Although Paris is often seen as a dream holiday destination, moving to the city on a long-term basis can be daunting. Here are some frequently asked questions posed by prospective expats who are considering a move to Paris.
How safe is Paris?
Pickpockets are the most common danger in Paris, especially as they tend to target foreigners. When one person bumps into another in a public place, they may well be searching them for valuables. If spending a considerable amount of time in prime tourist areas, expats should keep smaller amounts of money in several places, such as an ankle pouch, bag and wallet, to avoid flashing too much cash. Taxis are also notorious for ripping off tourists, so agree on a fare before getting in or insist that the driver use the meter. The city experienced horrific terror attacks a few years ago, and visitors and expats can't discount the possibility of it occurring again, but Paris is generally considered much safer nowadays.
Do I need a car?
No. Paris and France have the highest density of public transport in the world, making cars a real luxury. If personal transport is needed, the Velib bicycle-sharing system allows for rapid movement in areas not otherwise covered. Bicycles are well respected and accommodated on the roads. Using a combination of public transport services can move a pedestrian around Paris faster than by car.
Is Paris expensive?
The cost of living in Paris is one of the highest in the world. However, it must be said that a resident who knows the tricks of the city can live reasonably well without paying the same prices that tourists face. Salaries tend to match the high cost of living, and expats who manage to find employment in Paris will enjoy lucrative salaries in France.
Do I need to be able to speak French?
While the large majority of people in Paris speak English, learning French will certainly help expats have a more fruitful experience. Locals will appreciate the effort, which will help when it comes to building a social circle. Moreover, fluency in French is essential to success in the working world. While being able to speak a foreign language is a valuable skill, fluency in the local language gives expats the ability to form worthwhile interpersonal relationships and greater social networks in Paris.
How do I get around the city?
The train system is split in two. The Metro covers the city centre, and the RER travels out into the suburbs. The Navigo smart card has replaced the Carte Orange that used to be the standard month-long pass. This pass allows the user onto any of the Parisian transport systems, including the subway, express trains, trams, buses and can even be used for the Velib bicycle system.
The Navigo can be linked to a bank account which is then charged every month, or it can be used as a pay-as-you-go smart card. A month pass for the whole of Greater Paris, Zones 1–5, costs around EUR 125, but the price may vary according to which zones are crossed. For most expats living close to the city, a cheaper ticket for only Zones 1 and 2 is sufficient.
Are Parisians rude?
Disturbing or interrupting Parisians often elicits a rude response, but they're generally not rude by nature. Stopping people on the street also sometimes elicits an irritated reaction. However, if help is needed, approaching a local store clerk in basic French will prove worthwhile and will usually make for a congenial encounter.
Parisians do not generally enjoy conversing in English. Expats are advised to learn as much French as possible. At a minimum, one must be able to say 'Bonjour, parlez-vous Anglais?' (Hello, do you speak English?). More often than not, this will elicit a helpful reply and will show the locals the respect they expect.