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Talk to me about living in Paris please

(11 Posts)
SGertie Fri 29-Jul-11 05:23:08

Dh has been approached about a possible role in Paris. Please can you give me your experiences (good and bad) of living there? It would be my first experience as an ex pat and I'm very nervous at the idea.
My French is diabolical very rusty gcse standard, dh's isn't much better and the kids (7&4) don't speak a word of it.
I think we'd be able to send the kids to British/international school. Are they any good? What age do they start school in France?
Is it easy for a sahm to meet people?
Sorry, lots of questions and this is before he even has been offered the role 100% but I appreciate any help/advice smile

fraktious Fri 29-Jul-11 07:44:16

It's a fabulous place to live but pricy! Male sure you get a package with a good cost if living uplift and preferably health insurance and school fees. Would you be looking at an apartment in the centre or possibly a house in the suburbs?

School starts from 3, compulsory education at 6. There are lots of British/International/bilingual schools but where you go for school depends to a certain extent where you will live. Living out in a house puts the bilingual schools nearer the unfeasible end of the spectrum and living in Paris to the east knocks out the British school which is in a western suburb.

The schools seems to have a good social community and you can also join Message, which is a network for anglophone parents. I would link to it but I'm on the app which for some reason doesn't like me opening Safari. Plus there are lots of MNers (although sadly not me ATM sad).

How long would you be looking at staying? That may also influence decisions about schooling.

dilbertina Fri 29-Jul-11 08:28:16

We're just going into our 3rd and final year here. I agree with Frak that your first big decision is if you really want to live in central Paris or out to the West (although even from here you can be in Central Paris in half an hour or so.) With 3 children (5,3 and 4mo at the time) and a dog we didn't fancy living in an apartment, and since we knew we would only be here 2-3 years before returning to UK it wasn't paramount importance to us for dc to become bilingual. Our two eldest dc go to the British School and we've been very happy with it, it is very expensive though if you have to pay yourself, the vast majority of children there are paid for by employers and this is pretty standard on expat packages.

There is a very large english speaking community here, no difficulty finding english speaking doctors, dentists etc. It's very easy to meet people via school and activities because everyone is in the same boat and looking to make friends. We've really enjoyed being here and have actually found it all pretty easy so don't be too nervous!

SGertie Fri 29-Jul-11 13:39:13

Thank you so much for your replies. Dh's company would pay school fees and I think health insurance too so that's one thing less to worry about!
I've been on google maps, his office would be in NW Paris (it looks like there are a few big companies around there which must be a good sign with regard to commuting from near English speaking schools. We would look to live in the suburbs as the kids would miss having a garden.
I'm not too sure how long we'd be there as it's not a fixed term contract but I doubt it would be longer than 3 years so I'd prefer the kids to keep the English education system if possible but obviously learn French too. Perhaps they could teach me grin
right I'm off to look for that 'message' site you mentioned.

natation Fri 29-Jul-11 13:54:15

NW Paris, which arrondissement of Paris or which départment if outside Ville de Paris?

There is Marymount at Neuilly-sur-Seine which is an "American" leaning school with a Christian ethos. It's just outside Ville de Paris.
www.marymount.fr/

Perhaps it's worth looking at Ecole Active Bilingue at Monceau in the 17th arrondissement which is "north-west" Paris sort of, I'd imagine the majority of children there are apartment living and live within Ville de Paris. It's a bilingual school within the French Education funding and curriculum, fees are small and only due to its bilingual status, plenty of references to it on MN. Your children can keep up their written English and at the same time become alot more integrated in French life here than they would in an English medium international school, plus they should pick up French well here. You'd have to apply up to a year before entry to this school to be fairly certain of places, exact timing of enrolments I'm sure have been touched upon in other MN postings here.
www.eab.fr/index.php?module=webLIVE&id=1&mmanimate=true

dilbertina Fri 29-Jul-11 13:56:38

At the British School they broadly follow the English Curriculum but also have a French lesson daily for 45 mins - 1 hr (more in the Nursery I think). It won't make children bilingual but will hopefully give them a headstart with languages in the future. All the French teachers are native speakers so what they do learn to say they say with an accent I could only dream of! There are adult group classes available to suit various levels at the British School or Berlitz run courses in Saint Germain en Laye if you wanted to brush up!

Most expats here also get their rent paid or at least a rent allowance. Rents can be high even on the western fringes....2500-3000 euro/month would probably be the very minimum you would need to pay for 3/4 bedroom house with garden within easy reach of school. You can get an idea of rentals at www.seloger.com. If you do decide to go for the British School and want a short commute to school you'd want places like Croissy-sur-seine, Le Vesinet, Bougival, La Celle Saint Cloud etc.

Sounds like you are a bit away from being ready to move just yet, but if it does all come off feel free to ask any burning questions! Good luck.

SGertie Fri 29-Jul-11 16:46:57

Thank so much. I've googled the areas you've mentioned and both would be an easy commute for dh. It's great to have a bit of an idea of things so if we have to make a decision we'd be able to do it in the very quick timescale that would be expected.
I'm sure if things progress I'll be on here loads to pick your brains.
Thanks again

natation Fri 29-Jul-11 19:48:21

You might find a map showing the arrondissements of Paris helpful in locating where schooling and housing could be in relation to work.
fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrondissement_de_Paris

In the greater Paris area, Ile de France, 2 départments are to north-west, Hauts-de-Seine (92) and a bit further north and west Yvelines (78) where you find many international schools eg British School of Paris, Forest, Malherbe, Amercian School of Paris where fees are very high but where most students are funded by parents' employer and French government subsidised ones where fees are affordable which have bilingual English programmes eg Lycee International St Germain-en-Laye, Montessori St Cloud, Notre Dame in St Germain en Laye.

Here is a list of schools in France which offer French in the curriculum, both completely private and international ones and state subsidised ones, some completely bilingual, some an hour a day.... look on the list for schools in Paris (75), Hauts-de-Seine (92) and Yvelines (78)
www.fabert.com/pages/plan-du-site.php?k=9&patronyme=%C9coles+et+classes+bilingues

PalmTrees Fri 29-Jul-11 21:54:10

I live in croissy and work at the British school and love it here, would be very happy to answer any questions about school / area. I speak very very little french and that hasn't caused me any problems, the expat community around the school is very friendly and I'm sure you and your family would settle and make friends easily. In my opinion it is far far easier to live near the British school (if that's the one you decide on) and get the train into Paris at weekends than try to do it the other way round, the commute out of Paris can be a killer on a morning.

MrsSchadenfreude Sun 31-Jul-11 21:45:07

I think where you live depends on whether you want to live in an expat bubble or not. I did this in Brussels and hated it, so made sure when we moved to Paris that we were living in Paris proper, and not in a community of people who transplanted Surrey to France, didn't bother to learn the language, never come to Paris, which is on the doorstep. I did send my children to an expat school (but not BSP as were scarred for life by the previous headmistress!) as I felt that they were too old to be flung into a French school. But I don't socialise with many of the parents.

I think what I hated most about the "British Bubble" was the utter bitchiness of the mothers who didn't work and had nothing better to do with their lives than gossip and bitch about who was having an affair with who!

BriocheDoree Mon 01-Aug-11 09:05:08

I don't exactly disagree with you, MrsS, but I don't think your geographical location makes any difference to whether or not you are in an "expat bubble". I think it is more about where your kids go to school. I live within five minutes of the British School and know roughly zero expats, apart from Dilbertina! My kids are at French school and most of my friends are French. Or, if they aren't French, they aren't on expat contracts. However, you are right that you need to find a social outlet that doesn't revolve around drinking coffee and bitching about the French (I did know SOME people like this: we have rather lost touch grin). If your DH's job is in the north of Paris, how about the area around Chantilly, if you want more space / greenery / house than you get in Paris proper?

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