I was recently asked to comment privately about the pros and cons of living in Europe. My wife and I have lived in Paris for the past five years, and the Inquiring Mind wanted to know about the relative merits of the experience. After sharing the information privately, I thought it might be a good idea to share it publicly, as well.
I remain aware that I’m fortunate, that not everyone has the option to pull up stakes and dash off to Paris. The reasons can involve family commitments, financial obligations, or both. I simply want everyone to be informed about the subject. It may make it more attractive to those who can do it, and more possible for those who think they can’t do it. I’m not an expert in expat living. There are plenty of blogs out there that cover that. I’m just putting my two cents worth in. So here goes…
First, living in Paris is not as prohibitively expensive as many people think. You don’t need a car. You can shop at local markets for fresh food, where prices are reasonable. Rents are, actually, less than New York City and Los Angeles, as are utilities, and many apartments come furnished. ‘Furnished’ here means not only ‘with furniture’, but with refrigerators, washers (forget dryers), pots, pans, and bed linens. Just bring your clothes and a toothbrush. What’s more, many of the benefits of living in Paris–it’s museums, architecture, cafes, and culture–are free or inexpensive to enjoy. And flights to and from major cities are relatively cheap and convenient. (Use the mobile app Hopper for the best fares.)
Second, unless you are seriously affluent, you (and your spouse) are going to be living in a smaller space, with fewer material possessions. This means you lose some of the clutter and ‘stuff’ that has, perhaps, become an obstacle to fully enjoying life. You’ll be forced to live a simpler life, which will become a richer life. You’ll definitely be required to communicate better as you share a smaller, more intimate space. Live here will trim your perceived ‘needs’ and enhance more intangible pleasures.
Third, you and your spouse will be healthier. Living in Paris means you walk, even if a great ‘metro’ is available to whisk you underground throughout the city. Grab and go rental bikes are everywhere, as are jogging and cycling paths. You’ll also eat fresher, more nutritious food. The French are serious about fresh…and delicious. Women will find the makeup has about 1300 fewer toxins in it. (For details, read Old Money New Woman.) The government doesn’t allow them in the cosmetics that are sold here. Pesticides are also seriously restricted.
And finally, obviously, Paris is a tremendously romantic city. The broad, blue sky, the narrow, winding streets, the otherworldly light, and the rich, sophisticated culture conspire to surprise and delight, to tempt the eye, to take the breath away. The pace is measured, as if municipal schedules have been set by connoisseurs of life, not productivity experts. And indeed, I believe, that is the case.
So if you’ve thought Paris was out of reach, maybe you want to think again.