Truth be told, I did not consider anything before moving to Paris. I made it work, I hustled, and sometimes, I got lucky. 7 years have passed and I have gone through most of the visa statuses that exist in France (student, profession libérale, visiteur, salarié). I changed jobs twice in two different sectors. Moving to Paris is totally different than moving to London or New York or in general any anglophone country. It’s better to set your expectations in advance so you can make a fully informed decision before moving to Paris.
Here are the top three things to consider before you make Paris/France your new home.
1. Learn French. Period.
If you are moving here because you watched Midnight in Paris, think twice. When I moved here, I had some knowledge of the language and I made sure to improve it further by different means so I survived. If you are not prepared to embrace a new language and live your life in French, your experience will not be the same. You will live the ‘outsider’ life, which isn’t fun in the long term. If you are moving here temporarily, then you may be able to survive but you would still not get the full local experience.
French people will be nicer to you if you spoke French or tried to. They go crazy when I quote some French catchphrases such as "non mais allo quoi?!" (No, are you serious?). You instantly become 'cool'.
There are many universities offering courses fully in English but if you plan to stay afterward to work, you need to speak French. Paris is changing a lot with the new startup/tech scene evolving and there are some cool startup kids speaking English but I would say the majority of French people still don’t speak English. Yes, Paris is really charming but how long can you live this dreamy life? Things do get real when you have to call a plumber or go to the dentist. You will appreciate if you spoke the language. It is also one of the best and fastest possible means to integrate yourself into your new country. I have seen people returning to their home countries because either they couldn’t find a job or they just didn’t like the life here as they spoke no French. I know people who buy two baguettes because they don’t know if it’s une or un baguette. You don’t wanna live like this. Haha.
Also, think about it. You are migrating to another country so you have to learn to live by their rules. You signed up for it so there is no point in sitting around and complaining later. You can instead choose to learn french #justsaying
Finding a job would be ultra-difficult if you didn’t speak French. Unless you work in certain sectors that let you have a job without speaking French. Having worked in law, I can speak for my field. You could work in international arbitration at a law firm / the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) without speaking French. Getting a job in international arbitration is another challenge but you can make it work without speaking French. You could also be working at the UN agencies such as UNESCO, where French is not mandatory but desirable. Otherwise, even in multinational companies, they expect you to speak French unless you are part of an intra-company transfer. I do plan to post interviews with my foreign friends to cover different industries to elaborate on what is expected from foreigners but it will take some time.
My advice would be to start learning French already if your move is planned in advance or take French classes immediately upon arrival. I recommend Alliance Française, their classes are amazing and you’ll speak really good French if you do most of their levels. Finally, if you plan to become French, the French visa authorities require a certain level of French (B1) so it's a great investment.
2. Willingness to struggle a lot....in French
No matter where you live, the struggle exists but when you move to a country that doesn’t speak English, your struggle is double. Triple, if you have a shitty passport like mine that throws you out of the country the moment your visa expires. For other nationalities such as Americans and Canadians, you could still enter the country without a visa as a tourist and continue your job search. It takes a lot of courage to struggle in French or any foreign language. At times, I have days when I just want to cry because I am simply tired of the struggle...in French. I ask myself "I am ok with the struggle but can I please have it in English?"
This struggle comes in many forms. While looking for a job, there have been times when I had more to offer than a French person and yet, I didn’t get the job because I was ‘too international’. I feel the connotation behind being ‘too international’ is that you are too cool for French people. At least, that’s what I tell myself to feel better, haha. French employers can be biased towards French candidates over foreigners for numerous reasons...maybe they don’t want to deal with foreigners, maybe they are racist, maybe the team needs a French person, maybe they don’t sponsor visas. All of this can get really exhausting and I do speak French.
Recently, I read a report published by Internations and France is ranked #52 (!!) for the ease of settling in index. Even India is ranked higher in the category. I recommend reading the full country report for France so you get an idea. I don’t know about other countries in the report but I do agree with most of the things written for France. Comment below if you agree/disagree!
I said it in my earlier post that if I put in the same efforts in my home country, I’d be a millionaire by now. I have become stronger than ever but this struggle isn’t for everyone. You do get many positive things in the end but all of it comes at a price (stress, anxiety issues among others) so do prepare your mind for this before you move here.
3. Have loads of patience for French administration
French administration has increased my patience so much. Now, I am always zen when anyone says they will send me the document in 4 months. I am just happy that they are sending the document. France is a first world country but every damn thing here takes light-years. I FINALLY got my carte vitale (French health insurance card) after 7 years and after they lost my file last year :-D Yes, the administration can lose files. They don’t discriminate, they also lose French people’s files.
France is a paper-heavy country, they want every word in writing, sent by letter with an acknowledgment receipt (always) so don’t be surprised if your gym membership didn’t get canceled because you called to cancel. Send the damn letter. The cancel button does not exist here on any website. Trust me, it gets easier when you don’t try to question the logic and just accept it. I tell myself that legally it’s good to create a trace. Once I showed up for my visa renewal appointment at the préfecture and I was given another date because the préfecture didn’t have enough people working on that day! So the reasons could be ANY, you just have to prepare your mind to be patient.
I got 99 problems and French administration is all of them. Watch this video to understand what I mean.
All of this takes a lot of my time annually but I have just accepted that its part of my life now so it feels less burdensome. I hope this post has helped you understand a few essential things about life in Paris. If you are not willing to put up with the downside of living in Paris, Paris is not always a good idea.
Comment below to share your thoughts or other things to consider before the big move!