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Living in Paris
A comprehensive guide about living well in Paris
An estimated 2.25 million people are currently living in Paris, the “most romantic place on Earth”. Are you about to join them? The InterNations GO! guide to Paris provides you with all the info you need on climate, leisure, transportation, childcare, and schooling.
Need to move abroad? Organizing an international relocation is not something you should do on your own. As expats ourselves, we understand what you need, and offer the essential services to help you move and live abroad easily. Contact us to jump start your move abroad!
Life in Paris
Today, fewer people are living in Paris than in 1921, when the city reached a historical peak of 2.9 million inhabitants. Eventually, residents started to move out to the suburbs, and population figures began a steady decline. Only in 2000 did the estimated number of people living in Paris exceed that of the previous year for the first time since 1954. On the other hand, almost 11 million people live in the Paris region.
The residents of the city of Paris have to live with the highest population density in Europe and very high rents. However, they can pride themselves on being able to call one of the world’s leading business centers and cultural capitals their home.
Paris, Its Arrondissements, and Local Politics
The city covers an area of 105 km², divided into 20 administrative boroughs called arrondissements. French citizens living in Paris elect the council of their arrondissement, which then elects the local mayor. The City Council is formed by a selection of local councilors and headed by the mayor of Paris.
While EU nationals have the right to participate in municipal elections, all other foreign nationals who have chosen life in Paris have no right to vote. The administration system has been criticized for failing to create an inter-communal entity, thus causing isolation and alienation among citizens living in Paris’s different suburbs.
A Mixed and Changeable Climate
In Paris, expat residents will enjoy a temperate climate influenced both by the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the vast land masses of the continent in the east. Despite recent heat waves with record high temperatures, expats usually don’t need to worry about extremely hot summers or excessively cold winters. In general, weather conditions in this part of France are rather changeable, so the only real constant of life in Paris is rain.
Enjoying the Parisian Culture
Despite the rainy weather, most expats enjoy living in Paris, especially thanks to the many cultural activities on offer. The city is famous for its theaters, and lovers of classical music and dance can choose between the Opéra national de Paris, the Opéra Comique, and many other less well-established stages and companies.
A completely different kind of musical performance, which used to draw in crowds of theater-goers, is the art of cabaret. However, former trendy and avant-garde establishments, which tempted an international crowd of artists and bohemians during the inter-war period, are now mostly designed to serve the tourist industry.
Going to the cinema is a favorite pastime among locals, though. There is a wide array of both commercial and art-house cinemas available to cinéastes living in Paris.
Looking Past the Designer Boutiques
Paris is not exactly known for its great outdoor facilities. However, there are actually over 400 public parks and gardens in the city, as well as two large outlying woodland areas, the Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes. Some parks have swimming pools or municipal tennis courts, which can be reserved online on the official website of the Mairie de Paris.
While it seems slightly superfluous to mention that Paris is great for shopping, some people might not be aware that there is far more to it than fashionable designer boutiques and department stores. Apart from the over 75 neighborhood food markets, there are countless flea markets specializing in various items from old postcard collections to antiques and second-hand books, flower markets, arts and crafts markets, and many more. Again, the Mairie de Paris has all the information you need to enjoy a day out shopping at Paris’ markets.
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Transportation in Paris
The Complete Public Transportation Network
In addition to its famous subway system, the Paris Métro, Paris has a network of bus, tram, and suburban rail services. Despite being operated by several service providers, all forms of Parisian public transportation are united under the umbrella of theÎle-de-France mobilités.
The metro, for example, is run by the RATP, which is also responsible for hundreds of bus lines and a share of the tramway and RER services. The RER, the Reseau Express Régional, basically extends the metro lines into the suburbs by connecting them to the suburban railway. The SNCF, la Société Nationale des Chemins de Fers Français (i.e. the national railroad company), also runs some RER and tramway lines, plus all suburban train services.
The third organization is OPTILE, a network of private operators responsible for some minor bus lines in Paris.
There are also more than 45 night buses serving Paris, the suburbs, and various towns in the Île-de-France region. They are operating under the name Noctilien, another co-operation between RATP and Transilien SNCF.
Buying Your Tickets to Travel
For simplicity’s sake, fares and tickets have been standardized across all forms of transport by Île-de-France mobilités. A Guide tarifaire is published annually and can be downloaded from their website, while Vianavigo offers a handy online journey planner. The main ticket options are:
- single tickets (Le Ticket t+), which can also be purchased in packs of 10 (en carnet)
- rechargeable weekly or monthly travel passes (Navigo Semaine or Mois), which are usually eligible for a 50% reimbursement by the employer for commuters
- day travel passes (Mobilis)
- several special options for visitors, young people, the unemployed, etc.
Other Forms of Transportation
Taxis are a popular mode of transport in Paris, and not even that expensive. Tariffs are standardized for all Parisian taxis, but taxis in other departments of the Île-de-France may have their own prices. There are various tariffs for different routes and times of the day, which are calculated either on the base horaire or the base kilométrique.
It is possible to hail a taxi on the street (at least in theory) or — this is the safer bet — to wait at a taxi stand. A green taxi sign signals “free”, a red one means “occupied”. Alternatively, taxis radio can be pre-booked under Taxi G7. Payments can often be made by card, but this is not guaranteed so it is worth checking with your driver before you begin your journey. A small tip for the driver is expected.
A Real Challenge: Driving and Cycling in Paris
Driving a car in Paris can be very stressful and is not recommended for newcomers. People living and working in central Paris will find that they might not need a car at all. Owning a car could cause more trouble than it’s worth, especially given the very limited parking facilities.
If you live in the suburbs, owning a car becomes a much more attractive option. However, many people still chose public transportation for their daily commute into town. If you do decide to drive a car in Paris, a rapid response time, nerves of steel, and a couple of French swearwords are indispensable.
Cycling is an increasingly popular alternative. Since 2007, Paris profits from a public bike sharing scheme called Vélib. For more information on cycling in Paris, including an online route planner, refer to the website of the Mairie de Paris.
National and International Transport Links
Paris is served by two international airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, and one for budget airlines, Beauvais Tillé. Paris-Orly and Paris-Charles de Gaulle are both connected to the public transportation network of Paris, whereas Beauvais is located almost 90 km from the city and is accessible by train.
There are seven major train stations in Paris. They offer high-speed connections to all major French cities and many European metropolises, e.g. London, Brussels, Amsterdam, and Cologne.
Childcare and Education in Paris
Preparing for Going to School
Although compulsory education starts at the age of six, most French children attend the école maternelle (kindergarten) from the age of three. There are several state-sponsored daycare options for even younger children, e.g. the crèche collective or the crèche familiale, catering for children aged from three months to three years.
The crèche collective is a form of kindergarten with up to 30 toddlers being looked after by eight to ten professional childcare employees between the hours of 07:30 to 18:30.
A crèche familiale usually refers to an arrangement where one to four children are taken care of by a nanny in her home, thus offering more flexible hours. Means-tested financial support is available for all forms of public childcare. For more information on childcare facilities in and around Paris, please consult the website of Allocations Familiales or take a look at our article on childcare in France.
The French Education System in Paris
French state schools don’t charge tuition fees and are open to every child legally residing in France. Typically, French schoolchildren start their academic career in école élémentaire, then proceed to thelocal collège and, in most cases, to a lycée.
The first two kinds of school have a catchment area, meaning that they only have to accept pupils living in their “community”. Parents who wish to send their children to a school outside of their catchment area need to contact their local mayor’s office. The mayor’s office also provides information on which communities are served by certain schools.
The staff will issue a certificate of inscription, which subsequently needs to be presented at the school, together with proofs of identity and residence and an up-to-date vaccination certificate. Parents can easily find their local mairie on the internet if they know the number of their arrondissement. For example, the website of the arrondissement du Louvre (#1) can be found under http://www.mairie01.paris.fr/.
For detailed information on the French school system, please consult the website of the Ministère de l’Éducation nationale, de la Jeunesse et de la Vie associativeor check out our InterNations guide to education in France. A list of Parisian state schools and related information can be found the respective website of the Mairie de Paris.
Another Option: International Education
Most international schools in France are located around Paris and Strasbourg. There are two types of private schools in France, sous contrat and hors contrat. As the name suggests, the former have signed a “contract” with the French government, committing them to the national curriculum and to French civic values such as personal liberty and equality. In return, they receive financial support from the state.
Schools hors contrat have greater liberty in their admission and teaching policies, and they also charge higher tuition fees due to the lack of state funding. International schools can be either sous or hors contrat, and sometimes even a mixture of both.
International and National Schools in Paris
Below is a brief list of some of the most popular international as well as national schools in and around Paris:
- École Active Bilingue Jeannine Manuel
- École Internationale Bilingue
- American School of Paris
- British School of Paris
- Deutsche Schule Paris
- Collegio Español Federico García Lorca
- International School of Paris
- Lycée Honoré de Balzac
- Lycée de Sèvres, International Sections
- Marymount International School
- United Nations Nursery School
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