative hassle. The following guide lists some frequent questions newcomers ask when moving to Paris or France.
First, choose the area! Paris is divided into arrondissements from 1st to 20th, often written in roman numerals:
- I, II, III, IV, V, VI are very central, with mostly old pre-Hausmann Parisian buildings. They are well suited for wealthy students or workers, but don’t even imagine parking a car.
- VII, VIII, XIV, XV, XVI and XVII are usually family areas, quite safe, with parks to walk the kids and dog.
- IX, X, XI, XVIII are favored by young people and “hipsters”, they are former working-class areas in the process of gentrification.
- XII, XIII, XIX and XX are becoming more favored by expats, as the rents are lower
Finding housing is one of the main challenges for foreigners moving to Paris or France. Here are a few tips:
- check the Fusac ads http://ads.fusac.fr/ad-category/housing/
- check the main French websites (Leboncoin.fr, Seloger.com, pap.fr) or use an agency.
- head to facebook and look for groups like “Location appartement Paris” or “Americans in Paris” where people who leave and landlords advertise their apartment. Be careful of scams and unsavory landlords particularly on Facebook and Craig’s List.
Generally speaking, the housing market favors the landlords so you’ll need a clean and complete “dossier” to convince them! Landlords who advertise with FUSAC are generally less fussy with foreigner tenants.
Read about French leases here.
The administration, banks and utilities will require a proof of residence to set things up. This is most often requested document is an electricity bill or a rental contract. If you are just moving to Paris and you do not yet have these documents, you can submit a “déclaration d’hébergement” and a copy of your landlord/host’s ID. Make copies, you will need it again and again!
European Nationals do not need a visa. However, all other nationalities, including Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans or Canadians will need to get a visa at the French embassy at home – before coming to France – for a long-term stay in France. Getting a visa that allows you to work is VERY infrequent. Visas often have minimal resource (income) requirements as well.
Social security (healthcare) is a big thing in France. You will be covered as soon as you find a salaried job, but you first need to register for a social security number. The registration is done at the CPAM and they will create and AMELIE account for you. They require the usual documents: ID, justificatif de domicile (proof of address), IBAN (International Bank Account Number), birth certificate and sometimes work contract.
The last administration you can (it’s optional) contact is your embassy. Registering there will allow you security in case of a disaster, the possibility to vote and maybe an invitation for the 4th of July Garden Party!
If you come from a Eurozone country, like Ireland for example, you may find it easier not to open a bank account. However, your employer may require a French IBAN to transfer your monthly salary.
As online banks like Boursorama require you to hold a French IBAN to open an account, you will need to go through a physical bank to open a French account. The main banks are Société Générale, BNP Paribas and LCL. You can expect them to serve you in English in most Paris branches. The necessary documents are usually an ID and a proof of residence. Many banks are shy of American customers for FATCA declaring reasons, so don’t close your bank account at hoe until you are set up in France.
The rent is split between the rent itself – “loyer” in French – and the “charges” which include building maintenance, a “concierge” if any, water and a few other things. Be sure to ask if taxe d’habitation is also due.
The tenant has to open contracts and pay for utilities like electricity, natural gas and home communications. Many companies and services have phone numbers for English speakers moving to Paris or France. Check out our list of useful numbers. Selectra also offers a free English-speaking service to open utilities and home-comms contracts.
In apartment buildings, you will find DSL or fiber optics, on which phone and TV also run. The well known brands are Orange, SFR, Bouygues and Free. Heating is either natural gas, electric, or at the building level (in which case it is paid for in the “charges” with the rent). The well-known brands are EDF, Engie and Direct Energie.
You already know what you will enjoy in Paris: beautiful places, the food and drink of café culture, a cosmopolitan and vibrant city. What you probably don’t know is what the routine will be like. Once again, you can use Facebook to find fellow countrymen, which can be useful for daily support. The Fusac website provides ads to help you learn French, find a nanny, a microwave oven, employment or an apartment. And as everywhere else, there is always an Irish pub to drown your Paris syndrome in a pint of beer!
Selectra offers even more information and help on all the things you need to do when setting up a new home in a foreign land, moving to Paris or France.