When I tell people I studied in France, one of the first questions they ask is, “How was it living there?” And that is a valid question, as it’s extremely different living in Paris as a student than traveling there for vacation or visiting as a tourist. I would say the experience of living in Paris is far better than just coming to visit for a week or two.
When you visit, you inevitably try to cram too many things in, and there are too many museums to visit and activities to do if you are only there for a short time. When you live here, you learn to enjoy the lifestyle, culture, and even your poor attempts to act like an interesting and devastatingly cool Parisian.
Truthfully, I loved living abroad so much that I decided to come back and work remotely in Paris. In addition, my closest friends from ISM, who were also full-time students in the MBA program, decided to come back for a second year to live in Paris too. That tells you something about the students here at ISM and the experiences we shared.
Having said that, when I first got to Paris, I was miserable! For the first two weeks, I remember being incredibly, overwhelmingly frustrated with the bureaucracy here. And I’m not talking about the visa process, because that is a whole other blog onto itself. I just mean, the (usually) simple acts of setting up internet, your phone and bank account, plus your electricity. It is, I would think, next to impossible to live in Paris without opening a French bank account. But you can’t open an account until you have an electric bill showing proof of address. But you can’t start your electric account without a French bank account. Do you see the dilemma? There were nights I cried and there were days I was overwhelmingly frustrated with my lack of knowledge with the French language and feeling stupid everywhere I went.
But, like most things in life, it got easier. And even during the time that I was frustrated, it never overshadowed the things I still loved about Paris. Like how beautiful the city looks at night, or how you can find a café on literally every street corner (some better than others). And how people walk freely with their dogs off leashes, talking to each other instead of on their phones 24/7. How any random night you can find yourself out with friends, drinking wine and laughing and staying up in someone’s apartment for far too late, because that is just what happens.
I also felt the best part of living in Paris was the ability to hop on a train and travel outside of the city, into adorable towns and countryside to explore. Now, unfortunately, the trains can be on strike for about 4 months of the year, disrupting all traffic, but that is just something you come to expect! Just like the riots that happen (monthly, sometimes weekly) aren’t as exciting as you once thought they would be, but just kind of an annoyance because you can’t move through a huge throng of people. But you also find yourself sometimes getting caught up in the moment and magic of people screaming in French and so passionate about a cause.
While there are certainly parts of living Paris that frustrate me, they never overshadow the things I like so much about it. And when you have your 1 € baguette from a boulangerie that you love dearly, and your fromage shop and the 4€ delicious bottle of wine, then the issues and frustrations that came up earlier in the day don’t seem nearly as bad.