Frustrations from One Year Living in Paris

Frustrations from One Year Living in Paris
Staff Writer
From, by Leah Walker

On March 28, 2015, I boarded a United flight with a couple of bags bound for France. I can hardly believe that I’ve been living in Paris for almost a year. These twelve months have been some of my happiest, but they’ve not been without frustration and a few tears.

Leah Travels Living in Paris4This was the view from the top of the stairs at my first flat by Parc Monceau.

As polished, poised, and perfect as things appear on social media, please know that this isn’t my Paris reality. Being an expat in France doesn’t come without its complications and annoyances. And since I’m asked daily–either in person, social media, or by email—about living in Paris, I decided to pour some of my biggest Paris frustrations out on virtual paper.

Housing in Paris


For over a year, I feel like a good bit of my life has been dedicated to securing a place to live. Complicated at best and homicidal at least, the process of finding a flat in the City of Love is anything but lovely. Even if I’d moved to Paris with those suitcases filled with euros, it still wouldn’t be easy.

Leah Travels Living in Paris21It would be a dream to live inside Parc Monceau.

I need a furnished flat rented months at a time. Since most of these kinds of flats are geared toward vacation renters {Airbnb’s #1 market is Paris}, finding something that is both reasonably priced and livable to my standards isn’t such a simple thing. After all, owners can rent their flats for about a week and cover what they’d get from me in a month. The financial incentive to keep renting to vacationers is monumental, thus, many of the city’s flats are empty and/or have a constant flow of holiday renters.

Leah Travels Living in Paris15It doesn’t get more private than Cité des Fleurs in the 17th arrondissement.

This has become a serious issue, as many Parisians can’t afford to live in their own city. Recently, there have been crackdowns in illegal vacation rentals in popular areas such as the Marais, and Paris has even passed new rent control laws. Still, many owners continue to ignore these regulations because the likelihood of getting caught and punished is small.

To add insult to injury, because of very strict tenant laws, owners are crazy-selective as to whom they actually allow to live in their flats. For instance, it’s illegal to evict someone during the months of October to March due to the cold temperatures. It doesn’t matter that the tenant is three months behind on rent; there’s nothing the owner can do. Because of laws such as this, owners require a mound of paperwork that includes pay stubs, contracts, bank balances, and tax returns.

Leah Travels Living in Paris2Coveted flats overlooking Coulée verte René-Dumont in the 12th arrondissement

If you’re like me and don’t have a regular paycheck or employment contract, many owners require a French guarantor. Now, I have a lot of great friends in France, but I’d never ask one of them to guarantee my rent. As an alternative, I even had one owner tell me that I could pay the year’s rent in advance. Are you freakin’ kidding me?!?

Leah Travels Living in Paris10Oh, the 7th arrondissement and its typical Haussmann buildings…j’adore.

I’ve essentially been relegated to going through agencies that manage apartments, which come with hefty fees. My first apartment in the 8th was found and rented through an apartment rental company that I’d previously worked with professionally. My second flat, which I just moved in to, was also found through an agency called Paris Expat. I’ve been in touch with the owner of the company for over a year and actually live in his personally owned apartment.

Leah Travels Living in Paris16The view from my old flat in the 8th arrondissement wasn’t too bad.

I’ve discovered that unless you know someone who owns apartments, take over a lease from a friend, or somehow stumble on to an opportunity, finding a reasonably priced place to live in Paris is beyond challenging. Really, being in the right place at the right time, even with loads of money, is essential.

French Bank Account


I know this probably sounds crazy, but I still do not have a bank account in France. Since I’m obsessed with accruing miles, I use my United credit card for just about everything. About once per month, I use an ATM to withdrawal a chunk of money from my American account. My bank charges $5 for the privilege, but after a few months, I just call and request a refund of those fees. It’s not ideal, but I’ve made it work.

Leah Travels Living in Paris1Sometimes I feel like I’m in a free fall living in France.

Frankly, I want to keep my money out of France, primarily for tax purposes. In case you didn’t know, the USA is the only country that requires its citizens to report and pay taxes no matter where in the world they live. It doesn’t matter if I don’t step foot in the country for two years. As an American citizen, I’m required to file and pay taxes to the USA. The government has even passed a law that can strip people of their passports if they don’t file US taxes.

Leah Travels Living in Paris21 1It doesn’t matter that I’m currently a Parisian, I still must pay American taxes.

Since I work on a freelance basis, I make sure that I’m always paid in the United States. I think I would cry if I had to pay taxes in America and France. Although I have a French work visa, I never take freelance jobs that would require my getting into the French tax system. Honestly, I’m not even sure that having a French bank account would have any impact on my tax status in France, but I’d rather be safe than sorry until I do figure this out.

Leah Travels Living in Paris9That iPhone is often the bane of my existence in France.

Other than the sake of convenience, is having a French bank account important? YES! The biggest issue I’ve encountered relates to mobile service. In order to enter into a cell phone contract in France, you must have a carte de sejour {which I have} and a French bank account. Setting up a Visa or Master Card payment isn’t good enough. So, for the past year, I’ve visited Orange {my service provider} once or twice per month to top up my phone. I get 1000 texts, 1000 minutes, and 2 GB of data for €30 for use over 30 days.

It’s pretty much a huge pain in the ass, as I have to physically walk into an Orange store. I’m usually stuck standing in an obscene line in order to do something that will take literally two minutes and should be available to purchase online. It’s on occasions such as this that I really miss living in the USA. Hey, I know that eventually I’ll have to open a French account, but the idea and its possible ripple effect are just too overwhelming for me to handle right now.

Leah Travels Living in Paris20Life in Paris isn’t always a piece of cake, but there are warm madeleines to provide comfort.

Life’s not a piece of cake, but being an expat in Paris is still pretty sweet. And despite my frustrations, I’ve not once thought of packing my bags and moving back to Texas. The good definitely outweighs the bad, and being an expat anywhere comes with its difficulties. I’m navigating a new country with a different set of rules and challenges. Add to this my deficiency in the language, and sometimes those challenges seem insurmountable. My strategy is to complain to friends {I’m already assimilating to the French way} and then ask for help in figuring out a solution. I’m fortunate to have a fantastic support system in France, and I couldn’t imagine trying to traverse this situation alone.

Leah Travels Living in Paris19One of my favorite sites in the city, especially with the French flag.

So, the next time you see a pretty picture of the Arc de Triomphe on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, keep in mind that I probably edited that very photo while standing in line at the Champs-Élysées Orange store. Of course, you can also follow me on Snapchat {Leahtravels} for a look behind-the-scenes at my daily life in Paris.

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