How to Move to Paris: A Young Person’s Checklist to Realize Your...

How to Move to Paris: A Young Person’s Checklist to Realize Your Dream

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Move to Paris
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I’m a dreamer, and that sometimes gets me in trouble when it comes time to face reality. But other times, being a dreamer pushes me to achieve my goals, no matter how big they are. My current dream is to move to Paris as soon as possible in a realistic, affordable, and attainable way.

My first experience in Paris was in January 2022. Despite the challenges that came with studying abroad during a pandemic, after my first six-week block of classes had ended, I knew I wanted to move to Paris. Permanently.

But no one’s going to wave a magic wand and say, “Et voilà! Your Paris wish has come true.” So, in the midst of planning my own journey, I’ve created this 5-step guide on how to move to Paris as a young person—while staying realistic.

Jill Amari in Paris. Photo courtesy of the author.

Step 1: Figure out how you’re going to get there

Will you take courses at a French university? Will you find a company to sponsor you and work full-time? Or will you move first and hope things work out later?

I’m speaking from the perspective of an American citizen who doesn’t yet have the right to work in France. From my experience, it’s very difficult to find a company that will pay thousands of euros for sponsorship. On the other hand, moving first without a job or classes lined up is ill-advised. The 90-day tourist visa does not allow Americans to legally work in France, and, of course, it expires after three months.

I’ve learned that taking courses and possibly signing up for an internship (look for a “stage” or “alternance” contract) is the most practical way for a young person to move to Paris. Other ways include limited-time programs such as TAPIF or Fulbright, which offer visas for specific periods of time and often pay you or offer stipends to help you afford to live in France. However, these come with strings attached and may not be right for those looking for a more permanent plan.

Carte Vitelle social security card used in France
© Photo Alexis Duclos for INSPIRELLE

Step 2: Work through the logistics

There are a number of things young people in America—and in France—don’t think about until they’re older because their parent(s) take care of the logistics for them. The biggest one for me is health insurance.

While I’m still doing my own research on how exactly France’s healthcare system works, I do know that there are many English-speaking doctors, dentists, and specialists in Paris. I’ve set up an account with Doctolib, an efficient online resource to search for and book appointments with doctors. However, I won’t be able to set up an appointment until I move and obtain what’s called a carte vitale, or health insurance card.

Another challenging logistical aspect is opening a French bank account. Every single person I’ve asked about this has prefaced their response by saying: It’s extremely difficult to open a French bank account as an American citizen. Before attempting to open a physical bank account, I was encouraged to try Revolut, an online banking alternative. Setting up my account was pretty easy and allows me to have a banking method when I arrive in Paris. Revolut is often used by people who travel a lot or work in international settings, as you can easily exchange currencies and send or receive payments.

And let’s not forget budgeting. International moves are expensive, and, as I’ve learned, can come with hidden and unexpected fees. If you’re paying for a visa, for example, every type of visa has its own special fee and usually requires you to pay even if your application ultimately doesn’t get accepted. And once you arrive in Paris, you may face unexpected costs, such as higher tax rates or, as was my case in 2022, international transaction fees with my American debit card. You may even have to pay to renew your visa if you choose to stay in France. But with a budget and patience, you can surely make it through. 

Step 3: Find a place to stay

All I can say is: do your research. There are a lot of scams out there if you’re looking for a studio or apartment on your own, and I’ve learned that it’s extremely helpful to have a fluent French speaker look over the details of any apartment before you sign a contract. It’s also helpful to speak with other Americans or foreigners who have made the move to Paris.

If you need more guidance and time to find a place to stay, or if you don’t speak French well, there are many English-speaking foyers (dorm-style living for young people, generally students or young adults between the ages of 18 and 25). Check out student residences (Cité-Universitaire is a collection of international student housing, with the Fondation des États-Unis hosting many American students), or look at bigger apartments rented out by agencies or individuals who rent to multiple people at a time, some of them foreigners. Exercise caution over rooming with anyone you don’t know, but that could just be me speaking from bad random-roommate experiences.

Students searching for apartments in Paris. © INSPIRELLE

There are also plenty of general sites which post listings of available rental places. Some of my favorite sites recommended by both American and French friends are:

  • SeLoger (a lot of agencies post here, which is often a safer bet than signing with an individual landlord, but there are also many scams)
  • Particulier à Particulier, or PAP (similar to SeLoger)
  • Gens de Confiance (more limited options, but this is partly because they avoid scammers by requiring you to have three parrains, or sponsors, who can vouch for you in order to join)
  • Jinka (this is an app that posts any listings which match your criteria, no matter which website they are listed on. While you can’t directly contact agencies or landlords through the app, you can see all the listings and choose which ones you’d like to reach out to)

When looking for a place to stay, you need to prepare a dossier, or application file, that lists information such as your annual income, who is your garant (essentially a cosigner or sponsor), and where you currently live. You can easily create a dossier on some sites such as PAP or the administrative site Dossier Facile.

expat
© Antoine da Cunha/Unsplash

Step 4: Learn about the language and culture

As someone who has studied French for years, I feel much better about moving to France because I can communicate and have lived there before. While it was relatively easy for me to assimilate into Parisian culture, there were still some culture shocks. For example, instead of grabbing lunch to hang out, many of my French friends would go out for drinks. As someone who doesn’t drink alcohol often, I found this a little strange and felt pressured at first to get a drink, if only to fit in and not seem like the strange American! Finding a community of like-minded people helped me overcome cultural differences and establish a support system of both American and French friends that continues to encourage me as I plan my move.

If you’re not able to physically go to France before you move, network online—social media is a great place to look, as well as websites like LinkedIn (which can also help you find a job). Platforms such as YouTube are valuable resources, but I often feel overwhelmed unless I follow a particular YouTuber who is helpful and honest. If you’re looking for more official resources, French administrative sites will become your best friends (service-public.fr, I’m looking at you).

Expat blogs and magazines like INSPIRELLE are also great places to find information. A connection from my study abroad experience advised me to reach out to France-based websites for advice, and when I found INSPIRELLE, they invited me to write about my plans to move to Paris. Networking and making new connections really are key!

Jill Amari. Photo courtesy of the author.

Step 5: Stand by your dreams

I’ve spent hours dreaming about the day I can return to my favorite city, but I’ve also spent hours worrying about the stressors that come with an international move. I sometimes feel unsupported by family and friends who feel I should wait longer before moving abroad. But as a young person, I have the privilege of not being settled down in any one place yet. I want Paris to be that place.

And as I learn more about how to make Paris my next home, I am shaping my dream into a reality.

Jill Amari is a writer and environmental activist from Massachusetts, USA, now living in Paris. Jill has a B.A. in English and is a passionate writer of short stories, poems, songs, blogs, and novels. She is currently querying her first YA fantasy/sci-fi novel. Jill's day jobs include tutoring and writing for a marketing agency. After studying in Paris, she returned in 2023 and has found no end to the inspiring nature of the capital and the charm of French culture. You can follow her journey on Instagram.

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