When I first arrived in the city of lights I had never even lived in a big city. I was fresh off the plane from a small seaside town in the South West of England and I knew nothing about Paris, except that I had fallen in love with it during a four-day visit earlier that year. So basically, I was chasing after a romantic fling, hoping and praying that it would turn into a fully-fledged relationship. Crazy, right?
Well, it’s six years down the line and I can honestly say that I am very serious about Paris. I have developed my relationship with the city so much that I now spend my time blogging about it under my not-so-secret identity: My Life Living Abroad.
Now that 27 is looming around the corner and I’ve been in Paris for almost all of my twenties, I have to admit that I’m often guilty of forgetting what it was like when I arrived. Guess what? I didn’t always know everything that I know now. I was once lost and overwhelmed like everyone else who has just arrived, possibly more so because we didn’t have smartphones back in 2010 (so no Google maps). Anyway, while reflecting on the fact that life is much easier now that I know Paris well, I decided that I would answer a common expatriate question:
How do you make friends when you move to Paris?
Well, sadly, it isn’t as easy as you might hope. There are a lot of expats around, but if you want to make friends with French people, you’ll have to look a little harder…
Find out where all the cool kids hang out
Moving to a new city is like changing high school in the middle of the year. Everyone already knows each other and have formed their own cliques, leaving you naturally on the outside. So, what do you do when you want to get in with the popular kids? You find out where they hang out!
The most important thing to a Parisian is that you respect Paris and make an effort to go outside of your comfort zone (i.e. the expat pubs such as the Frog or Corcoran’s, where you can live your entire Paris experience in English). Paris has many incredible and authentic bars where the French hang out and they’re places that tourists don’t know about. So if you do go to them, the Parisians will automatically register that you’re serious about making friends with the French.
My personal favorite bars where it’s easy to meet French people:
Aux Folies Bar is described as an institution for the youth of Belleville. All the hip youngsters can be found there, both in the day sipping on coffee and at night drinking cheap glasses of their favorite tipple. It’s an incredibly cool place to go where you can get a real taste of Paris in an 18th century watering hole.
8 Rue de Belleville 75020. Metro: Belleville
Chez Georges is a fun and lively wine bar with its own underground cave. Upstairs you can sit at the bar and have a glass of wine and chat with locals. Downstairs you can mingle with a room full of Parisians who just want to have fun and DANCE. However, get there early because it gets busy!
11 Rue des Canettes 75006. Metro: Mabillon
L’Alimentation Générale is not a grocery store, even though it sounds like one. It’s actually a very cool bar, restaurant, concert hall and club all mixed into one. You have to pay to get in on the weekend, usually between 5 and 10 euros, but once you’re inside you can drink and dance the night away until 5am. Plenty of food is available and as the night goes on, the tables get pushed aside and the music is turned up, whether it’s live music or a DJ, this venue is the place to be.
64 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud 75011. Metro: Parmentier
Sign up with meet-up groups
Join the Drunk Writers!
If you like writing and enjoy a glass of tipple, the Drunk Writers is the right place for you! The group meets every two weeks and works together on timed writing exercises (5 minutes each) with the option of sharing after if you want. The group is called the Drunk Writers after Ernest Hemingway’s famous quote “Write drunk, edit sober.” Everyone brings a bottle of wine/beer (or a soft drink if they don’t drink alcohol)and meets in a member’s apartment. The idea is simply to have fun, write and learn. The group welcomes and encourages new members. For more information you can check out the Facebook page: The Drunk Writers
Instagram is also a good place to meet people. If you like taking photographs, then you can follow TOP PARIS PHOTO’s account to stay up to date with all their INSTA MEET get-togethers. Top Paris Photo organises an Insta Meet every month where you meet fellow Instagrammers and visit famous sites to practice your photography together. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see the city and make new friends.
See a Comedy Show in English
Although not many people know about it, there is actually quite a large English-speaking comedy scene in Paris. Le Paname at République offers three shows per week: French Fried Comedy Night (every Tuesday and Friday) and “Sorry, we’re English” (every Thursday). Chez Georges at Mabillon offers Comedy Rive Gauche with Phyllis Wang and comedian Paul Taylor (who recently became very famous with his video La Bise) performs his show Franglais every Saturday night. Guaranteed to make you laugh, these shows are a fantastic way to meet people and have a laugh-filled evening.
The most important thing to do when you move here is to not be afraid of putting yourself out there. YES, you will make grammatical mistakes (even French people do). YES, it will take time and a lot of hard work and effort to learn French. YES, sometimes you won’t understand a word of what someone is saying. BUT, French people will appreciate you making the effort to learn their language and as a result, will be more open to becoming your friend. Try the fun and quirky Frantastique on-line or join groups like Franglish on Facebook and keep up to date with their great language exchange events. Remember, it’s all well and good to make friends with expats, but if you really want to experience Paris, you should make some French friends too. Learning about their culture through them is an amazing opportunity and one you will never forget.
As everyone knows, making friends in a new city is never easy, but if you are open-minded and prepared to make an effort, you’ll definitely succeed!