There is always a made up glamour about what it must be like to live in Paris, the city of lights and the city of love. I must have some great, gorgeous view, wood-beamed ceilings and my building must be hausmannian. Yet the realities of living in Paris are completely different than what we see in the films, or even on Instagram. If you can see the Eiffel Tower from your window, trust me… a good part of your rent is paying for that.
A few years ago, I went to see How To Become Parisian in One Hour, a comedy show about tourists and Parisians in general. It is a show I highly recommend seeing if you have time in Paris (bonus for people who do not speak French: it is in English). I remember a scene in which he talks about searching for an apartment, and I couldn’t stop laughing. He was talking about how Parisian studios are so small, and how they tend to have old maintenances but how tourists think the apartments must be JUST GREAT. On Friday, I went to a work dinner, and the topic of apartments (especially those rented out to students) came up. My boss talked about how he was able to find a cheap hotel room back in the day, but that everything was shared (bathroom, shower…). He laughed thinking about it, and said that later on those will serve as good memories.
When I remember my first apartment in Paris, I don’t remember the hassle it was to go to the bathroom (I never knew when the toilet was going to flush), to take a shower (literally not even a foot away from the toilet) nor the fact that I organized my makeup in the kitchen because the mirror was just outside of it, hanging right next to my closet. I do remember that time the toilet leaked and made a disaster in the apartment of my neighbors who lived below me while I was in Amsterdam, and how that was messy to fix. But I also have good memories… I remember my first dinner all by myself (which I didn’t cook, it was all pre-made), with my first bottle of wine that I had bought and the first taste of a real, French macaroon.
When I think of my first apartment, I think of the occasion it was to get ready with my friends, all of us getting ready in my tiny studio, sharing turns using the mirror. I think of the nights we would sing to Taylor Swift and snapchat our whole soirée to friends. I remember having nights where everyone would prepare something and bring it over for “tapas night”, the night that I was proud to serve my first tortilla de patata. I remember the random days musicians would play outside of my window and remind me that I live in Paris… I remember that even though the apartment was tiny, it had a good atmosphere.
But that apartment was paid for by my first host family, and when I ended my contract, it was hard to say goodbye to the little space I had made “mine” that year. I moved in with the Frenchman in the countryside for a while because finding a place to live in Paris is a nightmare. If you want something decently priced and sized, the suburbs is your best bet. You have to take into account the morning route to work (my travel time could end up being an hour and a half). So I ended up moving back to the city. I couldn’t stand that hour. I moved into a small Airbnb in the fifth for a month, so I could go to all the rendez-vous and do the paperwork to find the apartment. I finally found an apartment through a friend (because sincerely, that is how it works in this city).
I love my little apartment I am in now, but it does come with its little quirks. Honestly, I rarely cook in my apartment. It takes a long time to heat anything up, and everything is so tiny. When I cook anything extravagant, it feels like I have to spread myself throughout my kitchen/living room/bedroom, and having different rooms is something that I miss. It definitely feels dorm room style, but I love where I am located (in the 1st arrondissement, living the rich life while being poor). I am just a few blocks from the Louvre, and getting anywhere in Paris doesn’t take that long. I know the day I move out of my apartment will be a sad day for me, it’s a little space that’s become mine that I love. It’s my little “home”, and even though it isn’t as fancy and as nice as people imagine it to be, it’s as fancy and nice as I need it to be. I know I am very lucky to be living where I am.
Living in Paris isn’t always a dream, but it is worth it.
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