Moving to Paris
Paris, "City of Lights," lures more than 30 million tourists every year and is home to more than 2.2 million citizens. Not only the capital of gastronomy, Paris boasts the highest concentration of shops in France, more woodland than any other European capital, and is home to some of the world’s most revered galleries and monuments.
One of the few cities to balance a thriving business hub with an almost unrivalled quality of life, Paris is an easy city to call "home." During the summer months, its central arteries are closed off to create the Paris Plage (beach on the Seine); nightbirds will love "les nuits blanches," when restaurants, galleries, sports centers and nightclubs stay open until dawn; and music lovers can groove to a live band on almost every corner during the summer solstice "fete de la musique."
Paris’ 20 arrondissements each provide a unique flavor, from the winding cul-de-sacs and chic boutiques of the Marais in the 14th, the Marché aux Puces (Paris’ famous flea market) in the 18th, to the expansive Luxembourg gardens in the 6th, where you’ll find activities from outdoor chess, playgrounds and tennis to gallery exhibitions. Singles, couples and families will not only find Paris to be one of the most accommodating cities in Europe, but with London, Brussels and Amsterdam on its doorstep, it is also one of the most accessible.
What is special or unique about Paris?
Paris is the culturally rich capital of France. Internationally known as the "city of lights," it offers spectacular architecture and a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Paris is home to some of the world's most famous museums and fashion houses. The city offers limitless activities ranging from world-famous shopping and sightseeing to multilingual entertainment. Due to the variety of ethnicities represented, Paris is a great place to savor traditional French gourmet food as well as the best culinary samples from all over the world.
What are a newcomer's first impressions when moving to Paris?
Generally, newcomers find that Paris is beautiful, rich in history, and has an excellent transportation system. They also think that traffic is intense and that French people drive fast!
What is the local language?
French is the official language, but many people know and speak English as a second language.
How easily could I live in Paris without knowing this language?
English is widely spoken or at least understood, particularly by the younger generations, because it is taught as a second language in high schools. Furthermore, Paris hosts a large and diverse expat community, which means that there are probably opportunities to speak your native language if it is something other than English.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of Paris?
Mainly, as in anywhere else in the world, to be courteous and respectful of others. French people value politeness and diplomacy. Generally, you will find Parisians to be sociable and pleasant, particularly if they are approached with a friendly smile and a polite "bonjour." In fact, if you fail to do so, you may be reminded about it by the person you approach. Another important tip is to come across as being able to hold an intelligent conversation. If your audience perceives that your intellect does not match theirs, they may become overtly bored and begin to talk over you.
Here are some additional tips to help you avoid offending residents of Paris:
- The French tend to speak at a closer distance than some other cultures. Backing away when someone is talking to you is considered rude
- Chewing gum in public is seen as vulgar.
- Slapping an open palm over a closed fist or snapping your fingers is offensive and obscene.
- Yawning in public or patting someone on the back is considered rude and unacceptable.
- Do not put your hands in your pockets when in public.
- Eating while walking down the street is frowned upon although you will still see people doing this.
- The "O.K." sign (forming a circle with the thumb and forefinger) means "zero" or "useless" in France.
- Female acquaintances greet each other with alternating kisses on the cheeks. And it's common for men to embrace, so don't be surprised.
- Talking with your hands in your pockets is perceived as a sign of bad manners.
- Blowing your nose in public is also considered unacceptable.
- Today, the courtesy title "Mademoiselle" is rarely used and should be avoided.
- For casual contacts such as waiters, titles such as "Monsieur" or "Madame" will do fine.
- When entering a store or restaurant, you may say "bonjour" or "bonsoir," and "au revoir" upon leaving.
- When you speak their language, be gracious if the French correct your mistakes in grammar or pronunciation.
- It is highly recommended that you learn some basic French and use it whenever you can.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
The weather can be unpredictable in Paris. Average temperatures range from a usual low of 3 degrees Celsius (about 37 degrees Fahrenheit) in January and February to a high of about 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) in July and August. Paris itself is always warmer than the surrounding suburbs.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of Paris or its people?
Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements (districts) with their own mairies (town halls), mayors and councils. Each district has its own schools, police stations and social services.