Seth is moving to Paris (although to be fair, I got this e-mail months ago, he may have moved there already) and he has a few questions and concerns. Here they are:
I am an American (I’m a single male, and in my mid 20’s if that helps you conceptualize me), and I have been given a great professional opportunity within the company I work for. As you might have guessed, this opportunity involves me moving to Paris. I know that there are about a million Americans out there thinking how lucky I am, but I have some serious concerns over the move. My hope was that you could give me your thoughts on some of my main trepidations.
Ok, I’ll do that.
However, first of all, my first advice would be to stop putting two spaces after each period. This is a pain in my ass while I’m editing your text.
I don’t speak a word of French (well, maybe a word, but I certainly can’t put together any sort of coherent thought). I think I will try to take evening French classes after work, and maybe try some computer software but I really have to go under the assumption that I will never be fluent (or at least not for many years). Do you think this is going to be a big issue? I know professionally it won’t, but socially, what would you think? I happen to be trilingual (English, Spanish, and Hebrew), do you think that will help me at all in France? Obviously my main concern is living in Paris for several years without being able to have any meaningful relationships due to language barriers. I know no one in France, and will be there all by myself.
Is it going to be a big issue?
If you’re in France just for work, and you don’t care about learning about French culture, it won’t be a big issue. If you want to call France your home, or at least you want to have a fruitful experience in France, well, yes, it is one. Duh…
That being said, I’ve heard of people living in Paris for decades without speaking French, so it’s possible.
Do these people have an experience of living in France that I would call rich? No, I would call it stupid.
If you only care about having drinking buddies in Paris, worry not, you will find plenty, even without speaking French.
Speaking Spanish and Hebrew is irrelevant in France.
Finally (for this paragraph) if you still don’t speak French after several years (see a few lines above), I’d say that maybe you shouldn’t go to France after all.
Anybody living in any country is able to somewhat speak the local language after a few months/years if they try. The keyword here, being “try”.
I mentioned above that I spoke Hebrew, and as you may have guessed I’m a member of the chosen people. I read and hear all sorts of things about how anti-Semitic the French are. How would you describe the average French person’s thoughts on Jews? Should this be a concern of mine?
Well, let me put it this way. While France has its share of anti-Semites, although, no more no less than most other countries, France has also a low tolerance for people who think they’re special because of their religion.
For example, people who would introduce themselves as being “a member of the chosen people”
Most French people don’t care about Jews, they won’t judge a person neither positively nor negatively because of that. But a lot of French people care about people throwing their religion into other people’s face. They don’t like it.
Another thing a lot of French people have issues with, is that tendency for a bunch of Jewish people (French Jews and foreign Jews alike) to call an “anti-Semite” anybody that dares speaking of Jews or Israel in any other way than an eulogistic one. In their eyes, any criticism of a Jew or of Israel is “anti-Semitism”. And by “criticism of a Jew” I don’t mean, criticism of that person as a Jewish person, just criticism of that person for any reason, especially those totally unrelated to their religion.
So, sure if you believe some of their bullshit Zionist propaganda, most French people are anti-Semitic as they don’t really respect the fact that some people may go around calling themselves “chosen” and as they dare having an objective view on Israel (one view where this country is not beyond criticism, actually it deserves a lot for many reasons).
I’m sure I’m listed somewhere on their list of “Anti-Semites”. Me and several other millions of my compatriots.
I am familiar with Mediterranean culture (I spent 6 months in Tel-Aviv once), however European culture is new to me. What are the main things I should be bracing myself for? If you could think of one or two things I can do ahead of time to prepare myself for Parisian living what would those be?
Well, first, I’m not sure we can talk of such a thing as “Mediterranean culture” Every single country around the Mediterranean Sea coast has its own unique culture, and I rarely see common points between them, except that they share a sea and some history. Sure neighbors share things in common, but because they’re neighbors, not because they’re Mediterranean.
Apart from that, what can prepare you for Parisian life?
Well, simply put: do some research. Read this blog, read other blogs, read books (I’ve heard books are important to learn things).
However, in the end, you won’t be prepared enough. Real life always has a funny way to get in the way of your expectations and preparation.
Seeing as I know no one in France, I was hoping you could give me some pointers about what neighborhood in Paris would be a good place to look at while looking for an apartment. My company will help me find one, but they are finding these ridiculously expensive ones through a service, and aren’t paying my rent. So, I am trying to find one myself and avoid paying rip off expat prices. I want to live somewhere nice, with a lot of young professionals, full of bars/restaurants, and close to the business district (where I’ll work). However, I don’t need to be paying crazy amounts. Where should I be looking at? What should I be paying for a one bedroom in those areas? If I chose to find a roommate, how much should I pay for my room in a 2bedroom, and where would you suggest looking for a roommate?
Well, I can’t really help you with this one.
You’ll find what you’ll find.
Your company finds apartments with ridiculously high rents?
Well, maybe that’s because rents are ridiculously high in Paris.
You want to avoid paying rip off expat prices?
Don’t go look for your apartment on rip off expat websites.
You want somewhere nice, full of young professionals, bars and restaurants?
It’s called Paris. Most poor people have basically been expelled from the city to the crappy suburbs in recent years (see the line where I mention ridiculously high rents)
You work in the “business district?
I have no idea what you mean, there isn’t such a thing as “the business district”. Unless you mean La Défense, but it’s not in Paris and nobody lives there (or maybe they do, I don’t know, I avoided this place like the plague when I lived in Paris).
How much should you be paying?
The least insane price as possible.
Also, know that in Paris (well, in all of France really), rents don’t really vary according to number of rooms, but overall area of the apartment.
Do I need a car in Paris? If I don’t need one, would it be beneficial to have one? I know in New York it is more of a burden than it’s worth, but in Chicago (where I have lived my whole life until this opportunity), you can do without, but it’s nice to have a car.
You don’t need a car in Paris.
And while I don’t mind answering questions, I also don’t mind that people do some research before asking questions. This one (as well as the previous paragraph) are information you could find on your own if you looked.
I dress like a typical American man, sloppy and apathetically. Am I going to need to re-do the wardrobe while there? I’m fine if I’m just the poor dressing American, but not if it’s going to make it that much harder to foster any sort of a social life….thoughts?
Get a new wardrobe. In Paris, people judge books by their cover.
Obviously, I could shoot off like 100 more questions, and I need to do some of this discovery for myself. However, if you could give me your insight into the questions above as well as any other additional advice it would be greatly appreciated.
My other advice would be “while I don’t mind helping you (and other people, hence this blog) do some research before asking questions.
(asked by Seth from the US)