5 things you didn’t know about Paris

paris-08By Candice Teo

I’ve done this moving overseas thing a couple of times and still never tire of discovering a new city like a local.

My first time in Paris only happened two years ago and I dove straight into pretty much living like the locals for the couple of months that I stayed (which mainly means living above my means because everything was freaking expensive. Except wine. Oh lovely wine.)

This time round, having moved over here for a longer period of time, I’ve dug deeper underneath the shimmer that Tour Eiffel has cast on every visitor who’s set their eyes on her. The initial list was really long and it was tough trying to cut it down but here are five things that you probably didn’t know about living in Paris:

Apartment hunting – Tales have been told of the notoriously difficult process of finding an apartment in Paris. They are true. Those who can afford the ridiculous prices and have a full-time job (a ‘CDI’ in France) may well find themselves in a nice Haussmann building with enough space for a bedroom or two, kitchen, lounge room and a nice bathroom. Then there are options for the rest of us, such as sharing an apartment (une colocation) or even a studio: 12m2 studette; 15m2 studio with a bathroom but the toilet is shared outside; 15m2 studio shared by two strangers with a bunk bed, 30m2 apartment where the person renting out will sleep in the lounge room while you get the bedroom.

Finding an apartment through an agency incurs a hefty agency fee that may be twice the monthly rent. Finding an apartment online (which is increasingly popular) requires a strong competitive edge and a guarantor or two. Then again, there have been stories where a couple with full-time jobs offered to pay a year’s rent in advance and still got rejected for the apartment.

Of course, there’s always that option of the guy who is offering to share an apartment, rent-free with a dominatrix (young females only s’il vous plait). He has stipulated that he doesn’t get jealous and your friends are welcome – who wouldn’t want to take up this fabulous offer?

Pollution – You don’t realise how polluted it is until you are outside of Paris and you look toward the city. What is that grey, hazy, foggy thing? The metro is sometimes free of charge for a day or two to encourage less cars driving in. The odd-even rationing system got implemented once last year, where only vehicles odd or even numbered rego are allowed to drive into the city. This year, a car-free day was declared just last month.

Recycling – They are big on recycling here. But it’s not a simple system like in Australia, where you put out all the recycling into the one recycling bin in your apartment block or house. The recycling bins for glass is separate from the papers, cans etc. And not all apartment blocks or houses have their own individual glass recycling bins. One can often find a communal glass recycling bin on the streets.

Don’t trust the sun – During the warmer seasons, it is not an uncommon sight to see the Parisians still in jackets and scarfs. Strolling around in my Aussie summer dress on a 25 degree day made me feel out of place. Somehow, the sun isn’t trustworthy here. Strong winds or a random rain storm could turn the temperature rather quickly.

Eiffel Tower – The street I live on actually has a view of Tour Eiffel. This means that everytime I walk home from the metro station, she’s right there in front of me. It may be a touristy attraction and perhaps some may think it overrated; but whether in the day against a sunny blue sky; during dusk nestled against a dusty pink and purple backdrop; at night all lit up brilliantly and sparkling for five mins every hour on the hour – I never tire of that view.

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