About a year ago I arrived in Paris with my other half, and the electric buzz of the city just seemed to resonate throughout my mind and body. It was exciting to be moving to a place with so much energy and activity, after spending a year in small-town France, and I was determined to soak up every last drop of the city.
And that’s exactly what I did in many ways during that period of settling in. Like most new arrivals in Paris, I spent plenty of time strolling around parks and charming streets, sitting in cafés, and enjoying the street performances all around town. I dove into volunteering for the awesome Paris Talks conference that was starting just after my arrival and met a fantastic group of people through that experience. I even found a job that was precisely what I needed at the time, and soon I was feeling fully installed in the city. I was “in sync” with the rhythm of Paris.
During that time, I learned some really valuable lessons on how to find balance and a sense of authentic happiness when landing in a new city, and particularly in Paris. It’s a unique place, this city of light and love, and I found that there were a few things that were especially helpful in feeling less like an alien visitor trying to fit in, and more like a real part of the city.
Find your people (and the events they attend)
In Paris, there is a community for just about everything, whether it’s knitting, writing, dancing, playing music, learning about business strategies, cooking, climbing, yoga-ing, or just about anything else you can imagine.
Making the effort to find these people might just lead you to develop close friendships and perhaps even romance with someone who shares your interests.
The key is finding those communities and getting plugged in. Luckily, the entire city is at your fingertips with just a quick search online, so here are a few useful tools that might just help you find the perfect “tribe” for your interests and activities:
- Meetup: a free platform dedicated to finding groups based on interests
- Couchsurfing: originally a site for staying with locals while traveling, but also a very rich source of conversations & groups for those same locals plus visitors
- Facebook (search something like “writing Paris” or “writers Paris” and filter the results specifically to “groups”)
- OnVaSortir: a listing of events planned by members of the community, such as language exchanges, urban hikes, salsa nights, etc.
Figure out your routine
This doesn’t mean slipping into the depressing abyss of “métro-boulot-dodo” (metro-work-sleep) but rather establishing a sense of familiarity in the things you do and the places you visit. It could be finding a favorite boulangerie and going often enough to be recognized by the staff – you’ll feel a real sense of warmth and accomplishment the first time they recognize you and maybe even offer a rare smile. Or perhaps you’ll find familiarity (and healthy movement!) in riding a Vélib to work or school, or just cycling along the banks of the Seine in your free time. Those little daily or weekly elements start to add up over time, giving you a sense of belonging and comfort with this city you’re calling home.
Get out and about! Even when it’s gray
It’s true, Paris is not the sunniest city and sometimes it’s tempting to just stay indoors. There’s nothing wrong with keeping things low-key and enjoying home-sweet-home, but you’ll miss out if you fall into the habit of spending too much time cooped up indoors. There’s SO much to see and do in Paris even when it’s dreary out!
The many parks of Paris can inspire and uplift you any time of year (just bundle up and walk briskly – you’ll warm up in no time). Or if you’d prefer to limit your time out in the chill, at least be sure to get yourself out of the house to enjoy any of the great museums, art galleries, cafes and restaurants around the city.
There’s also a great app called Too Good to Go which allows you to purchase the unsold meals and baked goods from bakeries and restaurants for a fraction of the price, and Les Petites Tables is a great site for finding an adorable and not-too-expensive place to eat. In addition, once per month, all public museums are free. Take advantage of those opportunities as well as allowing yourself to splurge on an expense once in a while as your budget permits.
On the flipside, respect your own needs and time as well
Life in Paris can move pretty quickly, and with the vast amount of activities and events happening any given day of the year, one can start to feel a bit overwhelmed and run down. It’s exciting to live in the capital city that buzzes with energy from dawn till dusk, so it’s normal and fun to go and do fun things. But remember to be gentle with your own needs as well.
If you’re someone who tends to go at top speed in life, don’t forget to slow down once in a while and enjoy just “being” instead of always “doing”.
Even in doing nothing at all, sometimes, you might be doing the best thing possible for yourself.
At the end of the day there’s no golden “prescription” for how to live well and happy in Paris, or in any other place in the world, but with these tips you can start to gain a feeling of positive momentum on a path toward comfort, connection, and contentment with where you are.
And if you’re looking for a friendly face at one of those communities or events around the city, you might just find me at one of them: teaching or attending a yoga class at Affordable Yoga & Fitness, or hosting a French-English-Spanish language exchange, or at the 2019 Paris Talks ideas festival taking place March 15 at UNESCO! I’m always happy to meet people interested in the same type of events and hope I’ve inspired you to go out and enjoy some of your own.