I realized recently that I’ve officially lived in Paris for over two years. I’m not so sentimental that I would celebrate this fact, but it did take me by surprise, and to be frank, I am so happy and proud of myself that I have made it this far!
When I first moved to the French capital, I wasn’t blinded by allusions to some picturesque life filled with pink skies, daily visits to the Eiffel Tower, and weekends spent bicycling from market to market, basket filled with baguettes and fresh flowers. I’d been to Paris before and knew it wasn’t the city I’d daydreamed of as a child, fuelled by movies and books.
I thought my sense of realism of what life would be like would make living here easy, but I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been for the stressors that would follow.
Apartment hunting. Opening a bank account. Getting a social security number. Finding a job. Filing taxes. Renewing my visa. Even getting a mobile phone plan! Things I thought would be relatively simple, ended up being a minefield of bureaucracy and administrative woes.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve spent a lot of sleepless nights worrying about these things, and that many took months more than I anticipated. Life in France is not easy, especially for newcomers to the country.
But I persevered. Even when things got really difficult, I didn’t want to give up after working so hard to get where I was. And with each step in the “checklist” of settling in France that I accomplished, I became even more determined to check off the rest.
It took time. Months to open up a bank account, a year to get a social security number, a CDD before finding a good CDI job. And two years in, it’s still not over. I only just switched to a more stable visa – which will give me a carte de séjour – and finding a steady place to live is an ongoing struggle.
Still, I’m keeping my head up. Foreigners who have lived here longer than I have tell me it took them years to truly “settle in”. So for now I am just being proud of my progress, and continuing to try to build my foundation in France (though to be honest, I secretly hope that by year three or four I’ll be nearly there!).
Looking back, it’s amazing to think that two years have already passed – it does not seem like that at all – and that I’ve already met so many people and had such a variety of experiences.
Some friends I’d made at the beginning, I’ve since lost contact with. Some areas I used to avoid, I now adore. I’ve lived in three different apartments, in three different arrondissements. I’ve made wonderful culinary discoveries, and am continuing to travel more and more around the country to explore different towns and cities. I’m finding my place in France, and gradually feeling more like a local and less like a clueless expat.
And funnily enough, even a few of the Parisian clichés have now become part of my life. I buy fresh baguettes and patisseries on a regular basis. I have drinks by the Seine. I live in a typically small studio in Montmartre. I own a black cat. And sometimes, the sky is pink.
I guess those ridiculous fantasies of life in Paris, aren’t so ridiculous after all.