To live the dream of waking up every morning in Paris, beautiful Paris, is something worth chasing, at least to me.
But, before I go, I've got to secure a roof over my head and a bed for my sure-to-be-tired feet.
Finding housing options in the City of Lights can seem daunting, but have no fear. There's a space, a nook, and a cranny for everyone who seeks housing in Paris with a determined eye and heart.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the scientific findings of my Parisian housing research.
Chambre de Bonne: Literally translated to "maid's quarters," this housing situation is what you'd expect from the name: very small studio-ettes located on the highest floor of apartment buildings. This article accurately portrays just how small these living spaces can be. Very important to note: living in a chambre de bonne means you may have to share a toilet and a shower with other tenants on the floor, and that your kitchen may be a couple of hot plates. The biggest pro (ding ding ding) is the affordability of the place. You can't beat the cost of rent for a chambre de bonne in Paris, which usually ranges around 450€ to 600€. So, although very small, these tiny apartments may find their way to your heart and be "home" for a student on a budget someday.
Homestay: Living in a homestay is an attractive option for a number of reasons. If you're nervous about living away from home, a homestay situation will allow you to integrate into a family away from home. Also, homestay programs are oftentimes cheaper than finding an apartment, and you don't need to worry about furniture and sometimes cooking, cleaning, or laundry. Also, living in a homestay can prove to be a more culturally-enriching experience than living with other people who speak your language. It's a great option for the traveler who fully wishes to immerse him or herself in another culture and language, and I guarantee you will pick up the language more quickly than if you were living with English-speaking roommates. If you become close enough with your host family, they may invite you out to participate in activities or trips (woohoo!).
The negative aspect to a homestay is, of course, you lose a large chunk of your independence. You are subject to the rules of a family that's not your own, which may include curfews, house rules, etc. Also, you will have to make an active effort to meet other English-speaking travelers if you would like to make fellow expat contacts. This can be done easily, however, through language or academic classes, Meetup groups, and websites dedicated to organizing expatriate events (like Expatica). If I can give you one piece of advice to kick off your homestay to a great start: please don't forget to bring a gift/token of appreciation for the family.
To enroll in a homestay program, ask your school or university first if they have homestay placement services. This is a great option as usually the institution has partnerships with certain families that are known to be safe and have provided excellent experiences to other students.
Larger/Shared Apartments: If you're studying abroad through a university/college/language school, usually these institutions will offer to place you in either apartments with shared roommates or by yourself. Contact your university when you've decided which option best suits you.
There are reasons, however, not to go through university housing placement services. I, for one, would rather live with French-speaking girls my own age as opposed to American gals. Nothing against my people--I'd just rather be exposed as much as possible to the French language and culture as possible. As foreigner trying to find your own apartment, you have a couple of options:
- Classified Ads: Fusac, Pap, and SeLoger, and even Craiglist for Paris all have classified ads of Frenchies trying to rent out space. You deal directly with other people in coming to an agreement, which may require French language capabilities.
- Apartment Listings: These websites are exclusively focused on listing apartments for sale in France. Examples include French Century 21, Paris Rental, and Lodgis.
- Vacation/Long-Term Rental Agencies: Some agencies provide a certain selection of apartments that are usually fully furnished. You can take a look at the apartments that these agencies list on their websites (Perfectly Paris, Haven in Paris, and Paris Rental).
- Word of Mouth: Got a friend or family member who lives in Paris? If they can ask around for you, they may be able to find an apartment with other Parisians, allowing you to skip the roommate search process.
- Home Swap: Ever watched the movie "The Holiday?" Well, home swapping is actually a reality for many people who want a break from their own country or lifestyle. Although it may be a long shot that someone will want to give up their apartment for an extended period of time, it may be worth checking out the Parisian Craigslist every so often to see if someone wants to swap their chic and furnished apartment for your home for several months. The best part is it's totally free housing without giving up your home elsewhere.
I've included pictures of my own apartment in Paris for your viewing pleasure below. My family currently rents out this apartment to vacationers through the Perfectly Paris rental agency, although I will be moving into the apartment in the spring.
If you're interested, visit the Perfectly Paris site and select "Luxurious Laborde" to book in advance. The apartment is located in the 8ème arrondissement, in the heart of Paris and a 10-minute walk from the famous Champs-Elysées.
The apartment also comes equipped with a variety of amenities, including French cable TV, Wifi, free long-distance phone calls, and easy access to metro lines. What more could you ask for in Paris? ;)
In case you were wondering where I will be seeking a roof over my head for the fall, I've decided on the homestay option.
It makes sense for me: I'm moving to Paris to hopefully one day secure a job in this beautiful city, and with this dream comes the possibility of settling down and having a family. It would truly benefit me to see the French family dynamic and immerse myself in the French culture as much as possible.
For others, who see Paris as more of a transient travel experience, a homestay may be a hindering option in regards to independence.
For a gal who plans to live in France for a while, however, this makes perfect sense.
I'll be updating you on my homestay adventures to come. xx