dimanche 9 février 2014

Why I don't want to live in Paris (and bonus: why I am jealous of people living in Paris)

Paris... ah... Paris... everyone wants to live there, right? 

I fear the day my husband comes home and announces that he has a wonderful opportunity to work and live in Paris. Because I know that I could not say no as a position in Paris would be the cream of the crop for him. Thankfully, we think it will never happen because competition in his field is fierce in Paris.

So why don't I want to live there? 

After my London days, I knew that I was not made for big city living. London is great to visit, but to be honest, I didn't really like my time there. I didn't hate it, but I certainly didn't love it. After London I moved to Wales (a planned move) and I really enjoyed living there. Yes, I realise what I just said - I left a buzzing international centre to go and live in a small rainy city (no, it doesn't rain that much in London, it's just grey all the time), a city which other than a few foreigners passing through for a few months, had a very limited international scene and a city which had a high population of working-class families. Only 3 hours by train from London, yet a world apart. A world which I loved. 

The beach in my Welsh 'ugly, lovely town' as it is known to the locals. I used to come down here in between classes at uni just to breathe in the ocean air. Author of photo: Den Nation. 

The distances are too far apart for me in Paris. I need a less stressful place, preferably one where I can cycle everywhere. I would hate to be chained to the Paris metro and RER, a source of daily stress for some people living in Paris. Another thing that bothers me about the distances is that people are so sick of being suck in transport during the day and often live so far out of the centre that planning an evening out with friends is very difficult. I have friends (mutual friends) that see other less now that they are living in Paris than they did when they lived in separate cities in Province. I like how I can just call up people in Bordeaux and invite them over for the same day or invite them out for that evening and they'll come. 

A café at Gare de Lyon. Author of photo: Den Nation.

No, I don't really have a problem with Parisians. After all, Bordeaux is not known as being the most friendly city in France and I don't blame Parisians for being a bit unfriendly sometimes - I think I would be if I had worked hard all day slaving in an office and had to fight with other commuters for 2-3 hours trying to get home to my family. 

And then there are the house prices. There is no way we could ever afford to buy a place there. Owning our own place is important to us and even though my husband is highly educated and has a "job for life", he could never by an apartment in Paris (unless it was a shoebox). And it's not just housing prices which are higher, eating out and buying food at the supermarket costs more too. The difference in price between living here in Bordeaux and in Paris would not be covered with the 100 euros more a month my husband would receive for moving to Paris.

A statue of Josephine Bonaparte in Rueil-Malmaison, just outside of Paris.
Author of photo: Den Nation.

Not to mention the fact that I don't feel safe there. Pickpocketing is getting to be a real problem there as is aggression in the RER. I know that I could be attacked in Bordeaux or anywhere else for that matter and there is such a thing as common sense and intuition, but I feel that some parts of Paris are really dangerous and my chances of being a victim of aggression are higher in Paris. My husband's colleague, who used to work in Paris, had to walk through a 'danger zone' every day to get to work from the RER station. He would arrive with nothing on him but an old mobile phone in his pocket, his Navigo card and 20 euros in his pocket. What were the 20 euros for? In case he got mugged. I asked him why he bothered carrying any money at all and his answer? "If I didn't have some money on me, they surely would have beaten me up." 

And there's something about living in a tourist city that just doesn't fit my personality. Bordeaux has a lot of wine tourists, but people choose to come here - they come for a reason. A lot of tourists in Paris only go to Paris just because it's Paris. It's not a real reason for not wanting to live in Paris, but I can't explain it, living in a touristy place would bother me. 

Rueil-Malmaison. Author of photo: Den Nation.

Ok, so I've given some pretty convincing answers. But... there is another side to this... 

Things I wish I could bring to Province
1. The transport system. Yes, I know I complained about this, but this is, hands down, the number one thing I would import here. Bordeaux's trams are really elegant, clean and safe, but they are some of the slowest snails on earth. Problem with the tram? Well, it's not uncommon to see huge groups of people walking all together from the centre of the city to the university (a 30-minute walk for the science building, more for the others). If there is a problem with the tram, you are stuck. There is no option to walk to the next stop and wait for the next tram. You're only option is to get out and walk or try to find a bus to take. 
2. I don't really like Roissy, Paris's airport. The airport facilities are great, but half the times when I have a flight arriving there the plane goes around the airport for half an hour 'looking for a place to park because someone's in my spot'. Anyways, despite my complaining, I really wish I could have access to the wide variety of flights that living in Paris could offer me. I hate always having to pass through Paris because there are limited direct flights from Bordeaux. Not to mention the fact that getting to Bordeaux's airport with public transport is another snail ride. At least it only costs 1.40 euros (less if you buy a 10-trip card). 
3. A wide variety of Asian and other world cuisine restaurants. And at decent prices too. Sometimes I look at the prices of take-away menus that we receive and it shocks me so much. We try and wait for trip to Paris to take advantage of all the yummy food on offer there. Yes, there is something that is cheaper in Paris (other than flights). Slim pickings here in Bordeaux. 
4. Lower unemployment rate. I don't think I need to say more about this. 
5. Expat groups. Well, it's no surprise that there are not so many long-term expats here in Bordeaux. They are here... somewhere. 
6. I'm not really crazy about museums and culture so I'll won't really talk about that except to say that don't come here specifically for museums unless you want to go to wine museums. 

So I like to visit Paris, but I also like to leave Paris. I guess you could say that I like it in small doses. My visits there have greatly diminished over the past few years, but I am excited to be going back there next month for a visit. Bring on the Asian food!

16 commentaires:

  1. This is a timely post since I've been thinking about these things. Like you I wouldn't want to live in Paris. It seems best to me in small doses. I am fascinated by the whole Paris is perfect thing. There is a giant industry of blogs and books just to make Paris seem like a magical place. I am sure the people who make money of tourism are happy about it. Don't get me wrong I like Paris and think it is very beautiful but living there would probably drive me mad. Or maybe I just read too much of Crystal's blog back when she lived in Paris :)

    On the other hand I love London. It's at the top of my list of places to move in a couple of years .

    1. You wouldn't want to live in Paris, but you would like to live in London? I'm just curious, why is that?

      I admire you for seeing that there are two sides of Paris: the one which, as you said, is represented by the 'giant industry of blogs and books just to make Paris seem like a magical place' and the other side of Paris which I somewhat described above. What I am saying is that you only personally know the 'perfect city' version and not the reality, but by reading blogs like this one, you have a good idea as to what living in Paris really entails. And that you would rather personally know the 'perfect side' as a visitor than the other side, while still being aware of the pitfalls of Paris. I'm glad that you are not one of those people that, having read those 'perfect Paris fantasy land blogs, doesn't go to Paris with high expectations. This is exactly what happened to my sister - she visited Paris for the first time with all these prefabricated ideas as to what it was all about and she was disappointed. It's good to visit Paris knowing that there are downsides to the city and that it is not a perfect place.

      So you're planning a move to Europe in the next few years?! Is this something that you are actively working towards? I'm curious to see where you'll end up. I'm glad to see you that you read a lot of expat blogs in preparation for a possible move or even, like a said above, to have a balanced view of the places you are visiting.

    2. "You wouldn't want to live in Paris, but you would like to live in London? I'm just curious, why is that?"
      I have a post started in blogger title "A Tale of Two Cities." to explain it. I've just never got around to writing it yet. The simplest way to put it was that I felt more comfortable in London. Maybe it was just the language issue though I don't think that was it. Paris felt like a beautiful person who was aloof whereas London felt like someone you take down to the pub.

      "So you're planning a move to Europe in the next few years?! Is this something that you are actively working towards? I'm curious to see where you'll end up. I'm glad to see you that you read a lot of expat blogs in preparation for a possible move or even, like a said above, to have a balanced view of the places you are visiting. "

      I originally started planning to move to Europe back in 2008. Back then it was France and only France. The contract at my job was up in 2010 and that was when I planned to make the move. I even did some actual research and some small attempt to learn french. That's when I first started reading expat blogs. Life family things intruded and that plan got put on hold.

      Now I am hoping to make the move in a couple of years. Right now I am working toward that. Getting my finances in order and working on new skills to make me more hire able. Where I end up will be a mix of best job and most interesting place. To be Paris it would have to be a really good job :)

  2. I know this post is about Paris, but I have to comment on... Wales! I'm not surprised you enjoyed living there. I've only visited a few Welsh cities, but I loved it-- the people were friendly and funny and I just felt relaxed there. From what I've seen, it's a charming country.


    1. I think I've pretty much read through your entire blog (I've never commented, though, at least not yet!) and you haven't talked about Wales. You should! I would love to read a post about your Welsh travels.

      I would say that the differences between London and small cities in the UK are bigger than Paris and smaller cities in France. At least that's what I felt having left London to live in my blue-collar industrial Welsh city. The countryside was so beautiful, though! Not a day goes by that I don't miss it.

    2. Hey, thanks for reading and letting me know! As a newbie that's pretty delightful to hear. I haven't delved too much into the past-- that's a good idea to write about Wales and past travels.

      I see what you're saying about the U.K.-- compare London with Dublin or Edinburgh. I haven't gotten a chance to visit other English cities to compare, though. On a related note, I'd say that the difference between Paris and smaller cities in France is bigger than the differences between cities in the U.S. It's not that the U.S. cities aren't diverse and different from each other-- they are-- but many of them are equally urban, if you know what I mean.

  3. I've never really wanted to live in Paris either. Of course, half of that was the commute and now I commute for like 3 hours a day anyway ha ha. The tourist thing would also get on my nerves too I think.

    If I (eventually) got a good group together, there's got to be a ton of expats in Bordeaux! I made contact with a couple of people online (and it took a while filtering through that classic situation of "hey, we actually don't have that much in common, but we both speak English so we're friends" to actually have a couple of key friends, and then I met other cool people through them).

    1. Yes, you are right, there are expats here of course, but it just seems like there are either a lot of young people just passing through or older people that settled here to live in a wine region. I will admit to being somewhat lazy and quite shy and introverted so that really does impede on my success in meeting other immigrants living here.

      Funny, I always felt that you would end up in Paris. I was waiting for the day that you would announce that you had found a fantastic job offer in Paris and that you were moving asap. I just see you as a really social person and I get this idea that extroverted people do better in Paris than people like me because they can put up with the stresses of living in Paris to have access to a wide selection of social events. And you're single (at least, you were until a few months ago) so a move to Paris would have been easier.

      I'm not surprised about Luxembourg, though. Jobs aren't easy to come by here in France for young people so if you want to chase better opportunties, you usually have to move. I've considered moving there so many times, you wouldn't believe it. It's just a fact that western France has less opportunities than the east. I just couldn't muster up the courage to leave my husband behind, though, and become a 'weekend couple' like so many families here in France. I don't know how they do it!

    2. Ha, I only give the illusion of being very social because I usually only blog about social-type things. In reality I can handle going out like once a week, totally not a social butterfly! Hey, maybe that glittering Paris job is still to come :) Yeah, long-distance would suck.

  4. I was going to write you a big long comment, but then I realised that half my blog is about the reverse of this subject - why I don't want to live in Paris ... but am kind of glad that I do. I think you may have given me the inspiration for a new post!

    1. I should go through your archives because while I knew that you didn't intentionally end up in Paris, I didn't think that you didn't want to live there. Was Italy the country you wanted to live in? A long time ago, before I knew any better, I wanted to live in Italy.

      I'm looking forward to your post on living in Paris!

  5. I actually 100% know what you mean! I would love to live in Paris, but maybe I just love the idea of living in Paris? I don't enjoy living in a city at the moment. Maybe Paris would be different, but I guess I will never have the chance to find out? I have visited twice and I loved it. I always feel so exhausted in cities!

    1. Yes, I think that a lot of people are more in love in the idea of living in Paris than the reality of living there (for those that know about the reality). I never dreamt of living in Paris - I was different about living there. My dream was to live on the Côte d'Azur, which is almost as bad as blindly being in love with the idea of Paris. I should do a post on that as well. So yes, I like to visit, but I am always so happy to leave and return to my provincial city.

  6. Well, you pretty much already know how I feel about this. A big part of me very much misses living in Paris, but then I keep trying to remind myself that there were reasons I wanted to leave in the first place. But at the same time I don't know how many of those reasons were really related to Paris and how many were more a result of just absolutely despising my job there.

    One thing is for sure, no matter how I feel about Paris at any given moment, I certainly don't feel indifferent. I have a love/hate relationship with that city and with many aspects of that city. My biggest problem here in Bordeaux is that I just feel pretty indifferent to the city and the area. There is nothing I really love and nothing I really hate (recent tram issues aside). Paris brought up and still brings up all kinds of feelings and emotions, good and bad, whereas in Bordeaux I just feel like I'm here and it's a place where I can have a roof over my head.

    I don't know, maybe this will change and I will fall in love with Bordeaux. But one thing is for sure at the moment, I definitely miss the convenience of the metro, night buses, the ethically diverse food selection, the cheaper Asian options, the large network of expats and expat related events, the museums, the Seine, the travel opportunities. But at the same time I also don't miss the metro (I know, hard to explain), the hoards of people and tourists everywhere, the driving, the commutes, the lack of easy access to real nature (and not just a Parisian park swarming with crowds of other Parisians), the cost of housing. So I don't know. And as I've told you before, my dream would be to live in Tours, but that is clearly never going to happen.

    To touch on another subject you mentioned: safety. I can't say that I feel any safer in Bordeaux than I did in Paris. In fact, I think I overall felt safer in Paris and Lionel was less worried when I went out on my own in Paris than he is now in Bordeaux. And, well, I've also experience safety "issues" in Tours, so I'm just not convinced that Paris is really any less safe than other French cities.

    1. I know what you talking about when you refer to the metro: I would hate to have to take it everyday, what with people picking their nose in there and shoving you. On the other hand, it is fast and convenient (there are so many stops everywhere). Bordeaux is the opposite: it's nice to be in the tram, but it is not fast and it is not convenient (at least it's better than what it used to be a few years ago, though, when there was no tram at all so I am thankful).

      Maybe Lionel is less worried about you going out in Paris because he doesn't know Bordeaux very well?

    2. We purposefully left the Paris area... I don't think that I am much of a big city person, I need a yard, air, space. I have a dog (soon to be 2), and kids and I overall prefer to give them a yard then live in a city center. That said, I am not particularly attached to where we are now (Strasbourg), and was even less attached to our previous destination (Metz). Bordeaux would definitely make our list of places to move to though, if not for the nicer weather. :)