Expat Forum For People Moving Overseas And Living Abroad banner
Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 20 of 46 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm new to this forum and really would appreciate any help.

I'm soon to be posted to Paris with my job. I've previously spent a few weeks there working and hated it. This time I will be there for a year and want to try and make it more bearable/likeable. I'm sorry about being negative and don't want to cause offence to anyone. I'm generally very optimistic and maybe my stay was more difficult because I'm a single woman leaving friends and family behind. The things I disliked were:

1. It was a heatwave and the streets stank of urine - on three occasions in the morning I saw people crouching over drains for a toilet!
2. The metro stank of body odour (probably due to the heatwave)
3. I was constantly approached by African males trying to scam me which was often frightening.
4. I was constantly, constantly approached by beggers, one of which put their hand into my bag.
5. The taxi drivers didn't speak at all - and overall people were not friendly - they did not have time to talk or help.
6. I paid 19 euros for 2 cokes in a small cafe - is this normal? You would never pay this in London. I found many things in Paris very very expensive - even basic things.
7. There was a lot of dirt and litter everywhere, streets, shopping malls, parks, cinema's.
8. There did not appear to be any public conveniences and those in restaurants were always very dirty/broken - I drink a lot of water and had to hurry back to my flat on different occasions as I just could not find a toilet.
9. Wifi coverage was very hit and miss.

I am a friendly, optimistic person and had high hopes before I'd visited Paris previously, but am now dreading it. Any tips and ideas as to how to make it more enjoyable, what am I missing?

My friends say how lucky I am to have this opportunity! But so far I'm just hooked up on all the things that happened last time. I do love museums and here I was not disppointed - but did, once again, get surrounded by beggars outside the Louvre, which I found intimidating and a bit frightening.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
17 Posts
Hi there. I am sorry that you have had not so pleasant experience of Paris. I am not a french by nationality but I have been in France for last 3 years and visited Paris several times.

About the things like people urinating in public, the beggars, the african males approaching you and the lack of public conveniences are things that you need to get used to if you want to leave in Paris. There is nothing you can do. From my experiences and friends that live in Paris I can assure you that there is no getting away from these things.

But being charged 19Euros for a couple of cokes is not at all normal, they either took advantage of you or there was a mistake. Thats the only explanation I have got.

The taxi drivers dont really speak much here in Paris. Besides French are not the friendliest people in the world so you should keep that in mind too. Or may be he just didnt speak English. French feel inferior about their inability to speak English well and hence avoid talking to "non-french speaking " people at all. Believe me that has happened to me several times, but you just move on with it.

Finally for your Wifi thing, well there are areas in Paris that are notorious for poor connectivity may be you lived in one of them. Overall I would suggest to you that if you really dont like Paris and you cant get along with French better not go to France. As I said French are not so friendly when it comes to opening up to foreigners. Nothing against them, i guess its cultural.

Goodluck with your stay in Paris anyways. Hope this helped. Let me know if I can help you, I live not very far from Paris.

Cheers.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
6,806 Posts
I'm new to this forum and really would appreciate any help.

I'm soon to be posted to Paris with my job. I've previously spent a few weeks there working and hated it. This time I will be there for a year and want to try and make it more bearable/likeable. I'm sorry about being negative and don't want to cause offence to anyone. I'm generally very optimistic and maybe my stay was more difficult because I'm a single woman leaving friends and family behind. The things I disliked were:

1. It was a heatwave and the streets stank of urine - on three occasions in the morning I saw people crouching over drains for a toilet!
2. The metro stank of body odour (probably due to the heatwave)
3. I was constantly approached by African males trying to scam me which was often frightening.
4. I was constantly, constantly approached by beggers, one of which put their hand into my bag.
5. The taxi drivers didn't speak at all - and overall people were not friendly - they did not have time to talk or help.
6. I paid 19 euros for 2 cokes in a small cafe - is this normal? You would never pay this in London. I found many things in Paris very very expensive - even basic things.
7. There was a lot of dirt and litter everywhere, streets, shopping malls, parks, cinema's.
8. There did not appear to be any public conveniences and those in restaurants were always very dirty/broken - I drink a lot of water and had to hurry back to my flat on different occasions as I just could not find a toilet.
9. Wifi coverage was very hit and miss.

I am a friendly, optimistic person and had high hopes before I'd visited Paris previously, but am now dreading it. Any tips and ideas as to how to make it more enjoyable, what am I missing?

My friends say how lucky I am to have this opportunity! But so far I'm just hooked up on all the things that happened last time. I do love museums and here I was not disppointed - but did, once again, get surrounded by beggars outside the Louvre, which I found intimidating and a bit frightening.
Have you had a GOOD look at the way things are in London (as a foreigner potentially)? I used to work in the City - am immensely glad I'm no longer there, and I discourage the youth from here to spend "language" holidays in or around London, and won't let my 22 yr-old daughter go there alone either. I'm not sure there are too many differences, 'cept I'd feel happier walking around central Paris in the evening rather than central London.

H
 
  • Like
Reactions: Temuskia

·
Registered
Joined
·
550 Posts
I feel the same way about New York City. Ugh. Who would want to live there! (But yet, millions feel differently)

Have you considered the possibility of living in one of the suburbs that would be a bit "quieter" and having the trade off of a long commute instead? There are some areas towards the west side that are really quite nice in comparison to the center of Paris.

The men urinating in public thing bothers me to no end. I once saw a man urinating on the sidewalk less than a meter from the door of a grocery store. The good news is that in the coler months, it doesn't smell so bad. (And dog poop can freeze rock hard such that it doesn't even stick to your shoes when you step on it!)

And you will quickly learn where all the public restrooms are and which ones are best. Or you'll start drinking less.

Unfortunately, missing family and friends is just part of being an ex-pat. You will make new friends, but family is family. For you, though, you'll be back home in a year, which will pass by quickly.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
6,806 Posts
And have you seen the recent UK court case which ruled urinating in public was NOT an offence?
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
51,953 Posts
Your prior stay in Paris had to have been a few years ago - possibly during the big heat wave in 2002 or 2003. Some things do change here - others don't - but I sympathize with your dislike for Paris. I've definitely had my stages in my settling in process here and have had more than a few "I hate Paris" days.

. The things I disliked were:

1. It was a heatwave and the streets stank of urine - on three occasions in the morning I saw people crouching over drains for a toilet!
This used to just appall me - especially the men stopped on the side of the road to have a pee. But over the last few years, either the custom is dying out, or I just don't notice such things any more. I do believe it's less common than it was when I first arrived (in 1995).
2. The metro stank of body odour (probably due to the heatwave)
To some extent, one of the "charms" of France. But again, deodorant and antiperspirant are commonly available these days in the hypermarkets - which was definitely NOT the case on my arrival. So there, too, things are improving.
3. I was constantly approached by African males trying to scam me which was often frightening.
It's basically because you look like a foreigner. There's a technique you develop of just staring through them as they approach you, not listening to whatever it is they're saying, saying "non, merci" and moving along. It's one of the big city things.
4. I was constantly, constantly approached by beggers, one of which put their hand into my bag.
That's mostly during the summer when the gypsies are in town. Again, walk right by, with your hand firmly clutching the opening of your bag.
5. The taxi drivers didn't speak at all - and overall people were not friendly - they did not have time to talk or help.
Big City living. It's much the same in other large cities. The French have a culture that doesn't quickly embrace newcomers. When you need to ask directions or for help or something, always start out in French, no matter how badly you speak it - and the old Polly Platt trick seems to work: open with "Excusez-moi de vous déranger, mais pouvez-vous m'aider?" (The French are big on formal expressions of courtesy and this phrase seems to work wonders.)
6. I paid 19 euros for 2 cokes in a small cafe - is this normal? You would never pay this in London. I found many things in Paris very very expensive - even basic things.
You got ripped off on the Cokes, but there are a few places in Paris that jack up their prices as soon as they hear you speaking English or otherwise suspect that you're a tourist. Avoid these places like the plague. (Though cafés are supposed to post their prices at the bar.) Like many large cities, things tend to be expensive - but it helps to know where to shop. I love the grocery store operated by Bon Marché, but the prices in there are insane. (Lots of good imported stuff, though, that's hard to get elsewhere.) For "real" groceries, find a Monoprix or Carrefour on the outskirts of town.
7. There was a lot of dirt and litter everywhere, streets, shopping malls, parks, cinema's.
Another of the "charms" of Paris. At least now they have the dog poop somewhat under control, after a series of hilarious ads running on television and at the cinemas. As I have often said, "French hygiene standards are different from those of the anglo-saxon world."
8. There did not appear to be any public conveniences and those in restaurants were always very dirty/broken - I drink a lot of water and had to hurry back to my flat on different occasions as I just could not find a toilet.
There is supposed to be a law that bars, restaurants and cafés have to let you use their facilities without making you buy something. In a pinch, I wouldn't push my luck. But you learn how and where to look for public loos - we could probably do a whole thread on that subject sometime! The proliferation of fast food restaurants really helps - McDonald's may not be to your taste, but they always have an available loo. Hotels are good for public facilities, too, as are public facilities (i.e. mairies and other government buildings). The hygiene side of things can leave a bit to be desired - but I haven't run into a toilette à la turque in Paris in years, now, so I figure that's progress!

9. Wifi coverage was very hit and miss.
That is changing all the time. McDonalds here has free wifi as do a couple other fast food places like Flunch (a cafeteria chain). The mobile phone providers are starting to offer more wifi hotspots for their mobile phone customers with smartphones, so the situation is definitely improving.

I am a friendly, optimistic person and had high hopes before I'd visited Paris previously, but am now dreading it. Any tips and ideas as to how to make it more enjoyable, what am I missing?
If you're going to be there for a while, try getting involved in some sort of local group or association. I usually recommend AVF (there are a number of these in Paris) which is for newcomers of all nationalities. But there are organizations like WICE (for anglophones) and On Va Sortir that have gatherings and trips and activities for helping you get to meet folks while you're living in France.

You definitely have to make an effort (sometimes a BIG effort), and approach the project with a real sense of adventure, but it's only for a year, and that should give you some time to learn to appreciate the good side of Paris, and to ignore the rest (practice that stony look of non-recognition when the beggars try to get your attention).
Cheers,
Bev
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
661 Posts
Mangoes I totally understand your reluctance to the perspective of being in Paris. Every points you have listed are part of the reasons why we are planning to relocate.
Body odors are terrible. I always wonder how so many people have such a strong smell already in the morning. And the dog **** are everywhere :eek: . As soon as it does not rain for a few days, the odor of urine is very strong. I leave in the XVI and it was a shock how dirty the area can be when we arrived. The beggers are everywhere, I have like an "escort of honnor" of people begging everytime I am leaving my building.
Now that I am 40 it's OK, but until recently I was wistled at and some men were following me to the stage of making me arriving at work in tears.
I could go on for hours, just wanted to let you know that you have my sympathy.

Now, what can we do to make your stay bearable?
First thing, I think is to choose your location carefully. I don't know where your work is located, nor your age and your style of life. Neuilly for example is a much cleaner place to leave that Paris, and it is really close to Paris, accessible with the metro line 1.

I think you did the right thing sharing your feelings here, together, I am sure, we can make the perspective of your stay less scary!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
348 Posts
I totally agree with the things you complain about. And yes, there are more.

I also recommend: meetup.com -you sound younger/single- there are a few anglo groups where you can meet younger Brits in Paris, among other anglos. You don't sound religious, but there are some nice international/anglo Churches in and around Paris where you can meet friendly people (along with garbage, but that's life).

Thank you for posting that you are also bothered by the filthy Parisians and their smell. Most expats I know here don't take the subway, or don't take it during rush hour, or only take the nice lines, so it's useless to talk to them about how bad it is, because they are too much into a "we don't want to hear anything that is a problem here" kind of attitude.

Ugh.

If you can choose where to live, have you considered renting very close to your job, so that you can actually walk or take a bus and avoid the stinking metro? The buses are not necessarily better than the metro, but it all depends on the line and the time. You can also buy a 50cc bike without a French license and ride that on streets. And there are the velos.

The urine stench was here already this week. And as someone else said, the dog poop is everywhere. My other hygiene complaint is their filthy manner of handling money and then grabbing your food (especially at the bakery/sandwich shops) with the same hand that just handled all those filthy euro bills. They have no concept of hygiene whatsoever. I just don't shop where French people are like this (99% of France). But there is the 1% and if you start searching, you will discover which chains/supermarkets have people who don't actually handle the food/bread with their dirty hands.

Do you know what the French public toilets look like? There aren't many, but to me, unless you know what they look like, you might not recognize them on the streets. It's not a hard rule, but the cheaper the cafe/restaurant, the more likely the toilet is unpleasant. In an emergency, try to find a more upscale place, buy a coffee or drink, and go to the restroom. Nicer hotels usually have nice restrooms, sometimes spotless.

Your bag should be zipped 24/7. A nice trick: keep the zip tab in your hand, so that no one could actually try opening your bag's zipper without you noticing it. Cross streets as often as you feel like it, in order to avoid passing by people that might seem a problem.

6. I paid 19 euros for 2 cokes in a small cafe - is this normal?
I have seen this at a café near Concorde - €8 per coke. Cafés need to put their prices on display, I believe. They usually figure the counter/served prices. Check the prices first. The fast-food places always have normal prices for soft-drinks.

Also, since you will be here for a year, consider volunteering with a church or association that works serving meals to the homeless. One major reason the beggars and homeless are everywhere is because most people can care less about the fact that they are destitute. If you volunteer, it will be done as a group, in a situation where you are safe, and you can help others at the same time.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
134 Posts
To quote, "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so". Sure, there are unsavory elements to Paris, just as in any big city. Tourists are targets for scams and pickpockets, hygiene practices may be less than ideal, and young women can be vulnerable (just as in New York, London, etc, etc). But there are wonderful things, too. Beautiful architecture, amazing museums, astonishing markets, superb food and so many things to learn (not least the language).

If you have to be in Paris for a year, for the sake of your sanity you need to identify the positive elements, and focus on those. Find some places where you're comfortable, some things you like doing, and make sure you enjoy yourself. For instance, check out the market and cafes on Rue Clerc, in the 7th, by Ecole Militaire. Or the Musée Cernuschi and the Musée Nissim de Camondo, both quietish small museums by Parc Monceau, itself a nice place to stroll.

Paris has become a lot busier and more cosmopolitan than it was when I first knew it thirty years ago. But despite what folk say about unfriendly Parisians, I've never found that. As long as you start every encounter with "Bonjour", remember to say "Merci", try to speak French (however badly) and smile, you'll be treated civilly. (Incidentally, all but one of the taxi drivers who've driven me in Paris in the last year or so have been foreign; some have been chatty, some not, but you shouldn't judge France by them!) And of course the "undesirable elements" need avoiding or handling, using the standard street smart operating procedures for any young woman in any big city.

It can be very scary entering a new culture, that just seems to shriek "FOREIGN!". But I've always found that I've learnt a lot and grown a lot through making that effort. Looking for the good is a highly transferable skill! And it always helps to give oneself the odd treat - a pot of tea and piece of patisserie in a nice salon de thé; a concert ticket; or some such. And make time to head out of Paris, to provincial France, areas where you'll just meet French people, and see a very different side of things.

Good luck!

K
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
23 Posts
I'm sorry, Mangoes, that you had such a difficult time in Paris.

I'm a newbie on this forum, and not yet an expat to Paris (that's the plan for in a couple of years), but I lived in the Paris suburbs for 9 years as a teenager, and my wife and I went for a 3-week visit to Paris last spring.

Things have definitely changed since I was there as a teenager but my wife, like many foreigners, was captivated by Paris' charm, and is definitely looking forward to moving there.

If you don't mind a commute, I'd second the previous post's suggestion about the living in the western suburbs. Or finding a place close to your work.

But I'd also second the advice to focus on the positive. There is a reason why Paris is still one of the #1 destinations for tourists and expatriates. I hope that you will be able to adjust to the challenges of big-city life in France, and find joy in the beautiful sights, the extraordinary tastes, and the amazing diversity.

Finally, if you don't already speak French, I'd suggest doing what you can to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible. It was true when I was a teenager, and it was still true last year: The French are a very proud people, and if you show that *you* are making the effort to relate to them in their language, it will go a long way. I cringe when I see American tourists who engage a waiter, or a shopkeeper starting with the assumption that they should speak English, and have made no effort to learn even rudimentary French. If I was subjected to that all day long, all year long, I'd probably develop a seemingly "rude" attitude also.
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
51,953 Posts
OK, before poor Mangoes thinks that she's being put upon here, let me just say that most of her complaints about Paris are perfectly valid. (I've been through a rather significant "I hate France" period and can fully sympathize.)

Either you learn to deal with/ignore the things that really bother you or you make yourself miserable the whole time you're in Paris. At a certain point you recognize that nothing here is going to change just because you don't like it.

OTOH, if she can't get past those things or find other charms of Paris that make up for the dreck and inconvenience (personally, the food and the wine do it for me), then she probably should turn down the posting, no matter what her friends say. Life is too short to condemn yourself to a year of being miserable. And getting on in a foreign environment takes a big effort on your part, no matter where you are going. If you're not willing to make that effort, then maybe a foreign posting isn't for you.

Those of us who hang out on this forum tend to be those who consider expatriation to be an adventure - but I bet that each of us has a few countries that simply don't tempt us in the slightest.
Cheers,
Bev
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
23 Posts
I agree 100% with you, Bev. And your point...

"Those of us who hang out on this forum tend to be those who consider expatriation to be an adventure..."

... is a re-statement, in a sense, of NewMexicanMove's quote (from Shakespeare), "...for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

The main point of both of your posts is that the biggest factor as to whether living in Paris is "an adventure", or a dreadful drag, is in one's mind.

I was once amazed, when I was needing a new couch, at how many furniture stores had seemingly popped up overnight! The mind sees what it is predisposed to look for.

If it is looking for adventure, that's what it will find. It it is looking for public urination....

So, Mangoes, I think that Bev is correct. If you don't think you'd be able to "re-frame" your mind state, and learn to deal with/ignore the things that bother you, it can indeed be a miserable experience, and it may make sense to turn down the posting.

On the other hand, if you want assistance in creating a mind state to help experience life in Paris as an adventure, I'm sure that you'd find plenty of help on this forum about how to go about making that happen.
 
G

·
Oh dear...from your rant it seems like you stayed in the central touristy parts of Paris and that's why you hated it - because those are not real parisian areas to live in. What you are describing about Paris - well same can be said about parts of London like leicester square or hackney.

Relax - Paris has some very elegant areas where you won't see any beggars or africans harassing you at all. Check out the areas around Place Victor Hugo, Avenue Mozart, Passy Village and Parc Monceau as well as Batignolles Village. You will love living in these areas - they are posh or trendy and have amazing very affordable restaurants. I eat out everyday and never spend more than 15-20 euros on a proper meal with a glass of wine. As for a can of coke - don't go into touristy areas go to a supermarche and it's as cheap as London - you need to understand one thing - France gets 80 million tourists a year...most of which come to Paris...and UK gets only 20 million tourists a year. So a lot of the cafes in the central districts of paris (1,2,3,4,5,6) cater to the tourists - and they rip you off as much as they can. Avoid these areas if you want to discover the REAL paris...and it is really a beautiful magical city....it can be a bit lonely an depressing at times but that's everywhere you go at first and don't know many people. I have lived in New York and London for a substantial part of my life and I can say that Paris is a million times safer than both NYC and London any day. The food here is amazing, really really amazing but most people never discover real Paris food because they get stuck in the touristy areas again... get out of there and see what Paris is all about.... if you want a free tour of the city sometime let me know... i'll take you places where you will be really impressed.

I don't think Paris is more expensive than London - for somethings it is more an some its less expensive...overall it's a better quality of life in Paris anytime compared to London - you just need to open up to it and explore the city properly.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3 Posts
After a few tough and literally dark months here I made my life better by focusing on what I could control. I got a very nice, spacious apartment near a park in the 17th, so I could walk to work.voilà! Exercise plus greenery, and no stinky, crowded, rife-with-pickpocket transit experiences pour moi!

I make an effort to speak French & support local shops & restaurants; in return, I am greeted kindly and can enjoy my neighborhood (near Batignolles). Rue des Levis is a fab food street & the organic market on Saturday morning is great!

Soda costs more than wine or beer. You can have water at no charge, if you ask politely for a carafe de l'eau.

Invite colleagues over for drinks after work... They can bring the liquids :) All you need is some ice, glasses, a few easy to make snacks from Picard, or from the many "bio" (organic) grocers, and you have a party! They will fill you in on how to fit in socially and have fun, too.

Still, it IS filthy here, but I observe that it is mostly the native Parisians (Not Africans or Roma) who spit, pee & toss cigarette butts all over. I now have a super appreciation of how clean the USA can be.... And, yes, I look forward to returning. Meanwhile, I can cope here :)

Bon courage!
 
G

·
I remember once driving on a highway going towards upstate New York from Manhattan...it was a beautiful drive along the Hudson river. I was really enjoying the drive until this car in front of me started throwing chicken bones out of the window - on a national highway...going at 70 miles an hour. And then came out an empty bucket of KFC and a few cans of coke. So much for cleanliness and safety.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3 Posts
Moving2France said:
I remember once driving on a highway going towards upstate New York from Manhattan...it was a beautiful drive along the Hudson river. I was really enjoying the drive until this car in front of me started throwing chicken bones out of the window - on a national highway...going at 70 miles an hour. And then came out an empty bucket of KFC and a few cans of coke. So much for cleanliness and safety.
That's no basis for generalizing.... Besides, perhaps the litterers were overseas visitors! Let's focus on the positive and help each other adapt. I totally miss my farm in upstate NY, but I'm growing flowers, kitchen herbs and salad on my windowsills in recycled soda cans--hey, do whatever is possible to improve life in Paris each day!
 
1 - 20 of 46 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top