Practical life in Paris : the city (#1)

See also :


Learn how to shop for food!

 The best market streets in Paris    See the Top Things To Do In Paris...

 In Paris, certain streets have very good food shops, with fresh products. Some of them :

  • Rue Montorgueil (1rst Arrt) : with many friendly bars around
  • Rue Cler (7th Arrt) : with one of the best cheese shops in Paris
  • Rue de Buci (6th Arrt) : charming and friendly, in Saint Germain des Prés
  • Rue Daguerre (14th Arrt) : great bread
  • Rue Lecourbe (15th) : wonderful fish
  • Rue Poncelet (17th) : with a wonderful pastry-shop and tea-room
  • Rue Mouffetard (5th) : fantastic vegetables, the whole street is a show
  • Rue des Rosiers (4th) : for Jewish food
  • More to come ...

Some open-air markets are also remarkable. They include:

  • Marché des Sablons (Neuilly, near Porte Maillot) (Wednesday and Sunday) : everything, including clothes
  • Marché Raspail (Blvd Raspail and Rue de Rennes) (Tuesday, Friday and Sunday) : famous for natural food products
  • Marché d'Aligre (12th Arrt) for inexpensive fruits and vegetables (and then, visit the Baron Rouge wine bar nearby!)
  • Avenue du Président Wilson (between the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris and the Musée Galliera) (Saturday)
  • Marché Saint Denis, Place Jean Jaurès near the basilica, easy access by metro : very colorful, African fruits and vegetables, all kinds of ethnic products (Tuesday, Friday, Sunday mornings)
  • More to come...

    Confused with kilogrammes etc...? Click here for a better understanding of the metric system (kilogrammes, litres, etc...)...

    A very good book (with good photos and recipes) : Nicolle Aimée MEYER & Amanda Pilar SMITH, Paris in a Basket - Markets - The Food and the People, Köneman, Köln, 2000


Prices in France

Life can be expensive in France. According to International Mercer Consulting 2003, Paris ranks 23rd among 140 world metropolis (see the comparative figures). Here are some standards for the price of things in France (compare to US prices...)

  • Gas : $9 to $11 per gallon (pretty expensive, isn't it?)
  • A driver's license requires taking driving lessons : minimum $1,500
  • A parking ticket (minor violation) : $ 18 to 45
  • Buying an apartment in Paris : $500 per sq ft (in the good but not the fanciest parts of the city) ; in 2003, from $400 per sq ft in the 18th, 19th and 20th arrt to $850 per sq ft in the 6th and 7th arrt (source : le Monde July 4, 2003)
  • Renting a one-bedroom apartment : minimum $750 to $900 per month (not including heating, taxes, etc...)
  • Having one room of an apartment painted : $2,000
  • A marriage gift for a distant friend : $60 minimum, a close friend : $200 +
  • One hour of a cleaning lady : $13 to $ 16
  • A mortgage loan : 4,5%
  • A newspaper $1,80 to 2,00
  • More to come

But certain things are less expensive :

  • A visit to a doctor : $28 (house call : $40) ; see more about health
  • One year tuition in a good university : $300; see more about education
  • More to come

However, the French have a strange relationship with money and they don't like to talk about it : read more about it.

DID YOU KNOW THAT....? The Euro is the official currency for 17 countries of the European Union (except UK, Denmark and Sweden and 10 out of the 12 recently admitted countries). The banknotes represent various bridges, gates, etc... but not existing ones and they are the same all over Europe. The coins have one side identical all over Europe and one side illustrating one of the European countries, but of course they are valid all over Europe.

 Practical tips on life in Paris    Driving in Paris

 If you're looking for:

  • Addresses : visit the site pagesjaunes (yellow pages) : it gives adresses, phone numbers, email addresses, a picture of ALL the buildings in Paris (when they include a shop or a business) and how to get there !

  • Antique shops, 50 (or more) in a row! Visit the "Village Suisse" (4 blocks, with only antique shops, in the 7th, corner Avenue de Suffren and Avenue de la Motte-Picquet) or the "Louvre des Antiquaires" (a building rue de Rivoli, facing the Louvre Museum), both good places to stroll around in search of an (expensive) find.

  • Auctions, every day, Salle Drouot, rue Drouot 75009

  • Computer help (in English) : Assistance Informatique, 15 rue Commines 75003 Tel. (0)1 42 71 10 96 WebSite

  • Curtain or Dress Material : go to Marché Saint Pierre, right below Montmartre: great savings and great choice

  • Flowers : Marché aux Fleurs, Ile de la Cité near Notre-Dame, daily (and birds Sunday morning)

  • French courses : Alliance Française, 101 blvd Raspail 75006 Tel. (0)1 45 44 38 28 ( also provides services for students)

  • Gifts : the Galerie Commerciale of the Louvre Museum (especially beautiful copies of ancient jewels, for instance), the Rue des Francs Bourgeois (for clothes or gift-hunting on Sundays).

  • Grocery Store : Epicerie du Bon Marché, an (expensive) Ali Baba cavern of wonders from France and other countries, 38 Rue de Sèvres 75007

  • Jazz : play and learn at Ecole de Jazz de Paris/Centre International de Musique, 83bis rue Doudauville, 75018 Tel 01 42 58 03 40 and remember : jazz is alive and well in Paris !

  • Hardware : the basement of the Bazar de l'Hotel de Ville is a MUST and you can find everything !

  • As a visitor, you can drive with your US driver's license but if you become a resident and want to have a French driver's license, you must go through the whole (very expensive : 1,000 $ minimum) process : taking courses and passing a test. Only 14 States in the US have a reciprocal agreement with France which allows a simple conversion of the license (Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, S.Carolina, Virginia & Texas), as of 2010.
  • Click here for a reader's opinion and here for Driving Rules in France !.
  • Consider (like they do) any other driver as an enemy and a potential threat. Selfishness, lack of civic sense and aggressiveness of French drivers is beyond anything you can imagine.... Driving in Paris is a real sport ! If you can drive around the Arch of Triumph at 6 p.m. and survive, you are becoming a real Parisian.
  • French respect, revere and respond to repression : due to tight repression (and not at all to civic sense...), the number of accidents has diminished steadily in the past years and seems to stabilizedn. The legal limit for % of alcohol in blood while driving is 0,5 grammes/liter : it is quite low (two glasses of wine) so be careful !
  • Speed limit : 50 km/h except in residential districts (30 km/h) and on the ring road (70 km/h).
  • More to come...

USEFUL TIPS for the innocent American driver in Paris.....

  • Do NOT take the concept of "lanes" too seriously : like the concept of "priority" for cars coming from the right, it is purely indicative (like, sometimes, red lights, pedestrian crossings, etc....)
  • When parking your car, you may hit (gently!) the two cars you are squished between
  • You can scare pedestrians and make them run : it is part of the game
  • Delivery trucks can do whatever they want (like double park) and as long as they want : if you are blocked, do not wait and try to escape.
  • Understand road signs...
  • Remember that street numbering starts from the river Seine (the smallest numbers)

Where do young people like to hang around in Paris ....

Many fun places for music, terraces, restaurants, etc. in a NW-SE strip :

  • Along the Canal Saint Martin in the 10th (quai de Jemmapes, quai Valmy)
  • from Place de la Republique 11th to Place de la Nation 12th (rue Oberkampf, rue de Charonne, etc.)
  • Liquor stores : you can buy liquor anywhere and anytime but Nicolas is a good chain of liquor stores

  • Metro and bus tips : see the RATP site ; you can also use one of these double-decker buses, yellow (Paris Open Tour) or red (Les Cars Rouges) : for EUR 21, you can go on and off the bus for two days and the most famous monuments are along the routes ; you can also take a boat and use "Batobus", a line along the river Seine (EUR 3 or so).

  • Music in Paris : visit the Cité de la Musique (221 avenue Jean-Jaurès 75019 Paris, tel 33-1 44 84 45 45), which is part of the Parc de la Villette : several concert halls, the Musée de la Musique, the Conservatoire, and many events all year round.

  • Pets : many pet shops Quai de la Mégisserie (between La Samaritaine and Chatelet)

  • Sick, for information click here... and read our page.

  • Sports : cafés where you can watch baseball or football games on TV

  • Videos (in English/home delivery) : Reels on Wheels, 35 rue de Croix Nivert 75015 Tel. (0)1 45 67 64 99

  • Vegetarian restaurants : see a list.

  • Wine : why don't you try Bercy ? On the site of former wine warehouses, a very beautiful park, a charming street with restaurants and bars, many wine shops of all sorts and a wonderful "Musée d'Art Forain" (a collection of merry-go-rounds and various circus machinery).

  • More to come (click here for more tips) ...

Bibliography :

  • For vital issues (Marriage, Job-hunting, Real Estate, Divorce, Senior Citizens, Retirement, Wills and Inheritance), read the book published by AAWE.
  • If you speak French, Paris Pas Cher is an indispensable guide for budget shoppers

DID YOU KNOW THAT.....? In France, you can write to Santa Claus (in French : "Père Noël") for the gifts you wish to receive for Christmas and receive a very sweet handwritten-looking answer. This service is performed for free by the (state) postal administration and it treats more than 1.5 million letters per year (whatever the address indicated for Santa Claus and the quality of the handwriting!). In the world (as far as I know) only Canada does it too.


Renting an apartment in Paris...

Renting an apartment in Paris can be an excruciating experience : you can do it all by yourself (i.e. without an agency, using only classified advertising) but then consider it a full time job for two or three weeks. Furnished and unfurnished apartements are two very different markets : the first being more on case by case basis (lease duration, notice, etc...).

A FEW USEFUL TIPS for unfurnished apartments.....

  • Do not expect the owner to repaint it before you move : it is your job... ; when you move in, the owner will have an official statement of the condition of the place you rent ("état des lieux") established and signed by you : mention on it everything you would hate to re-do before you leave ; you must pay most repairs except those which are related to the building itself ;
  • Of course you must sign an insurance contract ("assurance habitation") with any insurance company and the owner may require a proof that your income is sufficient to pay the rent (classically, three months of salary slips showing that the rent would not represent more than 30% of your income or, for young people", a formal duly signed guarantee by the parents). If you are shocked to see how demanding the owners are, read why.
  • Be ready to pay the agency a fee ("honoraires d'agence") of around one month rent and a cash deposit ("dépot de garantie") of generally 3 months rent
  • The rent ("loyer") will be between 1.30 and 1.80 $ per sq.ft per month within Paris according to the quality and the neighborhood
  • In addition to the rent you will have to pay the maintenance of the building, central heating, various facilities ("charges") : 10 to 20% of the rent and the local tax ("taxe d'habitation") every year (a very rough estimate is $1,000 per room)
  • If you leave, you must give notice ("congé") 3 months in advance, by registered letter to the owner (or its official representative)
  • Always require a written bill and avoid paying with cash.
  • If your building has a "concierge", you are lucky and your interest is to become a good friend with her (do not forget the sweet tradition of "étrennes" : some money for Christmas)
  • More to come....

If you want to know more :

 Specific neighborhoods...

Some neighborhoods in Paris have a very particular flavor and, for some of them, you can find the itinerary in Paris Mosaïque, with the comments by the authors, two sociologists:

  • African : XVIIIth Arrt (around Place du Chateau Rouge) : African market, etc...(rue de la Goutte d'or, rue des Gardes, rue Leon, rue Myrrha)
  • Armenian : Not in Paris but in Maison-Alfort, a South-East close suburb
  • Young and Branché ("in") : Bastille 11th Arrt (passage du Cheval Blanc, rue du Faubourg St Antoine, rue de Charonne, Rue de Lappe) : latino music, cafés philosophiques, tapas bars, etc...
  • Chinese : XIIIth Arrt (Avenue de Choisy) : food, Chinese clothes, etc... (avenue d'Ivry, dalle des Olympiades, rue Nationale, avenue de Choisy) : shop at Tang, THE Chinese supermarket in Paris, with food you've never seen before and inexpensive kitchenware ; visit the Buddhist temple rue du Disque. See our page about Chinese in Paris.
  • Indian : Xth Arrt around Gare de l'Est and Gare du Nord (Passage Brady)

 Or visit useful sites such as :

If you want to BUY a house, you'll have to live in a suburb (see the difference of meaning of center vs. suburb between France and USA) ; outside Paris, in the "provinces", it can be a wonderful experience : read Peter Mayle (Provence) or Betsy Draine (Périgord). You can also buy "en viager" through a notary.

If you want to exchange temporarily your home for a home in Paris, click here to find several addresses on our link page.


  • Jewish : IVth Arrt (Rue des Rosiers) : food (Goldenberg's is a major Jewish landmark in Paris but now it is a fashion store and no longer a magic restaurant), bookstores, etc... Read about the Jewish community.
  • Gay : IIIrd Arrt (Le Marais : Rue du Temple, etc...) : bars, etc...
  • Japanese : around the (old) Opera House : rue Sainte Anne, etc... See our page about Japanese in Paris.
  • More in the section : if you are not American...
  • Villages inside the city : in some parts of Paris (mostly in the XVIth, but also in the XIXth), you can find individual houses with gardens, sometimes built in the XIXth century for the working class and now passionately looked for by Parisians, if they can afford them (Villa Molitor, Hameau de Boulainvilliers, villa du Progrès, etc...)

Some streets or neighborhoods have an amazing number of shops for specific needs :

  • Antiques : Village Suisse (VIIth Arrt) or Louvre des Antiquaires (Irst Art.)
  • Art Galeries : Rue de Seine (VIth Arrt)
  • Comic books : Rue Dante (Vth)
  • Computers : Rue Montgallet (XIIIth)
  • Furniture : Rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine (XIth Arrt)
  • Guitars- Drums : rue de Douai (IXth), near Pigalle
  • Luxury jewelry : Place Vendôme/Rue de la Paix (Irst)
  • Costume Jewelry : rue Réaumur/Rue du Temple (IIIrd Arrt)
  • Mangas : Rue Keller (XIth)
  • Motorbikes/cars : Avenue de la Grande Armée (VIIIth)
  • Pets : Quai de la Mégisserie (Irst Arrt)
  • Porcelain : Rue de Paradis (Xth Arrt)
  • Religious artifacts : around Saint Sulpice Church (VIth Arrt)
  • Stamps : Rue Lafayette/Rue de Chateaudun (IXth Arrt) and a market every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday on Avenue Gabriel (8th Arrt.)
  • Violin-makers : Rue de Rome (VIIIth Arrt)
  • More to come...

DID YOU KNOW THAT.....? In French, moon-lighting translates as "travail au noir" (i.e. "black-work") : many craftsmen may offer or accept cash instead of a check payment and make you benefit with a reduced price from the money they'll save on taxes (value added tax : 19,6%) or on social benefits for their workers (see the anatomy of a paycheck). Be careful : it is illegal and you can be fined and, of course, you have no guarantee if anything goes wrong with the work or the product you purchased... Think twice when you pay in cash !

USEFUL TIPS... : In France a "Deux Pièces" is NOT an apartment with two bedrooms : it is an apartment with one bedroom and a living room. A two-bedroom apartment is a "Trois Pièces". The first floor ("premier étage") is NOT the ground floor (called "rez-de-chaussée") : it is the second floor ! Also, remember that apartments are smaller than in the USA (average surface for housing in France : 90 sq.m i.e. 900 sq.ft, vs. 148 sq.m in the USA i.e. 1480 sq.ft). People rent more often than in the USA (% of owners 56% vs. 68% in the USA).

DID YOU KNOW THAT ......? In France, a significant proportion of property (2 to 3%) is sold in return for a life annuity. It is called " viager " and it is often used by people with no heirs and who want to improve their income when they retire. The buyer owns the property when the contract is signed but can benefit from it only after the seller's death. The funniest story about the viager is the story of the man who, in 1965, bought the house of a woman named Jeanne Calment when she was already 90. He made the wrong choice and died long before her because she was the oldest person in France when she died at age .....122 !

For other ideas about life in Paris,

See the sections : Learning French, Studying in Paris, Gifts to bring or take back..., Meeting the French : a real challenge ! and if you are invited by a Parisian... More about life in Paris : see my favourite links , some useful commercial links and read Paris diary. If, when in Paris, you had to face some practical problems and want to share your experience, please let me know : I'll mention it in this page or in irksome France....

To related pages : more on life in Paris (#2) and retirement in France (#4), Joie de Vivre in France, intercultural differences,some French specificities, etc...

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In France, small things procure big joys. In fact, la joie de vivre is composed of many small and simple pleasures : a stroll on the banks of the Seine, a tiny taste of dark chocolate with your wee espresso, a petit verre de rouge (little glass of red wine). Small is good . . . Do you wonder why the French aren’t fat ? Here’s the answer : portions are petites.

For more on inttercultural differences, order Harriet Welty Rochefort's books : Joie de Vivre. Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's, 2012, French Toast.An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French, St.Martin's Press, 1999, French Fried. The Culinary Capers of an American in Paris, St.Martin's Press, 2001. More on Harriet's books (excerpts, upcoming events, testimonials, etc).

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