- 16, Nov 2018
- All things Paris
- Rupert Comer
Books, films and paintings have all helped over the years to build up a romanticised and almost mythical image of Paris. When we think of the city we think cobbled streets, street musicians on their accordions, and glorious pastries. But if you’re seriously thinking about moving here then it’s worth stepping back a bit to consider what might not be so lovely. The city can be a difficult place to navigate with some of the most expensive housing and most frustrating bureaucracy around, and on top of that the language barrier does not make things easy. Many of us at Theatre in Paris have experienced much of this ourselves, but know that in the end it’s all worth it! We’ve therefore decided to share a bit of our inside knowledge to help you on your way in this beautiful city.
Finding housing in Paris
First step? You’ll need to figure out a place to live! Whether you’re looking for an agency or to rent directly from an owner, and even to live with roommates, there’s a tool for everything. With limited supply and high demand, the housing market in Paris is very fast-paced, make sure you call as soon as you see an offer that interests you, it may no longer be available tomorrow!
Le Bon Coin: France’s most popular equivalent to Craigslist or eBay, here you’ll find a wealth of adverts for apartments to rent, buy or flatshare. Beware of scams when searching online though, and of course do not hand over any money before seeing a flat in person.
Seloger: The golden ticket to finding all the best Paris apartment offers, as agencies all over Paris use this platform as their primary reference point. Tried and approved by the Theatre in Paris team, this website will put you directly in contact with the real estate agencies handling apartment rentals, and even allow you to set up alerts based on your search criteria so you never miss that perfect apartment.
Pap: The alternative to Le Bon Coin focused entirely on housing rentals between individuals, renting directly from homeowners. Here, you will find a whole array of furnished and unfurnished Paris apartments, and dealing directly with the owners you will avoid any pesky agency fees.
La Carte des Colocs: if you’re looking for a room in a shared apartment (‘colocation’ or ‘coloc’ in French) then this free website has plenty of choice and a handy map if you have a particular area in mind. It’s worth keeping in mind that if an advert is asking for “UNE colocataire”, then that means they’re only looking for girls, sorry guys.
Appartager: another colocation website with arguably more results than La Carte des Colocs. However, the website is not quite as user friendly, and is not entirely free to use. With a membership you can reply to all adverts but without one you will only be able to reply to those who have membership.
Notice boards: sometimes the old-fashioned way works best so don’t forget to take a look at notice boards as well as online adverts. Boards outside anglo-centres like the Shakespeare and Co. bookshop and the American Church in Pairs will often advertise rooms to rent. There’s usually a lot less competition for these apartments so well worth a shot.
Learning the Language - Learning French in Paris
Once you have secured housing, your next steps will be to learn a little French, you’ll be surprised how far you can go with even just the basics! Compared to the rest of France, the international culture of Paris means many Parisians have a good level of English, but you will always find that a polite ‘Bonjour’ upon entering a shop will go a long way, and you’ll feel so much more comfortable in your new home. You can opt to have a regular language exchange with a French speaker, or take more formal classes if you prefer a more structured approach.
France Langue: France Langue is a language school with two campuses in Paris, one in the Latin Quarter and one near the Arc de Triomphe. Here you can take courses in general or professional French, and they can even help you prepare for language exams.
TripMeeters: If you’re struggling to expand your French conversations beyond ordering coffees and croissants, then TripMeeters is a great place to start. It offers a friendly environment to practice French with native speakers so long as you help them with their English in return. Meetups usually take place in cafés and bars, or can even take the form of a nice stroll through the city.
L’École Parisienne de Langues: This innovative language school brings classes outside of the classroom in order to fully immerse its students. Lessons take place in cafés, restaurants or even within your workplace so that the conversation can flow and feel natural. This practical approach makes it easier for you to apply your knowledge in everyday situations.
Socializing in Paris - Paris Expat Events
Once you have a place to live and have a bit of basic French under your sleeve, you probably want to head out and socialize a bit, how else will you meet people in your new home? The best way to meet people in your new city is to jump right in, there’s many events organized regularly for people just like you!
Expat Theatre Night: A wonderful way to meet fellow English-speaking expats and enjoy some French culture, Theatre in Paris’ expat night takes place each month and tickets include both a play and a drink! The shows take place in a different charming venue each time, and shows are either in French with English surtitles, completely in English, or without any dialogue at all (gives you some time to work on perfecting your French). Follow this link to find out where and when the next Paris expat theatre event is taking place!
Lost in Frenchlation: If you’re looking to go to the cinema in Paris, then you might guess that your choice is limited to the typical Hollywood blockbusters showing in English. However, with Lost in Frenchlation you can watch newly released French films with English subtitles and meet fellow expats in the process. Alongside the film screenings, they also often organise drinks, Q&A sessions with the film crew and even stand-up nights.
Meetup: No matter what your hobby, this app is the place to go to find fellow enthusiasts. From capoeira to photography, theatre to language exchanges, Meetup provides a platform to create groups and organise events in cities across the world, Paris included. No matter your passion, you’re sure to find a Parisian Meetup group that’s looking to share a moment together!
Get to know the city - Paris Neighbourhood Guides
A city really starts to feel like home once you know your way around and have your own favourite pockets. Paris especially is home to very distinct and varying neighbourhoods, many of which were actually villages before being incorporated into the city. Each and every neighbourhood in Paris has its own unique feeling, and all are worth exploring! Take a look at our neighbourhood guides to get to know them, and discover what hidden treasures are awaiting around every Parisian corner.
16th Arrondissement: Considered by many as too rich or too residential, the 16th arrondissement in reality has much to offer whether it be exhibitions, parks or iconic art nouveau architecture. To the west of Paris, the 16th is a vibrant area that has managed to stay well out of the tourist trap.
Opéra: Dominated by the impressive and opulent Palais Garnier opera house, this culturally rich area is full of playhouses, covered passageways and you can find here some of Paris’ best food. Look out in particular for Rue Saint Anne, a narrow street full of excellent Japanese restaurants.
Montparnasse: Located on the left bank of the Seine, this neighbourhood is home to many theatres, museums and art halls. In the past it was frequented by the likes of Picasso and Hemingway, and still retains the feel of a bustling creative hub.
Latin Quarter: Paris’ student district, the Latin Quarter is the oldest area in the city and this is clear from the iconic architecture and cobbled, winding streets. Expect plenty of bookshops and cinemas, this is the perfect area to stroll through to find hidden treasures.
République: With its bustling central square and dominant statue and vibrant nightlife, this Parisian neighbourhood is the cultural heart of the city. Get to know all its secrets!
Avoid the tourist traps and see the local side of Paris
Now that you’re spending all your time in Paris, you won’t be visiting the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe on the daily, save that for when family and friends come to town. You’re not a visitor anymore, so avoid the tourist traps and explore the city like a local. These are our top picks:
Instead of a stroll along the Seine, head to Canal Saint-Martin for a picnic
The area around the Canal Saint-Martin is Paris’ prime hipster district, with plenty of trendy cafés, bars and clothes shops. The cobbled streets, mural-covered walls, and iconic iron footbridges over the water, provide the perfect setting for a picnic
Instead of Galeries Lafayette, try some Parisian friperies
Paris’ answer to Harrods, Galeries Lafayette, may be very impressive, but the prices are less so. However, if you’re looking for some inexpensive vintage clothing, then there are plenty of options in Paris. So-called “friperies” and kilo-shops (where you pay by weight) line Rue de la Verrerie in the Marais, and the Emmaus warehouse in the 19th is full of interesting antiques, clothing and trinkets.
Instead of a show at the Moulin Rouge, see a classic French play with Theatre in Paris
No need to head to the tourist trap that is the Moulin Rouge, when you can just see the film. But if you are looking to see a show, then Theatre in Paris offers a range of options for English-speaking audiences. We have curated the best shows in English, alongside brilliant French plays accompanied by English surtitles. Click here to see what is on at the moment.
Instead of the Centre Pompidou try Palais de Tokyo
The Centre Pompidou may have an excellent collection and intriguing architecture, but Palais de Tokyo is the place to go for temporary exhibitions. In the past it has welcomed big names like France’s JR and New York’s Guerilla girls. You can also try out their bar and terrace with lovely views of the Seine.
Instead of climbing the Eiffel Tower, head to Tour Montparnasse for a different view
The Eiffel Tower never gets old, but you’re not going to want to stand in the queues on the regular. Instead you can head to the Tour Montparnasse and get an alternative view of the city (and of the Eiffel Tower), on top of the only skyscraper within the city limits.
Want more unusual Paris alternatives, explore our list of 25 unusual things to do in Paris! #dontbeatourist
So there you have it, our complete just landed expat guide to Paris: all the Parisian tools you need to find housing in Paris, start learning French, the best places and events to meet new people in Paris, and some local alternatives to the more touristy Parisian sites. We may be a bit biased, but our first step is always to