Or, How I Gave My Dreams A Decent Shot
It’s a big decision, giving up everything and everyone you know for a fresh start in your dream city. How do you know if you are making the right decision? What if you regret it and decide you made a big mistake?? And how would you even go about making a move like this???! After years of attempting various schemes and deals, I figured out how to give my dreams a decent shot and move to Paris on a budget. This is how I did it.
DISCLAIMER: This is how I did it; that’s not to say my approach will be ideal or possible for everyone. But sometimes you just gotta say sod it and reach for what you want, ya know?
1. I moved back in with my parents to save cash.
Okay, some of y’all with be thinking, I’m outta here. Not a chance. But this is just one example, and there are other ways. I just was really serious about the move, and prepared to sacrifice my independence temporarily to do it. I was also fortunate and lucky to have parents that allowed me to do this. I ain’t gonna lie, it was a very hard decision to make in my 30s. It wasn’t easy to live with my folks again after so long away, and it wasn’t easy for them having me home either. But sometimes, a small step back is the only way to move forward. If moving home isn’t an option for you, you can always consider stuff like taking in a lodger for your spare room, or quitting smoking and saving the money, etc. If you can’t do any of this, just set aside a small amount, or anything you can, every month, and take it from there. How much you want it depends on what you will give up, I feel.
2. I chucked my high-stress, demanding job and got a simple one.
This was a highly personal move. By this I mean I got a ‘simple’ job that I didn’t have to bring home with me; when I clocked off, I forgot about the demands of the day and enjoyed my evenings planning the move! I had previously been a University lecturer finishing my PhD and planning a life of lecturing, but realised as I neared the end of the PhD that this wasn’t the life I wanted for myself. Motivated by a deep need to get to Paris and sate a deeper feeling inside that life in an academic institution with all of its constraints and demands was not right for me, I made it clear to my peers that I would be moving on, finished out my obligations and contracts, and finished my PhD. After an excruciating 3 months of job-searching on the dole, and being advised that I should hide my PhD and qualifications (!!), I went down the pub kitchen and catering route that I had experienced in my younger years. I knew this would mean long hours and high-stress on the job, but I also knew it would be a huge relief from the overwhelming pressure of recent years. So I took the risk. The chain I worked for was Hell, but I learned a lot about myself and met some amazing people. The business was bought out after 5 months, and I was made redundant. At the privately owned pub I worked for next, Larkins in Hull, I was, quite honestly, the happiest I had been for a very long time. I did kitchen prep for a small team and could just be me, and not take any pressure or stress home. That was the best feeling ever. Plus, the people I met there are incredibly dear to me, each in their own ways. And I learned so much about myself in those few months. I saw my commitment out there in line with my cash-saving plan, and worked the required notice period before I left, about 2 weeks before my first move date. Which brings me to my next point.
3. I set a cash-saving plan, and I stuck to it.
I worked out how much money I needed to feasibly give myself a reasonable shot at making the move and #ParisLife an actual, attainable goal. This will vary for person to person, but for me, it had to be around £10,000, because I knew I was going to attempt self-employment. And aside from paying rent, I knew I would need to eat, buy necessities, and actually have a bit of a life. I allowed for about 6 months of rent in Paris in a modest dwelling, with 6 months minimal expenses, basically. So you might need less or more, depending on your individual circumstances. When I had my target, I worked out how much I could save each month, and how many months it would take me to reach the ten grand goal. I stuck to it rigidly, BUT I also allowed for unforeseen setbacks, such as being made redundant! I denied myself many pleasures and much of a life for the best part of 8 or 9 months, beyond basic food and primary needs, and kept myself focused on the end goal. When I became redundant in the pub chain job it was a blow, but I got out there and got another job within a fortnight. My tenacity and self-belief led my to think and act on my feet and I just kept going, adding to my savings account every week or month. I had estimated 9 months, and it took me 10. I’d call that Not Bad At All.
4. I over-prepared all my documents and paperwork.
Being already aware of the French systems of paperwork and bureaucracy, I dug out copies of everything! I already had kept all of my past wages slips, P45s and P60s (I haven’t needed them yet, but!), so I put them in a file, along with my proofs of UK address and bank slips, and any other official documents I could think of. I packed my educational certificates, and most importantly, the next two things: I got two long copies of my birth certificate from the local council (just call them to arrange it), and I told my bank I was leaving. This part was more complicated, but here’s how; find a bank close to where you will be staying and get their address and details. Then, go into your UK bank and tell them you are moving abroad and to send an introduction letter to the bank you intend to open the account with in France. The bank will do this for you, and send an introductory letter ahead of your arrival. The bank is explained more in point 6, but document wise, before I set off, I withdrew and changed a third of my money into euros (I left the remainder in my English account for the time being), and kept the withdrawal receipt and the currency exchange receipt from the post office. You will need these documents too, so the French bank knows your money is legit.
5. I found a home on roomlala.com for one month.
About a month before my planned move date (I planned to be gone for exactly one month, and return home for Christmas), I found a room using roomlala.com, contacted the owner, and paid for the reservation. Done, just like that. I had a kick up the bum to get it done, don’t get me wrong; it’s terrifying to make a definitive move like that! But I did it. Then I booked my travel to and from Paris on these dates within the next hour, and told my bosses and colleagues the next day. You might be wondering how I chose a location. If you just want to live in Paris, then go for it on roomlala or airbnb, you will have loads of options at various prices and locations around the city. If you have a dog, like me, you might find the outskirts of Paris, towards Versailles, better for you. They have less roomlala choices, but the area is surrounded by forests. For this exact reason, and because my gut told me it was where I was going to grow old some day, I chose Chaville. It is about 20 minutes to Paris by train, and I can see the Eiffel tower from the garden to my home. So what I’m saying is, depending on your needs and budget, be flexible, and go with what feels right for you. You will know when you see it. I didn’t take my dog with me in this first month; I went with the intention to open a bank account and find a more permanent home, my next two points.
6. I opened up a French bank account.
When I had decided on my exact location, I used google maps to find a local bank, I looked them up online, and I rang them to make an appointment for the day after my arrival, straight away so as not to put it off. I made this call about 2 weeks before I set off, as I recall, after taking a few basic French lessons. When I arrived, I was fortunate enough that I had my landlady’s son come to the bank with me, as translator. My point being, make sure your French is fair to good, or ask for help from the people you are staying with if you don’t know anyone, or book a translator. You will need all of your documents, and proof of lodgings, so take a copy of your rental agreement, which you will sign when you arrive.
7. I searched for another place to stay…and stuck with my roomlala landlady.
If you move to Paris and into a job, lucky you! You will not have a problem finding a place or being accepted into accommodation. Similarly as a student, you will face no problems; your accommodation will probably be not that great, but most students are not really here to stay home! If, like me, you want to go down the self-employed route, the post-terror attacks in France have made this difficult, with new requirements having been put in place. Unless you can establish proof of income (they would not take my savings, or evidence of them, as enough. If I had been a student this would not have been a problem, ironically! So if you’re doing a course of any kind then you are in luck.), which you can’t really do if you are moving with the intent to set up and develop your businesses, you have few options! Rentals basically require that you earn a minimum of three times the rent, and as a new business with no to tiny returns at this stage, it is out of the question. So I looked at extending my room stay. I was fortunate enough that my landlady was prepared to let me rent her apartment studio property for me and my dog, so I made this arrangement after about two weeks of being there, and arranged a contract with her for four months, from January. I had a place to stay! I arranged to leave my suitcase and travel light to return home, so I could bring the dog and more stuff back with me. So I now knew for sure I had about four months to make something work. If you don’t have a dog, you will have many, many more options. I recently was fortunate enough to be able to extend this again for a further four months, so I have another shot to get my businesses off the ground! I’m incredibly grateful for this.
8. I came home for Christmas.
Coming home for Christmas was important because, not only did I get to spend quality time with my family and get more of my stuff, but it made me realise, with a bit of difference and post-culture shock, how badly I wanted my life in Paris to work out. I’m not going to lie, moving away from all my friends and family was the hardest decision I have ever made, and in that first month I missed them all so much to the point of near depression, despite the excitement of life in my new home and in Paris! Being able to come back to see them after a month just helped with the transition. You might be wondering why I found it so hard, but this is because I moved to Paris without knowing a single soul, and I am a 30 something young woman! Making new friends under these circumstances is not an easy thing to do. Plus, I was well out of action socially after spending 7 years in intense undergrad and postgrad study which is incredibly isolating, and takes a long time to return from. The two weeks at home for Christmas and New Year flew by and were really important to me, but I was really excited to get back to my new home with the dog and start our new life together! You might be fortunate enough to be moving with someone, or already have friends in the city, in which case you will find the transition much easier I imagine! It got really exciting when I went back with the dog.
9. I turned my attention to experiencing local life…
Simply? Shopping for groceries, using the Laundromat, going to the local movies, travelling into Paris for business things and for breaks and trying to make friends. My frnech is still terrible I ain’t gonna lie. With all the best will in the world, it hasn’t improved as much as I had hoped, and it’s difficult yo! And I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to research and write, and exploring. Being that I’m trying to make a successful guided walking tour company work, exploring and familiarising myself with as much as I possibly can in and around Paris is a misnomer, basically. However, given my tiny budget, this has often been ridiculously hard to do. It’s difficult to experience as much as I would like, or really need to, when I allocate most of my non-rent money to food and essentials! But I can allow myself some treats, and getting to know more local people certainly has its benefits, particularly with finding out stuff you can do on the cheap! I also joined some MeetUp groups, and then created my own! I use it to practice my tours as I develop them, and improve and learn, and also to meet people! I’ve made a few friends from running the MeetUp group, which has been really exciting; after the solitude of doing my PhD for 4 years I’m actually experiencing a social life going to brunch and dinner parties and movies and on dates and stuff! Learning how to be me and enjoy living a happier life has been the most fulfilling aspect of this journey. That might well be exclusive to me, but I can’t fully express how much that means to me after some of the choices I have made in the past. Plus, my phone was stolen recently by some highly skilled street-thieves, which apparently means I am now full-Parisienne!
10. …and figured out how to (and how not to) make my businesses work.
OH MY GOODNESS the stress. Don’t get me wrong I never for a single second thought it would be easy. But there are days (almost all of them, to be fair!) when I really question if I have what it takes. I realised quite quickly that I needed a lot more money than I have to target the right places for advertising and promotion, so instead I’ve been facing a huge personal fear (rejection) to get out there at the landmarks like the Notre Dame and the Louvre gardens in central Paris, to hand out my business cards and leaflets in an attempt to drum up business the old-fashioned way. One thing I found that does not work and is a total waste of time and money, definitely for a tiny new company like me, is paying for facebook and instagram adverts and promotions; my advice here would be to spend the money on more leaflets and posters instead that people can actually see on site. Writing posts alone and doing online promotions and stuff is simply not enough on its own, and has proved to be very limited in potential website hits. I’m sure in time this will improve, though I am experiencing the usual problems of bookings that are not fulfilled, or that are cancelled at the last minute after I’ve spent time doing a LOT of research dammit!! Also being an independent, hotels, hostels and pubs are a lot less likely to take my flyers because they only tend to do deals and promotions with bigger and more established companies. But I fully intend to keep trying! I’ve been doing a lot of market research, and have basically compiled and am in the process of developing a massive range of exciting, unusual and high quality tours. So I’m fortunate enough to be able to do what I really love – learn and grow, and hopefully share that stuff with others!
For me? Who knows, I haven’t a clue! My businesses are only just beginning to get off the ground, thanks to the MeetUp group I’m actually getting some good practice in for my tours and earning a little bit of cash for doing them! It’s all donation based and now the weather is beautiful, they are becoming a little bit more successful. I had one private student in the Paris area, but just for a week to help with her A Level History revision. Because I’m not earning enough, I still can’t get a cheaper agency rental, and so I’ve been fortunate enough that I could, with the help of my family, continue my roomlala rental for a further four months. Considering how much I’ve given up so far, I think it’s worth staying to see how far I can get, even if I fail. One thing I’ve definitely learned is that the only point it really stops is when I decide it does, and that it is a really exciting journey of self-discovery and fear-facing figuring out all this stuff. Who Knows? I might miss the moon but land on a star! 🙂
*Featured image is of the Bears of the World exhibition along Champs du Mars behind the Eiffel Tower, from circa 2013! All images and words belong to site convenor and cannot be used without permission.*