People always ask me why I love Paris. I’ve lived in other places, and seize every opportunity to hop on a plane and explore the world. But Paris is the place I know and the one where I feel the most comfortable. My French is less than stellar, so I don’t opt to make France my home because I’m not language challenged. Because I am.
Now that I’m relatively footloose and fancy free, I could move anywhere. The world is my oyster. Ah hum. It’s a funny situation to be in as I’ve always considered myself the “responsible one” who has been at other people’s beck and call.
Now I read books and more books and surf the Internet about places to retire. The more articles and books I read, the more convinced I am that Paris is the correct place for me. It’s home—at least, I ‘m beginning to believe that.
It’s wonderful being able to walk out of the door and be in a café within minutes. Being able to buy a baguette and be sitting in the Luxembourg Garden in five minutes is a treasure. Not being responsible for the extensive plantings and always being surprised by the gardens’ constantly changing beauty is such a gift. I’ve lived in the same apartment for nearly 20 years and am always discovering new things since Paris is full of eye candy.
Not being tied to a car is the ultimate freedom. Excellent public transportation and the availability of clean taxis make life so much easier. I feel safe walking home from a neighborhood restaurant alone at night and even though I always use big city caution and smarts, I don’t feel if I might be robbed if it’s after dark.
Before waxing poetic, there’s plenty wrong with the City of Light. Taking care of the most mundane things, such as having a phone installed, can assume monumental proportions. It used to be obtaining a high-speed Internet connection was next to impossible. Those days are over and happily the French have become pros when it comes to the Internet.
People can now cyber-commute to their jobs and there’s no reason you can’t live one place and work in another. Plenty of my friends do precisely that and their professional colleagues are in the dark as to where e-mails, reports or phone calls are generated. It’s a whole new world, barring some of the nitty-gritty realities that rear their heads, when you’re least expecting them.
It helps if you’re independently wealthy and clip coupons. If you need to renew a visa, set up a business or even open a bank account, import a giant bottle of Excedrin from the U.S.—where it costs relatively little—money helps. And those pills will come in handy when you’re navigating the quagmire of red tape, where French government officials need and want everything translated yesterday (well, within the past three months) and S’il vous plaît in triplicate and you’ve forgotten the most important form, je suis désolé, madame.
Money helps because French bureaucracy can be daunting. If you’re not willing (or able) to do battle yourself, find someone who will assume that responsibility. For example, renting an apartment isn’t a slam-dunk. You’re required to furnish more paperwork than most Americans can fathom. U.S. residents are getting a bit of a taste now that it’s more difficult to get a loan for whatever. But if you’re not clipping coupons, count on spending a lot of time, learning to intone Ommm, and practicing counting from one to ten. But the time is most important.
Even though many people assume I’m an expert because of my years of writing about France on Bonjour Paris, the reality is that the longer I’ve been a French resident, the more aware I am of the need for professional advice in certain situations. Real estate, wills and anything that might be considered an inheritance is out of my comfort zone.
Paris is by no means cheap and the cost of living keeps many people from relocating to the EU if they’re dependent on a dollar income. Few economists forecast that the dollar will rebound enough to make Americans feel rich any time soon. What I’ve discovered is that even though Paris is expensive, most people are willing to do with less. They may go out to restaurants less frequently, but my friends limit their clothing expenditures, and few people move to keep up with the Jones. Few crave the equivalent of a McMansion—and there aren’t any, anyway. They may buy a run-down château, but do it as a long-term project. Few people expect it to be renovated and decorated yesterday.
The French are taking shorter vacations and they’re staying closer to home. But each week when the travel specials come flying across my computer screen, it’s so apparent that travelers can be in so many different countries and cultures within a few hours and package deals are really deals.
Some people are out of their comfort zones if they move from one state to another. And then there are those of us who are born part-gypsy. Which type of person are you and why?
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