It struck me this week that I’ve lived in Paris for four years.
It’s an odd thing to be caught surprise by, when I used to dutifully anticipate and sometimes even celebrate this anniversary. I suppose the current global situation didn’t help, with my third anniversary having been a glum affair spent alone in my studio apartment under lockdown. A year on the situation hasn’t changed much, and with heavy restrictions and the majority of establishments closed I’m not much in the mood to mark the occasion with friends.
But I won’t go into much detail about that. This blog has always been my little escape, and I don’t feel ready to reflect on the never-ending confinement and couvre-feu here yet. So instead, I’d like to mull over how life has changed for me while living in the city these past few years, a trajectory I find that has been mirrored by people I know who’ve lived here for similar lengths of time.
The first year was about discovery. I was new to Paris, having made the rather impromptu decision to move here after having spent the past few years country-hopping from Canada, to England, to Germany, to Hungary, and now France. I lived in a variety of AirBNB’s and sublets, and was slowly discovering the agony of finding a permanent place to live in the French capital. French bureaucracy was also an unwelcome surprise, with many tears shed over opening bank accounts, trying to get a social security number, and figuring out how to file taxes.
But of course, it was far from all bad. I was so excited to discover this dreamy city as a local instead of a tourist. I met a plethora of new people (some who’ve stayed in my life, some who’ve gone), biked from Paris to Chantilly, indulged in incredible food at brasseries as often as I could, danced tango by the Seine on hot summer nights, had late-night falafel sandwiches after a night out partying in the Marais, went to speakeasies and secret bars, explored new neighbourhoods, celebrated La Fête de la Musique with friends and strangers by the Canal Saint-Martin, went to concerts in Belleville, spent every weekend at a new museum, drank rosé and Ricard on the Quais… It was a really thrilling and joyful time.
Heading into the second year I was more serious. I settled into a long term relationship, adopted an adorable black cat from a local shelter, landed my first CDD job contract, signed up for local French classes at the mairie (French-Canadian French doesn’t always translate well to French-French!), visited more cities and towns in France, and found a slightly longer term rental. Of course I had my woes with my working holiday visa coming to an end, but with the help of my second job I managed to land a titre de séjour salarié which ensured that I’d be in France for the long haul.
In my third year, things felt like they were looking up. I was establishing more strong friendships with other people who planned on staying in Paris long term (every expat knows how friends can quickly disappear as soon as they appear here), had a steady residence permit, had all the bureaucratic issues sorted, and had even found a great, reasonably-priced apartment in Montmartre through a regular French agency. I was really settling into my neighbourhood, had a local veterinarian, doctor, grocer, butcher, pharmacist – even a dry cleaner. I was also hosting my family and friends from abroad and being able to properly show them around not only Paris, but other cities like those on the French Riviera. I really felt like I’d made a home for myself in France.
Of course, 2020 wasn’t the year any of us expected, and it soon turned into something far from my previous experience in the French capital. I still have a hard time writing about it as it feels so surreal, and to be honest, we’re still in the midst of it.
But there were glimmers of normality. Summer of 2020 I did head back to the quais of the Seine with friends, visit the South, go to restaurants with my boyfriend, and go thrifting in some of my favourite shops. I also tried to make the most of our short-lived freedom by doing things like climbing the Eiffel Tower and visiting the Louvre, and spending every weekend in a different arrondissement so that I could really make the most of the city. Day trips outside were also taken at every opportunity.
So far 2021 has not been kind, and to be frank it’s been rather unremarkable, but I’m still holding up hope that my fourth year in Paris will be one to remember. I’m starting to set my sights on big milestones like finding that next great job, buying an apartment, and applying for French nationality. And if anything, what we have a lot of currently is time, so hopefully I can use this to do my research and make these dreams a reality.
Good luck on applying for nationality! 🤞
Thank you! Slowly starting to research it more & getting my documents together. Will definitely be sharing the process here at some point 🙂
Looking forward to it!