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Moving to Paris

What to Know if You're Moving to Paris

As Audrey Hepburn famously said, “Paris is always a good idea.” If you have always wondered how to move to Paris, you will be pleased to hear that starting a new life in the City of Love is not difficult. Moving to the City of Love is not difficult. Expats with knowledge of French can easily find a good job. Finding an affordable home, however, is an ordeal. You have to be prepared to spend more than half of your income on rent.

Need to move abroad? Organizing an international relocation is not something you should do on your own. As expats, we understand what you need, and offer the the essential services to help you move and live abroad easily. Contact us today to jump start your move, and begin the preparations with our free relocation checklist.

It is easy to plan your relocation to Paris, as the processes are not that tricky. Bringing furniture, and furry friends along to the City of Love is fairly easy. At customs you will need to show purchase receipts for your belongings, and if your pet is not on a banned breeds list, you will only need proof of standard vaccinations, and a pet passport including microchip.

This vibrant and beautiful city is full of culture. Living in Paris will transport you back in time, allowing you to follow the footsteps of famous thinkers ahead of their time. You can find out where James Joyce sat when he finished writing Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake, or where Dalí met fellow surrealist painters on his regular trips to Paris.

You will soon adopt the laissez-faire (go with the flow) attitude and the great style of Parisians, as the locals are known, and spend your evenings enjoying apéro (happy hour) in a nice bar with your friends. Your weekends can be spent in the countryside near the palace of Versailles.

However, there is more to Paris than this romanticized version that expats tend to build in their mind. It has all the trappings of a modern international city: it is expensive and noisy, the streets can smell unpleasant, and tourists often remark that people in the city are rude. These are all things you need to know before moving to Paris. Speaking French, as well as learning about the Parisian way of life will help you navigate life there better, and allow you to have a wonderful time without overly high expectations.

Relocating

If you are thinking of relocating to Paris, you are not alone. Many expats dream of living in the City of Lights. It easy to fall in love with the city’s architecture and the laissez-faire attitude of Parisians. It is even easier to immerse yourself in the abundant arts and cultural scenes before you eat your weight in fresh pastries. Jobs are plentiful for expats who have a proficient knowledge of the French language. As non-speaker the opportunities will be fewer. For that reason, most expats work as nannies or English teachers.

Still wondering, why you should move to Paris? Read our pros and cons list to get the final push you need to pack your bags.

Things to Know Before Moving to Paris

Many expats have an idealized notion of what life in Paris is like. Even though we do not want to burst your bubble, as there are a lot of pros, there are just as many cons to moving to Paris that you need to take into consideration.

Pros

All that time off

A big bonus of working in France is the shorter work week and large number of vacation days—though French people are not always at the beach! Employees in Paris will enjoy working a maximum of 35 hours per week, as well as getting five weeks of paid vacation in addition to a dozen national holidays.

Multicultural and Diverse

Paris has one of the most multicultural societies in Europe, with over 20% of its population coming from a migrant background. Some of the biggest communities in the city have Maghreb roots, meaning they come from the former French colonies in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Oceania. Another big community is first- and second-generation Portuguese. If you are relocating to Paris, you will be able to find like-minded people at InterNations gatherings and groups.

Great Social Welfare System 

Something expats have a hard time understanding when relocating to Europe in general, are the overall lower net salaries. However, they soon come to realize that lower spending power does not mean that they have to struggle. Like most European countries, France has an amazing social system founded on the principle of solidarity. Higher taxes and social security contributions result in residents being provided with free healthcare and education, and minimum of five weeks paid vacation. No matter a student’s financial status, there are no university fees in France anymore. Students only pay an enrollment fee of around 170 EUR (190 USD) for a BA, and 250 EUR (275 USD) for a master’s degree.

Amazing Food

Once in Paris, you will have to try out all the pastries—Beignets, macarons, croissants, and the Is such as fromages (cheese), and escargots (snails). And do not forget the amazing wines. At first, you will decry the hilly city you moved to, but in the end you will be thankful, as all those stairs around town will help you walk off all the calories you will consume while living there.

Easy Access to Culture

Paris has an inclusive approach to art and culture, making it the perfect city for anyone interested in arts and literature. All museums allow free entry to everybody under the age of 26, and they charge a reduced entry fee for students over the age of 26 and seniors. Everyone else gets to enjoy free art exhibitions on the first Sunday of every month. You will get to walk the same streets as Hemingway, step into Fitzgerald’s shoes, and feel inspired and creative just by being in Paris.

Cons

Pollution 

The famous architect Haussman intended to renovate the Paris of the late 1800 to get rid of an overcrowded, dangerous, dirty and unhealthy city center. His project worked out well. Paris cleaned up its act after the renovations, and his buildings, the wide, and vast avenues, and the many public fountains are what attract so many people to this city.

However, Paris is still, and will probably stay a big and very densely populated city. As with any large city, this comes with downsides. In recent years, it has been labeled the dirtiest city in Europe quite a few times by various travel publications. This struck a nerve with the Parisian mayor, who explained the situation is not ideal, even with the many public sanitation actions the city took, such as hiring more staff, and setting up cleanliness emergency teams. Now Paris launched a campaign called Dans ma rue (in my street), encouraging residents to report and photograph areas that need cleaning.

The city also struggles to combat air pollution. According to the Public Health France air pollution is responsible for 48,000 premature deaths every year. In an attempt to regulate pollution, Paris has introduced fines on cars that do not carry “Crit’Air” emissions category sticker. Other plans to curb pollution levels, include the expansion of the métro network, bike lanes, and paid parking zones to make driving within the city less attractive.

Landlocked

The city is situated in the northern part of the country, meaning it is landlocked. The closest beach is around 200km (125 miles) away. Even though Paris is enclosed by two big national parks (Parc Naturel Régional du Gâtinais français and Parc Naturel Régional du Vexin français) they are still both over an hour away by car. The only water source in the city is the River Seine, which divides Paris into a northern (Rive Droite, “right bank”) and a southern part (Rive Gauche, “left bank”). In the summer it gets very hot in the city so an escape to the countryside or the coast, is not as fast or easy.

Pick Pockets

Pick pockets will most likely operate around tourist areas such as the Champs-Élysée, Trocadéro, the Eiffel Tower, and the metro. However, you should always be wary about keeping your belongings safe. The rule of thumb is to never carry anything that you are not willing to lose.

Work and Language Barrier

Moving to Paris without speaking the language beforehand is going to make it hard to integrate. Even though Parisians learn English in school, they prefer to speak their native tongue. Not speaking French will also make it much harder for you to find a job, as even though you might never need to speak French in your position, most job descriptions will require a knowledge of the language anyway.

Tips and Advice for Moving to Paris

Are you wondering if it is hard to move to Paris as an expat? Logistically speaking, moving to Paris does not differ a great deal from moving to any other European metropolis. There are some points in the relocation process, that expats need to be aware of, such as the competitive housing and job market.

Housing Market

Apart from the long process of getting a work and residence visa for France, the biggest problem expats encounter is the difficulty of finding a home as a foreigner in a city hit by a housing crisis. Not only is free space scarce in Paris but rents are exorbitantly high, and a lot of landlords demand a French guarantor to co-sign the teancy agreement. Expats with small children prefer living in Parisian banlieus (suburbs) as the areas are cheaper and well-connected to the center by the RER (express commuter train), yet offer more space.

If your dream is to live in a Haussmanian building from the 1940s with high ceilings, stucco, and French double doors, be prepared to wait a few months until the best deal comes along. You should consider first finding a short-term holiday rental, to give you the time and flexibility to explore Parisian neighborhoods while you search for a place that fits both you and your budget. For more information on how to find a new home and whether or not your landlord allows pets, read the Living in Paris guide.

Job Market

Paris has always been a global city that attracts international companies and highly skilled workers in creative jobs such as fashion, design, illustration, IT, and technology. According to data from the 2019 Paris Region Key Figures Report, the city boasts a young, multicultural, and educated population with 40.4% of the workforce being university graduates. However, due to new tax regulations that require companies to pay higher taxes, a lot of foreign companies have left the city. This has resulted in redundancies and a higher unemployment rate. Finding a job in Paris as a foreigner can be tiresome, as most employers do not want to sponsor work visas unless they absolutely have to. You will also have to know a certain level of the French language, even if you might never really speak the language in your actual job.

Do not let this discourage you from relocating to such an inspiring and beautiful city, that was home to legends such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Dalí. Paris is much more than a memory lane of the old days. The new Paris is so culturally diverse it is impossible not to be swept off your feet by its multicultural spirit. If you want to meet new people, or to find a tandem partner to improve your French conversational skills with, InterNations has exciting and diverse communities and fellow expats to connect with, as well as local events and groups to join.

Moving with Pets

Do you want to move to Paris with your furry best friend? Don’t worry. It is not difficult to bring pets into France,though you will need to plan ahead—some animals need to get recommended vaccinations, including a rabies shot.

To enter France, pets have to be microchipped. They will also need a valid EU Pet passport. If you are moving from outside of the European Union, you will need a non-commercial EU health certificate from a licensed vet, issued within ten days of entering the country. If you are planning on taking your pets with you, and want more information on which breeds are prohibited, read the detailed Moving with Pets section in our France Guide.

Get Expert Help to Move

If you are wondering if you can ship your furniture and household goods to Paris, the short answer is yes. How difficult and expensive the process is depends on two factors: first, are you coming from another EU/EAA country or from outside of the Schengen area? And second, do you have all of your purchase receipts?

If you are from an EU/EAA member state and have all the sales receipts proving you have paid VAT tax in your home country, then you can import your goods duty-free. If you are moving from outside of the EU, you will have to pay VAT. If you need to know more about this topic, read the Moving and Shipping Household Goodssection in our France guide.

Relocating to a new country is overwhelming. Visa applications, job hunting, and home finding are the main three pillars of every international move, without taking into account everything that awaits you upon your arrival. We are here to guide you through the process. Our InterNations GO! experts will help you with shipping or storing your household items, applying for a visa, and finding a home away from home.

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Visa and Work Permits

If you are an EU/EEA or Swiss national, you do not need a visa to live and work in France. As a non-EU national you will have to figure out how to get a French visa and a work permit. Please keep in mind that it is illegal to move to Paris on a short-term Schengen visa and then apply for a long-term visa after you have settled in the country.

Expats looking to live and work in Paris will have to apply for a visa de long séjour (long-term visa). To obtain that visa, as well as the requirements, and documents you will need to provide depend on your reason for moving to Paris. Expats coming to Paris on a work assignment or in order to take up employment need a work permit before they can be granted a visa. This permit is usually obtained by the employer on behalf of the applicant. If you need more information on visas and work permits for Paris, read our Visas & Work Permits section in our Moving to France guide.

Living in Paris

What is it like living in Paris? For most expats, living in Paris is a dream come true. Walking by the Eiffel Tower on your way to work with a freshly baked croissant in one hand and a hot coffee in the other, or sitting on the steps of Sacré-Cœur taking in the amazing view over the city and enjoying a picnic with your loved ones, are all real possibilities. However, most people forget that these places are tourist hotspots, and are crowded when you visit. It will be more exciting to find the Paris that the locals love by enjoying a lazy afternoon in the André Citron Park, having a lunch break between the four towers of la bibliothèque national de France (French National Library), or eating macarons from Hugo et Victor instead of waiting in line for over an hour to get ones from Ladurée.

Even though Paris seems to be this magical ride of pastries and sunset walks along the Seine, there is one thing every expat agrees on; Paris is expensive. According to the 2020 Economist Intelligence Unit survey France’s capital ranked 5th most expensive city in the world. And according to the 2019 InterNations Expat Insider Survey, the City of Love is in the top ten of the worst places for expats. The hesitation to praise stems from the fact that the city is in the middle of a housing crisis. Rents and mortgages have increased drastically in the last few years, and the plan to build new homes is not yet on the horizon. If you want to enjoy the Parisian way of life without going bankrupt, you should consider moving to the suburbs, ditching your car, and taking the RER (commuter train) to work.

To learn more about how to live in the Ville Lumière (City of Lights), read our guide to Living in Paris.

Working in Paris

A short 35-hour week, a minimum of five weeks of paid vacation, and universal healthcare benefits— working in Paris is ideal for expats who enjoy travelling a lot. The famous Parisian  laissez-faire (go with the flow) attitude extends into the workplace, allowing for a good work-life balance. However, getting a job as an expat can be tiresome, as the labor market is very competitive, domestic workers are highly educated, and having a proficient knowledge of the language is a prerequisite. Not understanding French can be the reason you are not considered for a position.

It is advisable to have a job lined up before you move as you will need a work contract to be issued a work permit and, therefore, to be granted a visa. Unless you are an EU/EEA or Swiss national, of course. Then you do not need anything, except for language skills, to be able to work in Paris.

Be warned that in relative terms, salaries in Paris are not as high as expats may be used to. The average annual income is 46,000 EUR (50,500 USD), which splits into about 2,170 EUR (2,380 USD) net a month. This barely covers the rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center of Paris. Expats will need to learn how to stretch their budget if they want to live in the center of the City of Love.

Self-employed workers and entrepreneurs will be happy to know that Paris has officially been named the second-largest start-up hub in Europe, moving Berlin down to third place. The government has been simplifying bureaucracy around building businesses, as well as increasing measures to bring international talent into the country. For more information on how to get a job in Paris, please see our Working guide.

Whether you are moving abroad for the first time or relocated multiple times before, the process raises many questions. Our complete guide to relocation will ease your doubts along the way, from the initial preparations to how to negotiate a relocation package, we help you GO! prepared with the key answers.

Updated on: June 17, 2020
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