The most common way to explore the world is to vacation but for some, that’s not enough. Some choose to work and travel like my friend in Dubai. Those like myself choose to teach and travel while others choose to take academia to the next level. One such person is my friend Jessica from back home in Toronto who embarked on a year of study in Paris, France. As if university life isn’t challenging enough, this brave lady packed some bags and hauled off to Paris to further her studies. As her year in Paris approaches its final quarter, I had the chance to interview her on her time so far. All photos are hers as well, so let’s take a walk through Paris, shall we?
Q. How long have you been in Paris?
A. Since September 2013, so 10 months now.
Q. How did you come to study in Paris?
A. After job hunting in Toronto for 2 years with little to no luck, I came to the realization that I needed to better my education. My bachelor’s degree was in French Literature so Paris seemed like a good fit for me in order to improve my language skills. I happened to come across a great master’s program in Cross-Cultural and Sustainable Business Management at the American University of Paris. The rest is history!
Q. When you first arrived, what was your biggest surprise?
A. This will sound strange, but it took me a really long time to adjust to showering with a hand-held shower head. I do miss long, hot, luxurious showers but I tell myself that it’s a good thing I’m saving water. Outside of the bathroom, there were a few other things: There is a button you have to push before opening any door, the city is highly unaccessible for those with physical disabilities and people don’t start work until 10am, then proceed to have one and a half hour lunch breaks.
Q. What has your experience been like living the expatriate life so far? Do you feel welcomed overall?
A. If you take the time to understand the culture and the French perspective on North Americans, then you can avoid (for the most part) any unwelcoming encounters. Making the effort to speak in your second language as opposed to forcing the French to speak in theirs goes a long way. It’s all about respect. So yes, it’s been an incredible experience and I feel like I was able to adjust fairly quickly.
Q. Was housing provided for you upon arrival?
A. My university offered a housing service but I decided to go through an agency outside of the school to avoid the hassle.
Q. What is the cost of living like?
A. Outrageously expensive. My studio apartment, which I luckily share with my boyfriend, runs almost 1,000 euros per month and it’s 32 square meters. Any sit-down meal is going to start at 12 euros and goes up from there. Don’t even get me started about shopping in Paris. I will never take Canadian prices for granted again.
Q. What is the food like?
A. I cannot stress enough how the quality of food here compares to Canada. Everything is (for the most part) local, fresh and chemical/preservative free. I feel much healthier since living and eating in Paris.
Q. What do you think is the best selling point for expats to live and study in Paris?
A. Paris is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world and you will never tire of walking its streets.
Q. What would you say is the downside to living and studying in Paris?
A. The cost of living is simply unsustainable.
Q. What do you think is the biggest misconception about Paris?
A. The biggest misconception is that the French are rude. I think it’s a difference in perspectives on customer service. The concept of ‘the customer is always right’ doesn’t exist in Paris and coming fresh out of a decade in the hospitality industry, I kind of appreciate that the French can be honest with their customers.
Q. What are some things from back home that are not available or hard to find in Paris?
A. I just had my parents bring me a care package for my convocation. It consisted of: Crest white strips (because all the espressos are making my teeth yellow), my preferred brand of face wash, a Jets hat, and a giant jar of peanut butter.
Q. How long can Canadian expats stay in Paris without a visa?
A. Canadians can stay up to 90 days without a visa.
Q. Do you think it would be easy for a traveler to just arrive in Paris on a travel visa and start looking for work?
A. There is actually a working holiday visa (2E visa) that is completely free of charge and allows a Canadian in their 20s to stay in France and work for up to 1 year. My boyfriend moved here with that exact visa and was easily able to find work teaching English and giving bike tours of the city.
Q. If you could tell a newly arriving expat something you wish you were told, what would it be?
A. Canadians underdress. Bring nice clothes.
Q. What would you advise a newcomer to pack in their suitcase?
A. Durable shoes (cobblestone streets and rainy days are sure to do some damage), an umbrella and all the clothes you have because shopping here is steeeeep.
Q. Is there any sort of expat community where you are?
A. Luckily for me, it was easy to find a sense of community because of my master’s program. However, Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world, so there is definitely the opportunity to meet other English speakers and expats in general.
Q. Aside from friends and family, what do you miss about Canada?
A. I’m half-Chinese so I definitely miss dim-sum and cheap all-you-can-eat sushi.
This concludes my interview with Jessica, a Canadian expat in Paris. If you have further questions please comment below and I will ask Jessica and let you know! For more information on Canadian visas for work or study in France, click here.