Post overview: Pros and cons of living in Paris
Whether it’s a job opportunity, school or a childhood dream that’s making you consider moving to Paris, you’ve come to the right place. In this article I’ll go take a deep-dive on the honest pros and cons of living in Paris.
Paris is a city full of dreamers and go-getters, but the move takes a little planning and a lot of contemplation.
Living in Paris has huge perks but will also take some sacrifice, and you want to be fully aware of what you’re getting into before you buy a one way ticket.
Some of you reading this might be young university students, a budding family or retirees looking to try something new. Although you’re not all in the same boat, there are some universal things to consider before moving to Paris.
So whether you’re just waiting to read this article before pressing submit on an apartment lease or just here for the pretty pictures, what do you say we dive into all the reasons you may (or may not) love living in Paris?
Living in Paris
Paris is a divine section of eternity.E. E. Cummings
First, the pros of living in Paris
It’s freaking Paris
Put simply, Paris has held the world in awe for centuries. From France’s world-altering revolution to the coronation of Napoleon, from the sparkling Eiffel Tower to the monolithic Louvre it’s impossible to take your eyes off Paris!
Books have been written, movies have been filmed and songs have been sung all romanticizing the French capital.
It feels like this is the place to be, and for some folks that’s reason enough to pack their bags and move to Paris. It’s no winder more than 30+ million tourists visit the city annually!
Living in Paris is a dream that provides boundless inspiration. It’s a place where you can go to chase goals and fall in love with life. The architecture gives you something beautiful to see no matter where you look.
For the sake of keeping this rant short I’ll say living in Paris is beautiful and provides experiences you won’t get anywhere else in the world.
When spring comes around to Paris, the humblest mortal alive must feel that he dwells in paradiseHenry Miller
Paris is a global city
As the capital of France and one of the most influential cities in the world, Paris attracts folks from all over the globe. This means a richer life for those living in Paris thanks to a surge in opportunities unavailable elsewhere.
There are inconsequential-perks, like wide-ranging dining options. Paris boasts Japanese sushi, Mexican tacos, Middle-Eastern falafels, Georgian khachapuri and more. Good luck getting these options at a small town restaurant.
But it goes beyond dining, being a global city also means business opportunities and a growing job sector. As companies grow they also expand, often bringing stable job opportunities with them.
Not to mention being on the international stage also means you attract international superstars. Paris is a must-stop on any musicians, museum exhibits, or sporting events tour. If you’re thinking about moving to Paris you don’t necessarily have to give up concerts and shows in your native tongue.
And best of all, with folks of different backgrounds all living in Paris you have the opportunity to experience a culturally-richer life. While living in Paris you can befriend people from all over the world!
During my most recent month-long stay in Paris I befriended a Brazilian gal staying in the apartment beneath me. She was in Paris working for LVMH, the parent company of Louis Vuitton. Talk about global-reach!
Wide ranging transportation options, both within the city and the European Union
Boasting an impressive 308 stations, 141 miles of track and 1.5 billion annual passengers the Paris Metro is an around-the-clock beast. Thanks to the metro’s reach most folks living in Paris don’t need a car!
It isn’t perfect, some of the subway cars have to be manually opened (I found it charming, but it’s probably time for an upgrade) and everyone warns of pickpockets but it’s still a perk of living in Paris.
Metro tickets come in a variety of packages starting at one way fares for €2.10 and going up from there. If your job requires a commute you can look into weekly and monthly passes too.
But Paris’ public transportation has tentacles that reach beyond the city. One of the biggest perks of living in Paris is having the rest of the European Union at your fingertips.
You can taken trains from Paris to Barcelona, Brussels, London, Milan, Frankfurt and more! A waiter told me that him and his friends take weekend trips across Europe “the way Americans visit San Diego or Miami.” Can you imagine a casual girls trip to the South of France or the Amalfi Coast? Be right back, I’m packing my bags.
Breathe Paris in. It nourishes the soul.Victor Hugo
The food scene in Paris has no rival
Paris is the capital of many things – France, fashion, love etc. but none of those things make happy-dance like food. Get a croissant or a French onion soup in me and I got more moves than Michael Jackson.
The access to world-class restaurants is one of the biggest reasons folks love living in Paris. The city has an impressive 130 Michelin Star restaurants, the second most in the world (Tokyo has the crown).
But the good-grub isn’t limited to restaurants you have to sell a kidney to get into. There’s a plethora of cheap eats in Paris that will make you love living in Paris.
And of course, good food comes from good ingredients and everything you need is at your disposal. Local markets give you access to fresh produce and hard-to-get ingredients are imported from across the globe.
I’m not going to brag and say I’m the next Anthony Bourdain (my smoke alarm cheers for me when I cook) but the fresh ingredients help me hold my own in the kitchen.
And don’t even get me started on fresh bread and cheese, the foundation of a delicious French diet. While living in Paris I’d start my day with a croissant and end it with a baguette, hell I wanted to take it to bed and snuggle it.
I’ll even say something that might get me in trouble – meals are more enjoyable in Paris. They’re more relaxed, slower paced and often accompanied by an appetizing wine. The French take leisure to a whole new level, eating is a past-time not just a form of sustenance.
Paris is the city with the most museums in the world
For art lovers Paris is a Garden of Eden where everything you may need or want is at your disposal. With a staggering 297 museums, the most in the world, living in Paris is a dream.
They range from art to science to natural history and they’re some of the best in the world. Learning doesn’t have to end when you’re out of school with so many museums at your fingertips.
You might be thinking there’s no way you can afford to see them all, but the museums are very accessible. Some are completely free, others offer discounted rates and most are free for members of the European Union under the age of 26 (another reason to consider moving to Paris).
I have an entire post covering the best museums in Paris, but for the sake of time being I’ll outline a few to consider when moving to Paris:
- The Louvre: The crown jewel of France, there are folks living in Paris who have yet to explore everything this museum has to offer. It’s one of the the largest museums in the world, attracting 7.5 million visitors annually.
- The Centre Pompidou: Home to the National Museum of Modern Art, the Centre Pompidou is a work of art itself. It’s made up of six floors covering 8-million square feet with a performing-arts theater, two screening rooms, and a library.
- The Musée de l’Armée: Housed in the imposing Hôtel des Invalides, this museum tells the story of France’s military and the art of war throughout history. It’s also home to the striking Tomb of Napoleon.
Paris has a top-notch healthcare system
The healthcare debate is one that divides family, so I’m not here to talk about who’s right and who’s wrong. I will say that France has universal healthcare that can be benefit a lot of people.
There are cons to the system. For example a lot of folks complain about having to wait due to staffing issues and demand. With that said these issues are often worth it thanks to the access to basic medicine and care.
For those living with diseases like diabetes and immune disorders (that need recurring medication) moving to Paris can be a literal lifesaver. Medications that cost hundreds of dollars elsewhere are free in France.
Expats begin receiving healthcare benefits three months after they begin to pay taxes, so moving to Paris won’t leave you stranded for long.
And last thing, France has the 19th highest life-expectancy (82.8 years), a whopping 29 spots higher than the U.S. (80.8 years) Living in Paris must be healthier than in America if their residents live 2 years longer.
Paris has amazing institutions of higher education
Home to more than 10 universities, there’s constant stream of students moving to Paris. This gives the city a youthful exuberance that helps maintain a healthy level of excitement.
The universities offer programs and events that go beyond their student bodies, which is a huge perk when living in Paris. Take Sorbonne University for example, who opens their Astronomy Tower to the public offering tours and stargazing opportunities.
And with the benefit of huge student-bodies, living in Paris is a blast for young people. The influx of students is a huge bonus for other young people hoping to make friends.
It makes the city more accessible to kids still trying to figure out life and taking a leap of faith. You can find roommates, and maybe even exchange students from your home country with whom you can connect.
And the schools provide more than just beer-pong buddies (although there is plenty of that). These are serious universities where you can network with young talent, meaning there’s plenty of business opportunities to be had.
The QS World University Rankings (the industry-standard) has four Paris universities ranked in their Top 100 Universities in the World. They are the Paris Sciences and Letters University (known as PSL) at #44, The Polytechnic Institute of Paris at #48, Sorbonne University at #72 and Paris-Saclay University at #85.
Paris provides an opportunity to actually have a life outside of work
We’ve all heard that living in America is like burning the candle at both ends, you work work work, vacation for a week and repeat. The French on the other hand have won gold in the sport of enjoying life.
For starters – France passed a law in 2000 that limited the amount of hours a person can work to a maximum of 35 a week.
There are ways to get around that and a lot of folks living in Paris don’t strictly follow it, but you get the sentiment. France makes an effort to help its citizens stay out of the rat-race.
I once heard it said that “an American views the weekend as a break from the work-week, whereas the French view the work-week as a pause from the weekend.”
Not just that – a lot of French businesses will close for two or three hours in the middle of the day, giving their employees a break. This can be a headache if you’re a consumer (more on that later) but as an employee it’s a huge benefit of living in Paris.
The amount of times I could’ve done with a two hour break in the middle of my shift, boy oh boy. I would’ve saved me thousands on therapy.
I know it isn’t all unicorns and rainbows, struggles and poverty are real but the emphasis on enjoying life, not just surviving, is a perk of living in Paris. If you make enough for your monthly expenses the attitude rubs off on you.
I have friends living in Paris that go out four or five times a week after work, the thought of which is exhausting to me. But hey – when work isn’t draining every last ounce of energy the sky’s the limit!
France’s employee benefits are the envy of America
It’s no secret that the United States has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to workers benefits, in fact a recent study found that it’s among the worst developed countries for workers benefits.
France on the other hand is not the best (it’s middle of the pack), but significantly better than the U.S.
And yes – I’m well aware of the ongoing protests in Paris over the increase in the legal retirement age from 62 to 64. With that said, in the U.S. folks can start receiving retirement at 62 but don’t get their full benefits until 66.
Living in Paris not only provides better retirement benefits, the benefits while working are much better. America has no law stating a minimum amount of paid days off a year (one or two weeks is common) but France guarantees 30 paid vacation days a year.
Another perk of living in Paris is guaranteed maternal leave. In France women receive up to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, and are required to take a minimum of eight. These numbers increase if there are health complications, multiple births (twins, triplets etc.) or if it’s a woman’s third child or beyond.
It gets depressing when you consider the United States only offers 12 weeks of (unpaid) maternity leave.
And since France has universal healthcare, health benefits are a given. The safeguards are extended to life and disability insurance, workers compensation and unemployment benefits. The safety net extends far and wide, which is why a lot of folks consider moving to Paris.
Cons of Moving to Paris
Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world
Could I start with any other complaint? Paris is so expensive it’s not even funny anymore, it’s just painful.
In fact it’s the ninth most expensive city in the world. The high cost of living is one of the biggest cons of moving to Paris, especially for folks still trying to get their feet underneath them.
It’s all fun and games when you’re just visiting. A lot of people just swipe (or tap) their cards and check the credit card statement when you get home, but when you’re living in Paris – this is home.
For starters, rentals and real estate is astronomical. Sure you’re paying for access and location to one of the greatest cities on earth, but at what cost?
Given these numbers you can see that living in Paris comes with sacrifice. Whether it’s compromising on location for a bigger apartment or choosing to live with roommates to afford a social life, living in Paris is a game of chess.
You should also note I gave base numbers, your job might be moving you to Paris with a high-roller salary and the expense of living in Paris isn’t even a concern. For most folks though, it’s a harsh reality.
Beyond your four walls and roof, you also have to budget for food, commuting and if you’re lucky – experiences. There are ways to save money, like cooking at home and limiting your outings but living in Paris is expensive no matter how you shake it.
There is a lack of green-spaces
Living in the Pacific Northwest I once befriended a French expat at a bar. I told him of my upcoming trip and how I would love living in Paris, but he gave me a word of warning.
He told me, “to see greenery here you just crack open your blinds, to see greenery in Paris means hopping on the metro. You have to plan to see it, like visiting a museum.”
The reality is a little more nuanced than that. Paris has bewitching park and green spaces, but he’s right, to see greenery while living in Paris you have to hop on a train. The two biggest parks in Paris, the Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne are literally on the city’s outskirts.
And the parks that are centrally located (like the Tuileries Garden, Jardin de Luxembourg) are beautiful but mostly made up of gravel paths. Sure there are trees, but you don’t “lose yourself” in the parks – it still feels like a city.
There are few “tree-lined” streets and since most of Paris proper is made up of apartment buildings you don’t have much in the way of gardens or lawns. For folks who rely on greenery for dopamine, living in Paris could see a bout of seasonal depression stick around longer than just winter.
A growing body of research shows that people who spend time outside in sunny, green and natural spaces tend to be happier and healthier than those who don’t.The New York Times
The population density can be overwhelming
By definition cities are full of people, but nothing (I repeat, nothing) can prepare you for the crowds in Paris. The first time I visited The Louvre my mom had to call it quits after only 30 minutes she was so overwhelmed.
The feeling of claustrophobia goes beyond tourist attractions, living in Paris comes with a lot of neighbors in close proximity, whether you want them or not.
Paris’ population density sits at a shocking 56,000 people per square mile. For comparison, New York City (the United States’ most densely populated city) is less than half that, at a still striking 27,000 people per square mile.
Little things, like going out to dinner become a hassle. Not only are there lines, but restaurants try to cram as many people as possible and sometimes just getting to your table is an obstacle course.
It also drives up the cost of living since there is an endless-demand for apartments. Landlords can jack up prices because they know somebody desperate enough will come around and pay it.
And again, beyond your apartments’ four walls there’s no protection from the crowds. Lines at the grocery store, packed metro cars and a steady stream of 30+ million annual tourists are all realities of living in Paris.
I know that the influx of people can be (and is) a huge perk of living in Paris, but some days it’s a huge pain. We’ve all been there, running on fumes after an exhausting day of work and all you want to do is get home, only to get elbowed by a kid while you’re trying to cram onto a packed subway car.
The reality is that crowds are manageable when you only have to deal with them on vacation, but living in Paris means they’re unavoidable.
Noise-cancelling headphones are a necessity
I know not everyone is given the same deck of cards, but Paris old (thin) apartment walls and the ruckus caused by its 2 million inhabitants mean you should probably order some good, noise cancelling headphones.
During my most recent month-long stay living in Paris I had to deal with loud neighbors coming from more than one direction.
There were (around) 50 apartments in the building I was staying in and had loud upstairs neighbors. This I could deal with, I’ve lived in apartments before and Paris wasn’t anything new.
But it didn’t stop there, there were neighbors who would stay up singing until 3AM (with their windows open) and neighbors that would treat the shared courtyard outside my window like a lecture hall.
There was simply no escaping the noise.
During the daytime the construction noise would blend with the traffic sounds to create a consistent hum only interrupted by shrieking kids getting out of school. I didn’t realize this until researching pros and cons of living in Paris, but the French capital is the noisiest city in Europe.
If you can afford to get a soundproofed apartment I want to say 1) ignore this complaint and 2) can I come over?
Paris has hot summers and no air-conditioning
I just want to tip my hat to the Founding Fathers. They fought for our independence and created a land for iced coffee, stellar customer service and air-conditioning.
I’m not kidding either – thanks to old, hard to work on buildings Paris is a city with few air conditioners. Thousands of apartments, businesses and restaurants become saunas in the summer meaning the folks living in Paris start toasting like a baked potato.
I was shocked to learn that thousands of folks living in Paris leave the city in August. It’s almost spooky how devoid of life it is, outer arrondissements usually teeming with local life become barren and desolate.
Those that can afford to flee the city (usually to the South of France) do so for the entire month. The city is largely left to essential-workers and those employed by the tourist industry.
While functioning at half-capacity life can also get harder for those that stay behind. With so many businesses closed, locals that stay behind may have to wait for their lawyers, bankers, mechanics or doctors to return from their time-off.
Not to mention, living in Paris during August is just sweaty and uncomfortable. The average temperature in August (78°) seems manageable, but the lack of protection from the sun and air-conditioning make it feel hotter than it is.
The part that gets to folks is not getting a break from the heat. Most Americans (90%) have some sort of air-conditioning, offering at least a little comfort but while living in Paris it’s all heat, all the time.
Parisians have a (deserved) reputation for being standoffish
We’ve all heard people say that the French are rude, but I sincerely don’t think so. Visit any big city and you’ll come across folks in a rush who don’t have time for pleasantries and may come off impolite, but they’re not rude.
But living in Paris will take a bit of assimilation and the locals may not have the time to hold your hand. For starters, if you’re thinking of moving to Paris, learn the language.
It might not solve all your problems and you’ll still likely have interactions with impatient locals but at least you’ll have a grasp as to what they’re saying.
I’ve also learned that folks living in Paris are proud of the city. They don’t want inconsiderate tourists muddying the water of the place they call home.
Sure, some bad apples might be a little snobby but for the most part (speaking from first hand experience) if you don’t come in riding a bald eagle talking about how much better the USA is than France, you’re good.
This isn’t a major drawback, moreover it’s just something to consider. If you’re thinking of living in Paris (or any big city, for that matter) you’ll have to grow some thick skin.
Paris syndrome is a real disease
Remember how I said living in Paris is a dream come true? How the sunsets are magical and the food is addicting and the architecture is striking?
Well, for some folks, this isn’t necessarily accurate. There’s a phenomena called Paris Syndrome that’s an intense form of culture shock with very real symptoms including hallucinations, dizziness and vomiting.
Put simply, Paris Syndrome is a deep felt disappointment with what Paris actually is. The city is romanticized in movies and songs, but let’s be honest, it’s a major city with crime, homelessness and dirtiness like any other.
Some tourists are so shocked they begin having feelings of persecution and hallucinate threats that aren’t real. Paris Syndrome was first discovered in the 1980’s and there are around two dozen cases a year.
The disease largely affects Japanese women, but there are also many reports of undiagnosed, much milder cases of Paris Syndrome affecting people from all over the world. I think some people just romanticize living in Paris so much you can’t help but be disappointment when you see the city without makeup.
If you’re considering moving to Paris I strongly encourage visiting the city before hand. At the very least rent a room on a short-term lease so you can ensure you’re in an area you feel safe and secure.
You can’t escape the (second-hand) smoke
Maybe I’m just being picky but there are a lot of smokers in France. When compared to the U.S. where roughly 11% of the population smokes, 25% of the population does in France.
This means you’ll have to get used to the sweet smell of tobacco while living in Paris.
Look – I get it, smoking looks badass. The French have mastered the “I don’t care” look and it’s only made bolder with a cigarette loosely hanging out of your mouth. I love photographing smokers, it looks edgy but I don’t hang out too long.
Smoking is prohibited indoors, but if you’re hoping to enjoy a nice meal seated outside a cafe or restaurant you might catch some wafts of the musky air. It’s also the norm outside of stores, landmarks and museums.
I’m not going to give you the 9th grade health class about lung-cancer and rotting teeth, we’re all adults you can make your own choices. With that said the rife smoking is one thing to consider before moving to Paris.
Moving to Paris?
Here’s a small checklist with helpful links to get help get all your ducks in a row before moving to Paris.
As of 2023, the population of Paris is 2.1 million, making it the most populous city in France and the 28th most populated city in the world.
Living in Paris (Post Summary)
In sum these are the pros and cons of living in Paris
- It’s freaking Paris
- Paris is a global city
- Wide ranging transportation options, both within the city and the European Union
- The food scene in Paris has no rival
- Paris is the city with the most museums in the world
- Paris has a top-notch healthcare system
- Paris has amazing institutions of higher education
- Paris provides an opportunity to actually have a life outside of work
- France’s employee benefits are the envy of America
- Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world
- There is a lack of green-spaces
- The population density can be overwhelming
- Noise-cancelling headphones are a necessity
- Paris has hot summers and no air-conditioning
- Parisians have a (deserved) reputation for being standoffish
- Paris syndrome is a real disease
- You can’t escape the (second-hand) smoke
Looking for the best things to do in Paris?
Here are some more of my helpful guides about Paris:
- 20 Iconic Things to Do in Paris During Your First Visit (+Helpful Tips)
- 30 Fantastic Free Things to Do in Paris (That’ll Make Your Wallet Happy)
- 30 Epic Things to Do in Paris at Night (The City of Lights After Dark)
- 25 Romantic Things to Do in Paris (That’ll Make You Fall in Love Again)
And there you have it, my friends. These are the honest pros and cons of living in Paris. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have. Always happy to help!