So you want to move to Paris

In The Art of Travel Fall 2015, Paris, Tips by Firozah Najmi

So you want to move to Paris. Of course you do — it’s arguably the  #1 most-romanticized city on the planet. People think of moving to Paris when they want to feel like a 60s cinema heroine, free-spirited and euphoric. There’s so much culture, they’ll say, and the French are culinary kings. What’s not to love? Like any big city, Paris has its arts, nightlife, gastronomy, shopping, and also its flaws. Hope you like lazy Sundays — most of Paris, apart from select neighborhoods, sleeps that day. Good luck getting groceries in a pinch! If there’s one piece of advice I can give you, it’s to leave your far-fetched fantasies at the door. Paris is beautiful, but get ready for all the crude markings of a big city — an abundance of horrible smells, filthy streets, rude people, and a myriad of other inconveniences. You probably won’t live near the Eiffel Tower and getting anywhere worthwhile requires at least 2 train changes on the malodorous metro. But whatever you do, don’t make the change at Châtelet. To put things in perspective, it’s the equivalent of the Times Square-42nd street subway stop. If you absolutely must change here, brace yourself for long walks through cavernous passageways and people with no concept of personal space. As a native New Yorker who’s been commuting for a large part of my life, I can tell you from experience that French commuters are far less considerate than what you’re probably used to. Excuse the temporary digression — that tip is very important.

When making the choice of where to live, I would suggest a homestay. I myself live in a student dorm, which is far more expensive and much less comfortable a space than my friends’ in homestays. One of my friends has a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower. Another one of my friends pays a fraction of what I do, for a room twice as big. It’s a great way to practice your French, and it’s a lot less lonely than a single apartment. I regret choosing the dorm experience, although in my defense I made the choice as a commuter student who has never dormed before. Not so great a choice in hindsight. I could rattle off all the problems with this apartment and that alone could fill the space of this entry.

If you’re an introvert like me, some of the best advice I can give is to put yourself out there. I love being at home — in French we call this a casanièr(e) — but it’s important to make your mark on the city while you’re still here. Three-and-a-half months goes by a lot more quickly than you’d think. Before you know it, you’ll have half a dozen museums left to check out and lists upon lists of bars and restaurants you wanted to try but never got the chance. Push yourself to make plans, doll yourself up, and have your dose of adventures. The truth is, the difficulty level of classes is a lot more relaxed than in New York and you’ll probably have a lot more free time here. Teachers just get it. Definitely focus on your studies, and confidently enjoy your free time knowing you’re on top of academics. Let this semester feel like a vacation — take classes you actually enjoy, immerse yourself in the readings, and enjoy independent excursions to further edify your studies about Paris.

If there’s two things you should take away from this, it’s:

  1. Paris is not like the movies.
    and;
  2. Don’t let lost time get away from you.

Image source

  • Canal St. Martin: Firozah Najmi