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Needle in a Haystack
Trying to find an apartment in Paris is like trying to find a needle in a haystack….though I would have found the needle by now!
I thought that finding a job would be my biggest challenge but as I’ve just accepted my fourth job offer it turns out that securing employment was a breeze compared to finding an apartment.
I'm on the verge of homelessness and the pressure is on and there's little left to do but pin all my hopes on a room that is being presented to me tomorrow. It is definitely overpriced but I’m also definitely desperate. Lucky I have so many jobs.…
Naively I thought I'd have no trouble finding somewhere, anywhere, to live. I’ve been hunting for a place to call my own for five weeks now and out of dozens of applications, I‘ve only been invited to view five apartments - which have covered it all from livable to ludicrous.
There are a few spots to search for places in Paris. The American Church posts advertisements on their notice board. Unfortunately they’re not online which means millions of homeless foreigners make a daily pilgrimage to the church. My advice would be to get there early, as there are more people queuing to catch a glimpse of the noticeboard than there is at the Mona Lisa.
There are websites to search. Some are free and some are not. I am a penniless and soon-to-be homeless writer (such a cliché) so I went with the free option. Unfortunately with the free comes the fake and some of these scammers are good!
I have never considered myself a sucker, but boy did I get suckered. I found a place that sounded great (central and very cheap) so I emailed “Amelie” to ask some questions. I received an amazing reply. "Amelie" had interned in New York but was currently in London. The place was her parents' flat. She used the term “LOL” and only cool kids (not scammers) use that right? I asked if I could view the room. “Oh,” replies Amalie “I don’t return from London until October but here is the address. You won't be able to get in the place but you can see it from the outside.” She asks for my move in date, my address and a copy of my passport. She said I am to pay the deposit and then her mom would send me the keys. I started to get suspicious and wonder if I'm being taken for a ride but I thought perhaps this is how they do it en France, non?
I shoot off another email saying that I'd really like to see the room and meet her before I actually agree to live there. I sent her my dates and my address but there was no way I was going to send her a copy of my passport. Her response was hardly reassuring:
"It seems you don’t trust yourself - you can’t trust others if you don’t trust yourself. Just sign the contract, send me the money and I'll send you the keys“.
Ah. Thanks Dr. Phil. I trust myself. I don’t trust people that expect me to hand over money for an apartment that, for all I know, is copied and pasted from Google images. I decide to show the email to my French friend who informs me that is not how they do business in Paris and even if the girl was legit, would I really want to live with a nutter? I never replied to "Amelie's" email.
A few days later I'm again scrolling through housing ads when this guy gets back to me. As I'm reading his response I recognize that he has the exact same life story as "Amelie." I start to hyperventilate when I realize that I have given some scammer my actual address.
Thank Christ I didn't send him/her a copy of my passport and that my apartment is security coded. And God bless the French for not numbering their doors!
After that I came to the conclusion that if they won’t let you see the place, for whatever reason, then it probably doesn’t exist and they're probably emailing you from Nigeria! (Editor's note: A wise conclusion)
The first real apartment I got to see was in a central and very trendy area. It was cheap and the girl was Irish so my hopes were high. They were soon dashed however because although the place was advertised "shabby/chic" it was closer to the shabby end of the chic. My room (and I use the term “room” loosely) was actually half the lounge room sectioned off with a Japanese rice paper screen. The screen wasn’t fixed to the ceiling or the floor so I wasn't sure how it was staying up. I can see images in my head of myself stumbling home after a big night and crashing through the rice paper. Bye-bye €500 security deposit. Though it would’ve been ideal for perfecting my shadow puppeteering, I couldn’t live geisha-style for a year.
The next place was pleasant but in a very quiet neighborhood and unfortunately it was far away from everything. My roommate would be a 63 year old divorced father. As nice as he was, I was hoping to live with someone who wasn’t alive during Beatlemania. I later found out that the reason it's so tranquil is because it’s populated with pensioners. Apparently it's where youth and fun go to die.
The address for apartment trois was ah-may-zing. It was literally opposite Le Louvre, smack bang on the Seine. The couple was lovely and we got along well. The room was separate from the rest of the apartment which was a bonus but it had one teeny, tiny problem. A teeny, tiny sky light. Normally, I wouldn’t complain about the size of a skylight, but when a room HAS NO WINDOWS, I’m going to need an entire glass roof! And once the futon/bed was laid out, the room transforms into your very own padded cell. But that’s not the oddest part. The couple has their double bed set up in the lounge room. So, if you needed to visit the bathroom at night or make breakfast in the morning, you'd be forced to walk through their bedroom. I wondered what the etiquette would be here. Knock or cough really loudly to let them know you're coming through? My mind boggled as I imagined many awkward scenarios. That being said, it would definitely provide interesting writing material.
The location of the last place I looked at was not so great. Another downside was that one of the roomies was only 3 years old and, as much as I love kids (I work with them every day) it's not something I want to come home to. Also, the bathroom just happened to be in a cupboard in the kitchen, which I discovered when I opened a door I thought was the pantry.
Yep, it's certainly been an interesting learning curve and the park bench is looking more inviting than ever. But on a more positive note, I got to chatting to an American girl at the last apartment and we are now friends, as the saying goes “every cloud…”
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