Basilique Sacrée Coeur, expat in Paris

5 signs you are getting used being an expat in Paris

Paris is the place I’ve been calling home for more than 3 years. There have been tough times, but now I can proudly present you 5 signs of getting used to being an expat in Paris.

Before coming to France I took 14 years of French classes during school and university years. Since a very early age I daydreamed about France, a far, far away land that can be found only in romantic stories. Our French teacher taught us a lot about France: we celebrated Francophonie Day, the Bastille Day, we learnt about the districts of Paris, Mont Saint Michel and a lot more. What I enjoyed the most was discovering little by little the cities and attractions in France. The Lady of Paris fascinated me at the point of wanting me to become a French teacher myself, so I could be able to travel to France.

I know, that’s stupid, I thought it was the only way… But now, here I am, more than 3 years and counting. You know you’ve became

An expat in Paris


1. You’ve got used to dealing with bureaucracy

“Oh, you know the marriage certificate of your great-great-grandmother? We need it! And also, please come back when you have the papers of your genealogical tree. And you still have the diploma from graduating kindergarten? We’ll need that too!”

You get it. I was a lucky one, I come from EU. Only one advice for you: be tough, fuel yourself with patience before arriving. Things can easily go complicated with the papers. Stay strong!

2. You have to forget all the literary French you learned

Me: Bonjour, pourriez-vous m’indiquer comment me rendre à X? French: Chépa, moi, demande à la meuf là-bas!

Translation from French to French: Je ne sais pas, demande à la dame là-bas!

Translation from French to English. Me: Hello, could you, please, show me how to reach X? French: I don’t know, ask that lady!

Although I studied a lot of French and could understand everything in radio news or newspaper, when my French friends were talking to each other it seemed like they were talking another language. Between friends they are talking in argot, using words with reversed syllables, thus it’s very difficult to understand a discussion.

3. You enjoy the clichés of the French cuisine

Spoiler alert: no frog legs! Those are found pretty much in Chinese restaurants. And snails (escargots) not that often.

Everyone loves baguette, croissant, wine and cheese*.

*For cheese it really depends. When I just arrived in France I wanted to test the French cheese with red wine. But I knew nothing and always choosing random stuff from the supermarket. Every time: dirty-socks-smelling cheese and sour red wine. After befriending some locals, they introduced me to the good stuff. Not an easy task, though, as there are so many varieties to be tested.

The perks of becoming an expat in Paris are definitely the food. Since you start living in France, you won’t miss the green AB label that stands for Agriculture Biologique which is French for bio food. You become conscious of what you eat and you’ll start searching for local, fresh vegetables and eggs with stamps starting with FR0.

Duck magret in French cuisine
Duck magret, one of the specialties of the French cuisine

4. You succumb powerless to the national strikes

This may affect you even as tourist, as your plane might get delayed or cancelled due to pilots or ATC strikes, or find out that the TGV train you booked for your trip is not available anymore because of the SNCF strike. But don’t worry, you just have to provide some information and papers. (For details reread point 1.)

But if you get to live here, have some savings for taking meditating classes for developing your zen side, because you will have to live with those strikes in your every day life.

The iFRAP Foundation that conducts studies on the public administration and politics, released an article (in French) on march 2016 which states that France counts 3 millions of strike days in a year.

France has its own way of welcoming the UEFA2016 games: pilot strike, SNCF strike, trash strike, weather guys strike, postmen’s strike, policemen and firefighter strike, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. The website C’est la grève is mapping it all.

expat in Paris on RER C line of SNCF
Versailles Palace themed train on RER C line

5. You have mixed feelings for Paris

If the previous points are more general and every new-comer in France can relate to, my number 5 is for those who chose to call Paris home. You became an expat in Paris because when you heard Paris, you saw Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, the beautiful gardens from across Paris, the luxury on Champs-Elysées, and pretty much everything beautiful in Paris.

Chances are if you are seeing it for only several days, you won’t get struck by all the ugly Paris comes with. I won’t tell you about that, I will let you go home with the beauty in Paris. But if you stayed, you probably noticed it too. I only want to send a message about where France fails to treat its citizens. It’s sad that there are still homeless in the metros or streets in one of the top countries in Europe.

Eiffel Tower, Trocadero, in a day of an expat in Paris

During more than three years it’s been a love-and-hate relationship with Paris. But this is so complex, that needs more attention in a separate post.

How do you cope with being an expat in Paris? Did you get used to it? I would love to read to what you had to get used to.

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