Eiffel tower during sunset while living in Paris
Look at the golden rays of sunset that is bathing the beautiful Iron Lady - gosh it's good be living in Paris!

There are many cities that caught my attention but Paris captured my heart.

When I got the confirmation letter from one of the hospitals in Paris, the excitement in me was insurmountable. So excited that I was like “Okay let’s start packing” even though the internship was in 2 months time. That’s a rare move as I’m someone who packs a day before flying.

Deep in my heart, I always knew that I wanna try living in Paris. It was love at first sight when I was in Paris 3 years ago. I told myself, “Paris, you stay where you are. I am gonna live in you.”

3 years later I am writing this from the living room of my apartment near Chatêlet-Les Halles station. It is surreal. I couldn’t believe that I got the internship especially since the process was seemingly impossible. 

Dark sainte anne cathedral with painted glass in Paris
Sainte Anne has one of the best, if not the best, collection of stained glass in Paris! It's touristy but if you are a student, it's free to enter!

But how is it really like living in Paris?

Language

You need to speak at least a little bit of French while living in Paris (even better before you start living in Paris).

I speak French. I am not very fluent (B2)  but I can hold a decent conversation without having to think too much. Of course, it wasn’t enough for me to understand the jokes that were passed around in the bar with all my French friends. When they started laughing and I had to just “ha ha ha” over it so I don’t killjoy. Watching french films in the cinema was a pain in the ass – there’s no subtitles. You survive or you drown in the sea with endless waves of French vocabs coming at you.

The bureaucracy in France is painful. Not only everything is hierarchical (meaning everything takes decades to process), they also speak only French in most cases. Simple things such as opening a bank account can be really slow if you don’t know the right person to speak to (you will never know who’s the right person to speak to anyways…)

My french was enough for me to talk to my patient, to explain my findings to my supervising doctors, to have fun with my friends who speak predominantly French, who understand that I am making an effort to speak their language… Administrative work is still difficult for me so I seek help from my newfound French friends. Meet some francophones quickly once you’re settled in Paris so you can get all these sorted!

When you put in an effort to speak French, you can see that the Frenchies’ attitude changes in a split second. Undeniably, they are proud of their language. However, even a simple “Bonjour!” and “Merci!” can put on a smile on their faces. The French culture stresses on politeness. If you play the card well, they will play it well too.

However, after a few days living in Paris, my brain was so tired from all the French language that was flying in the air. My ears, my eyes, my brains were all not used to what they are experiencing. It was really difficult as I felt beaten down by the language. 

What I did was just to acknowledge the despair, read up all the phrases/ expressions and the next day is a whole new day! This process repeats a lot but I honestly think this is the best way to get a better hand on the language.

French couple kissing in front of Paris town hall
I guess it was a perfect location for them to kiss while I was taking a photo of the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall).

Cost

Well, Paris is expensive. Like in the sky. It was named as the most expensive city by CNBC!

I live in a pretty central part of the city (3rd arrondissement) thanks to my friend. He was a couchsurfer whom I stayed with when I was travelling in Paris 3 years ago. He rented the place to me at a very cheap price.

According to many websites that I have read (because I am too scared to ask my French friends as money is a super sensitive topic), you probably need to have at least 1500 euros to survive in Ile-de-France. Renting a room in a shared flat is probably gonna cost you 500-800 euros depending on your location. Food is incredibly expensive. 20 euros for a main is not uncommon, although you can get cheaper meals at ethnic restaurants.

But! You can cut cost by doing some research. Just one quick example because I am going out to meet my friends soon. There’s something called LaFourchette and you can get up to 50% off the menu in selected restaurants in Paris! As a foodie myself, that was an answer to all my prayers. That’s how I could still enjoy Parisian food with a lower cost.

I buy my groceries from Lidl or Carrefour (the big ones, not those smaller shops) as I find them to be the cheapest. Franprix, G20 and Monoprix are normally more expensive but they are ubiquitous. 

Sunday markets can be cheap too but I think it’s more for a French experience. On normal days, I turn up around half an hour before the market closes so I get massive discounts from the vendors as they are finishing up. Marché d’Aligre is my favourite but here’s a full list of the markets in Ile-de-France here. You can also go to ethnic market like African butcher or Tang Frères (Asian grocer) as sometimes prices are incredibly cheap. 

Download all the recommended apps that you need to find good deals in Paris! 

People

You are not really living in Paris if you are with your own people. Hang out with others! Like I said, Parisians are not the nicest if you don’t speak French. Once you speak French, they instantly become nicer to you. 

Mind you: many people that you see are not actually Parisians. They come from many parts of France and also the world. I love meeting people but it is daunting when you are new to the city. However, thanks to events that I search through Google, Facebook and Couchsurfing, I have been able to meet awesome people whom I still call friends. I think people that are willing to hangout through this kind of event are more likely to be open about making new friends. Bring out the extroversion in you when you go to these events! 

I went to watch the Chinese New Year parade with people that I met through Couchsurfing, partied in a cruise with another group from Facebook Erasmus people and many more, went to many language exchange events, picnic with random strangers and many more occasions where I can’t remember but also, I don’t remember spending time feeling very lonely.

I have attended and will still be attending many events in Paris. These are the gateways for me to make friends and it might be yours too!  

chocolate choux dessert at bouillon chartier while living in paris
While living in Paris, Bouillon Chartier is one of my go-tos because of the cheap prices and authentic food. Just look at this masterpiece...

Food

Living in Paris allows you to have a world of gastronomy placed in front of you. 

However, food in Paris can be really overpriced if you don’t know where to find the good and cheap ones. The food scene in Paris is really international although I have to say that cuisines from most Asian countries are better in Melbourne. 

I ate a lot of French food and it’s simply amazing. However, French food is more pricey in general. Hence, I always check out LaFourchette to see if there’s any discount available for any of the French restaurants. In other words, I just let LaFourchette decide where I’m gonna eat.

There are many restaurants featuring Lebanese, Turkish, Moroccan, Tunisian, Ethiopian, Senegalese, Congolese, Ghanaian and other kinds of cuisine that are not easy to find in Melbourne. These cuisines are incredible and it constantly blows my mind. It is so good (and spicy) that it made me check for tickets to Tunisia so I can properly sample the cuisine. 

You can get food from the market but they can be pricey. There are not many street food stands in Paris. Hence, the cheapest is probably home-made lunches and dinners. 

Make sure you check out my list of where to eat in Paris! This list is carefully curated by my Parisian friends while I was living in Paris.

cocktail, alcohol, paris, fruit

Nightlife

There are some cities that will stay dear to my heart in terms of the quality of the nightlife. They are Berlin, Siem Reap, SeoulBarcelonaPrague and Budapest. And now Paris is in the list. Top or not, I don’t know. Will find out at the end of my stay.

However, alcohol is not the cheapest here. Pre-drinking is an important sport here (they call it “before” – you just have to pronounce it with a French accent). Supermarkets (go to Aldi if you can) sell pretty decent alcohol at a cheap price. If you wanna save up and don’t mind a bad hangover the 

If you don’t wanna drink at home, you can take advantage of the super long happy hours in Paris. It can start from 5pm and end at 12am). However, many glasses of alcohol do add up quickly. I suggest using an app called MisterGoodBeer – it tells you where you can find the cheapest beer in Paris. I was able to find somewhere with 2.50 euros for a pint of beer. Once the happy hour of that bar ends, you can move on to another bar which is still having happy hour!

Don’t know where to dine in Paris? Follow this list recommended by the locals (a.k.a. my Parisian friends)!

Better safe than sorry

I never leave home without getting a travel insurance. Not everything can happen according to to your plan. It’s not unusual for unfortunate events to happen at times. That’s why, I always go with World Nomads before leaving! They have been wonderful to help with my mishaps when I lost my wallet in South Korea and lost my baggage in Bangkok!

The plus side, it’s quite cheap as well – considering the service and the benefit that you’d get. Reimbursement comes in quick and they’ve always got your back! 

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What is it like living in Paris? Living the Parisian life as an expat can be rewarding and daunting at the same time! Find out more!!
What is it like living in Paris? Living the Parisian life as an expat can be rewarding and daunting at the same time! Find out more!!

Born and raised in Malaysia, Aaron is a medical student who desperately preaches about “Travelling doesn’t have to be expensive” – well, he has a full-on blog about it. When he is free, he checks for the cheapest airfare that would get him out of Australia. Aaron indulges in local cuisine so much that he has to lose some weight before and after he goes travelling. Read more about him!

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