I left the North East of England when I was 18 to head down to Cambridge to university. After completing my degree, I wasn’t ready to settle down to a 9-5 job in London or another British city, so thought I’d brush up on my A-level French and spend a year in Paris. 20 years later, I’m still brushing up on my French in Paris!
After working as a language assistant in a French high school for the first year (a great scheme you can apply for before leaving university that allows you to travel and work abroad for a year), I didn’t feel I’d made the most of Paris yet, so decided to stay an extra year and temp. I was lucky enough to get some cool work temping – the first job was for the company that organised all the TV for the 1998 world cup football (free tickets and all) and the second was as an assistant to a senior partner in a top law firm working on some really quite exciting deals. Both jobs were fun and challenging and paid me quite good wages that allowed me to comfortably live another year in Paris.
Accommodation abroad, however, was not what I expected. From having been a student in the UK, I thought flat sharing would be the best bet in Paris, but this is not how young people manage in this city. I did find a couple of flat sharing opportunities (first off with an 18 year old French girl who’s mother decided to move out of their family home to give her space, and secondly with a random bunch of guys), but after two years of trying to find what you get in England (a cool bunch of people your own age at a similar moment in their lives as you) I realised it wasn’t going to happen so I should bite the bullet and do as the French do: I moved into a teeny weeny little garret flat up in the Paris rooftops on my own. It was my first experience living on my own, and although it felt scary at first, I soon delighted in the freedom and loved the romance of looking over the Paris skyline at night while sipping a cheap glass of wine and listening to some jazz music. The low ceiling added to the romance of the place (although my dad never got used to it and always went home with a bump on his head after a visit) and I became a dab hand at cooking in the miniscule “American kitchen” as the French so charmingly describe a corner of the bedroom with a fridge, small hob and sink in it…
After moving into this first flat in the Marais, I also realised I wasn’t leaving any time soon. I’d started a job in the line of work that really interested me (film production) and was just beginning a new relationship. Paris was going to be my home for the next couple of years at least.
And here I am almost twenty years later. I run my own little French production company making short films and hopefully a feature one day. I own a one bedroom flat in the North-Eastern corner of Paris, looking over a beautiful park, and I’m expecting my first child who will be a little French-English girl…
I still like the idea of flat sharing – although space is restricted in Paris. I’ll of course soon be “sharing” with my daughter and partner but I also rent out my flat when I travel on airbnb. I rent out my flat so as to make a little money while I’m away, but I do also like the idea of having guests from around the world enjoying the view I love so much and getting to know my groovy off-the-beaten-track neighbourhood. Oh and they also have to “share” my flat: with Plume, my friendly cat!
So if you’re planning a year off somewhere, beware of life taking over and finding yourself settling abroad and never looking back!