17 Things I Learned While Living in Paris

If you told me last year that I would be living in Paris, I wouldn’t believe you.

I always wanted to live in Paris, but I didn’t think I would ever be able to do it after I graduated from university and no longer had an opportunity to study abroad. I thought I would be able to take up a volunteer position as a teaching assistant before I turned 25, but life happens and I let that dream die.

Last fall, I was ready to stay in Suburbia Connecticut and make my way to New York City.

Then everything changed in February when I visited a close friend in Paris. After years of knowing each other and the right timing, we fell in love. I returned to the United States to find a way for us to be together. After examining both of our personal and professional situations, I was the most flexible to move.

I quit my job in late May. I arrived in Paris in June. The rest is history.

The first three months in Paris have been a beautiful, franglais-filled roller coaster with all sorts of twists and turns. Thankfully my boyfriend and I enjoy living together and doing normal couple things in Paris. We’re learning each other’s habits, what we like, what we absolutely can’t stand, and the small things we are willing to put up with because it’s not worth the fight.

I have learned so much that it’s only fitting to recap my experience living in Paris thus far.

17 Things I Learned While Living in Paris, France

 

Style

Parisians get an A+ for personal style.

Sure, not all Parisians dress like the stereotypical Parisienne but there is something to be said for the women strutting platform booties while taking the dog for a walk; the teenagers sporting the perfect straight-leg cropped pant; and the ready-to-wear fashion show of leather shoulder bags, white sneakers and modest heels on the metro. I feel that there is less pressure to have “The Right Look in Paris” than in New York City because “The Right Look” is natural and personal to each individual.

Stereotypical Parisienne by My Little Paris

Denim. Forever.

Black pants are always a Parisian staple, but denim is where it’s at. You’ll see a lot of women of all ages wearing the modern Canadian suit.

Note: Denim-on-denim is a great look, especially with contrasting shades and designer details…It doesn’t how editors and bloggers try to rebrand it, it’s still the Canadian suit.

The easiest outfit to pull off casual Parisian style is…

High-rise, straight cropped denim, a white T shirt, leather jacket, Adidas Stan Smiths and a canvas tote bag from your favorite boutique that only Parisians know of. Don’t forget to style your hair in messy bedhead or an undone chignon.

I would advise holding off on denim shopping in Paris—it’s so expensive. Americans have dominated the denim market anyway with Levi’s and premium denim brands like AG and Frame so you’re better off shopping stateside.

Premium Denim

“Mom dressing” doesn’t exist in Paris.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve worked with clients in retail who have told me that they can’t wear something because they’re “too old” or because it’s “something my daughter would wear” or because “I’m a mom now.”

One day I walked by a woman pushing a baby stroller while wearing a cotton, A-line belted shirt-dress and straw woven heels. The only thing that gave away that she had clearly had given birth within past year was the stroller and her super tiny baby swathed in blankets. Mystery French Mom looked incredible.

Fact: Age is not an excuse to give up on your style.

Carry a reusable tote bag at all times

Most grocery stores will charge a small fee if you don’t bring your own reusable bags. You’ll be hard pressed to find Parisians not using their large straw totes at the local market or large basic totes while running errands.

Shakespeare and Company tote bag

Food & Wine

Monoprix will change your life. 

Imagine a smaller, more upscale, higher-quality version of Target. It’s true that Monoprix is the most expensive chain grocery store in Paris, but the Monoprix-brand foods are very affordable. French Girl in Seattle elaborates more on the wonders of what Monoprix has to offer.

The fruits and vegetables are so fresh.

There are so many things that I am willing to eat in France. I never liked things like cherries or cantaloupe before. Maybe it’s because there are chemicals banned from EU food production still used in USA food production. No big deal. It also might explain why French bread is the best bread.

How to Shop the French Market

You can find an amazing bottle of wine for five euros or less.

Vive la France!

The cheese. The bread. The pastries…

Vive la France!

Try different bakeries in your neighborhood

Once your tastebuds finish their honeymoon phase of eating French food, be sure to switch it up everyone once in a while. Finding different bakeries in your area is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and explore your neighborhood.

If you don’t know how to pick out wines, follow either one of these stickers:

Concours General Agricole is sanctioned by the Ministere de l’Agriculture et de l’Alimentation, while Concours International de Lyon is the ultimate wine competition held in France’s capital of gastronomy. It’s really hard to go wrong.

Domaine Casanova Rose Medaille d'Argent

Travel

Make sure your belongings are securely closed and in your sight at all times.

I’ve heard so many stories of girls having their phones and wallets stolen. It helps to have a handbag with zipper closure, awareness of your surroundings, and not speak loudly in English. There’s no reason to give pickpockets a reason to target you.

Public transportation makes it easy to explore villages outside of Paris.

Before you book TGV tickets to tour the Loire or the South of France, the countryside surrounding Paris has a lot to offer. The RER, Transilien and TER can bring you to chateaus, medieval villages and important landmarks for Impressionist lovers. If you have a Navigo pass, the RER and Transilien are included with metro and bus transportation.

Day-Trip Photo Diary of Provins, France

 

Real Talk

 

Most Parisians speak or at least understand English.

This doesn’t change the fact that you need to know how to speak or understand French. If you’re living in France, it’s not only out of necessity but out of respect to learn the native language. I’ve heard some Americans dismiss the French as rude and unwelcoming of Americans—I’m willing to bet most of those Americans weren’t exactly sweet as apple pie while addressing waitstaff in a terse manner, demanding for someone who speaks English.

It’s easy to meet people once you know where to look.

There are plenty of groups for expats and internationals living in Paris. Facebook groups like American Expats in Paris, Social Girls in Paris and Women in Paris have been instrumental in meeting other women and learning the city from an expat perspective.

However, it’s hard to build real friendships.

As easy as it may be to meet people, they are are always coming and going. It’s not easy, but the date of someone’s return ticket shouldn’t determine whether or not it’s worth hanging out.

People also tend to be flaky. With the immediacy of digital communication, it’s so easy to run late or cancel plans at the last minute. I would prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt, but it’s difficult when you see that they watch your Instagram Story every day and then don’t bother to reply to your messages.

Cafe Kitsune Palais Royal

Keep believing in yourself and keep in touch with your support system back home.

Making your life in a foreign country is fun, exciting. It’s incredible integrating into a new culture, learning a second language and meeting people from all over the world. Some people back home may look at your life and think you’re living on vacation 24/7.

The truth is that it’s not all cheese, wine, and baguettes because moving anywhere is not easy. Even if the anywhere happens to be Paris.

You’re going to stumble over saying casual phrases in conversation that can’t be translated using Google. You’ll stare at the beef section of the grocery store and have absolutely no idea what the difference is between each cut of meat, but won’t be able to look it up because there’s no service where you’re standing. You’ll get frustrated trying to maintain your quality of life that you’re used to while living on a shoestring budget.

During the challenging days, you’ll even question if it was worth making the change… Typically I open the apartment window and take the rose bottle out of the fridge once it gets to that point.

Honestly, if I wasn’t living with my boyfriend, it would be so easy to feel lonely and discouraged on a regular basis. Even then, I’ve found myself feeling isolated on a few occasions when my boyfriend didn’t understand why I would be upset or lost over a situation that would be considered offensive in the United States.

I feel so blessed that can I simply message or call friends and family for support. It has made a huge difference during my stay in Paris to keep me sane.

Through it all—mostly good days with a few not-so-good days—I can’t see myself wanting to build my life anywhere else.

17 Things I've Learned While Living in Paris, France

16 thoughts on “17 Things I Learned While Living in Paris

  1. So fun to get a picture of what life in Paris would be like as an expat! I definitely can relate to feelings of isolation though. As an expat here in Switzerland, I think I’m getting a little burnt out because little stuff is starting to irk me, as well as “big stuff”. It’s so so important to have a support system in place who can help assure you you are not going insane and these transition periods are hard but normal.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment! Generally speaking, the expat lifestyle comes with some similar struggles no matter where you are in the world. Don’t feel discouraged in Switzerland, I hope you work through it!

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  2. I was only in Paris for a short time, but my heart aches for it at times! Thanks for bringing me back! And so true about the cheap wine– way less expensive than soda, which I took as a sign to go forth and indulge!

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  3. I was a Francophile for the longest time. I followed every blog and read every book that detailed the French lifestyle. I think I may need to revisit those days again 🙂

    Beautifully woven words and gorgeous photos. And how adorable are those fox(?) cookies!

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  4. You make me want to travel to Paris! Im graduating in December and have been considering places I want to see and it’s between Italy & Paris and I think I might just do both! I want to try the foods and i love the chicness

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  5. I love your post very enriching, coincidence do happen cause I’am also living in such an ambudant european culture. In a different perspective and tradition I’ve learned a lot of things living in Brussels. Paris in general I would say has a outstanding impact on tourist, everyone believes that people do dress like all models on t.v. and mags. lastly It’s true that making good and tight friends have a shallow intesity of success. I love reading your post! great job.

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