You’ve heard the songs, seen the movies and drooled over the Eiffel Tower. Now you're an expat, you’re in Paris and anxious to be “one of them.” Perhaps you envision a Parisian as someone who sits in a café with a demi-tasse, a baguette and a small plate of cheese. Will there be wine, afterward? You wouldn’t be too far off the mark, but let’s take away the fairytale and look at the things consumed by the everyday Paris dweller.
Is there anything more French than the baguette? Parisians consume millions of them every year, and you can practically find a bakery on every street corner to indulge your craving. This long, slim loaf is revered for its taste and shape, and there’s even a competition among bakers for the best baguette in Paris.
There’s a law where the traditional French baguette can only be made with flour, water, yeast or raising agent and salt. Few deviations are allowed, and preservatives are not. Typically, you can spend anywhere from 0.90 euros and up for a baguette, depending on whether you buy it from a bakery or a supermarket.
Parisians are avid users of public transit. Sure, they drive, but in a city where options abound from trains to buses, taxis, bicycles or simply going on foot, it’s easy enough to save on gas and just go with the flow.
To ride the bus, it will cost around 1.70 to 1.80 euros, or you can buy a book of 10 tickets for adults at a nice discount. If you ride the train daily, a monthly pass for the Metro is the way to go and gives you the best deal for your money. It costs around 70 euros.
Bicycles are very popular in France, and the options for rentals and daily usage are varied and easy on your pocket. Velib: http://en.velib.paris.fr/ has hundreds of stations throughout the city, available 24/7. You can purchase a daily ticket or an annual subscription for unlimited access. Cost for a day ticket is 1.70 euros. A year’s subscription starts at 19 euros. Other comparable bicycle sources are Freescoot and Gepetto et Vélos. Soon you’ll be on your bicycle, a baguette, vegetables and wine in your basket as you pedal your way to a friend’s party ten blocks down the road.
A taxi, according to the time of day, within the city limits can be anywhere from 1 to 2 euros per kilometer. Taxi stands are everywhere, but there may not always be one waiting. You can book a taxi in advance through G7, Taxis Bleus or other companies (meter starts running as soon as you book the ride). Uber is also an option, though hotly contested by the locals.
Walking is one of the best ways to get to know Paris, and guess what? It’s free! Unless you’re in a hurry, this is the best way to take in the sights, find nifty shortcuts and learn more about your new neighborhood. You can dress to impress and share your newfound sense of Parisian style while you’re at it.
3. Mobile phone
Life would be meaningless without a mobile phone, yes? At least, that’s the way I feel sometimes. What would I do without immediate access to, well, everything? The French are just as obsessed with their phones as the rest of the world. There are many options available to Parisians, similar to the U.S. and other countries.
A local can get a mobile phone with or without a contract. If with a contract, it’s usually from 12 to 24 months, and the offer comes with a new phone at a reduced price and a monthly fee, depending on unlimited data plans, and other options. Main providers include: Orange, SFR and Free. Prices can be as low as 19.99 euros a month.
A useful resource for comparing mobile phone subscriptions is Edcom. Click on there for a sample of price comparisons with unlimited SMS. Mobile phones without contracts are typically bought at cost, no discounts included.
The main providers that have cheap plans include Série Red, Sosh, Free and Virgin Mobile.
Prepaid offers mean you pay as you go, no subscription needed. Credit is purchased over the phone or from a cashier in a store designated as a seller of prepaid phone credit.
4. Cable TV & internet
In France, there is an annual mandatory tax for a TV license. It costs 125 euros, one per household. The license funds services provided by Radio France and France Télévisions. It is collected as part of local taxes.
Free channels include TF1 (the most watched network), France 2, France 3, France 5, and M6. You can purchase cable or satellite service for a broader selection. A list of programming can be found in 20 Minutes and A Nous Paris.
The largest provider for Cable TV is Numericable. The kinds of offers available can be seen here, beginning at 24.99 euros.
If a Parisian is interested in English-language programming, then Satellite TV seems to be the best choice. Depending on offers during promotions, fees may either be waived or could cost up to 150 euros for installation. Monthly payments start at 20 euros per month. CanalSat is the main provider.
Internet service is usually bundled with either cable or satellite TV service and a phone line. The cost starts at around 31.99 euros per month. Providers include Orange, Free, SFR and Bouygues Telecom.
Internet cafes are everywhere in Paris. It is typically 3 euros per hour or so. Locations include Milk Internet, Les Halles and Saint-Michel, to name a few. Here’s a useful list of Internet cafes in Paris.
WiFi (pronounced “weefee”)
Image by arkangel courtesy of Que Faire à Paris
Many hotspots can be found in Paris, including libraries, museums and parks. Some are free, some aren’t. I love free stuff, and I suspect you do, too. It’s easy enough to find such an option, but bear in mind, it’s polite to at least buy something from the place where you’re typing away on your soon-to-be-trendy blog. Hippocketwifi.com may also be a competitive alternative for internet needs at 30 euros a month if you have a plan for over 6 months. Information about free hotspots may be found here.
Parisians adore coffee, especially an espresso while sitting in a café, working on a laptop using “weefee”. You can spend ridiculous amounts of money at a pretentious location, for the sake of the ambience and clientele and people-watching—wait, was that Juliette Binoche? Or you can search around a bit and get an espresso that tastes just as good for about 1 euro by using this handy map. Paris by Mouth has a “decent” coffee guide. Lindsey of Lost in Cheeseland gives addresses of where to drink specialty coffee in Paris. Here’s her post.
Water is a precious commodity in France. There’s even a law concerning getting water for free with a meal at restaurants. It’s common in a parisian restaurant to hear the expression “une carafe d’eau s’il vous plait”. This implies “free water”.
Still, many Parisians use bottled water, or a filter such as Brita to purify it. In fact, you may find that many restaurants and cafés “up-sell” bottled water or mineral water in order to make money, so they say. There are also public drinking Wallace fountains in Paris. A packet of 6 bottles of water, 0.5 litres each costs at least 1 euro at the grocery store. Water is a right in France. Water flows freely from the Seine from our taps into our homes and apartments. Here’s what David Lebovitz wrote about it back in 2013.
7. Patisserie (Pastry, Dessert)
What’s better with your espresso, hot chocolate or glass of wine? Pastry, of course! Patisserie is a French art and world-renown. You can find the pastry you want at any level of creation from the grocery store and the bakery down the street to haute patisserie. Prices vary, naturally, depending on what you are buying, and from whom.
Expect to spend a little over 7 euros for an éclair or tarte at a place like Pierre Hermé. Whatever the price, though, it’s absolutely worth it. Hmm, now I’m hungry.
8. A Glass (or two) of Wine
Wine is practically a French pastime. Whether you buy it by the glass or bottle, the options are plentiful. Wine can be purchased at the supermarket (the cheapest place to get wine) 7.90 euros for a bottle. Another option is the wine store, which is a little bit more expensive than the supermarket. Small corner markets called L'epicerie can also be used for wine necessities. They are open late, too. But the prices there tend to be double that of the supermarket. I guess it depends on how much of an aficionado you are, or how desperate.
Media in France is pretty much like everywhere else. There are local newspapers on the street, online sources, broadcast stations and twenty-four-hour news casting from which you can get your news fix. One source of news that is not only revered by the French but much of the world, is France 24. It has three TV channels which broadcast in French, English and Arabic. The mission is to provide “a global public service and a common editorial stance.” It is available via cable, satellite, ADSL, on mobile phones, tablets and connected TVs. Other popular sources of media include Euronews, TF1, France Télévisions, Radio France Internationale and TV5.
10. Parks, Gardens & Cemeteries
Paris has a lot of parks. I mean, a lot. You practically trip over them as you move through the city. Many are free and hold fascinating attractions. Others have a fee to see something specific. For example, in the Jardin des Plantes, the Alpine garden and Jardin des Plantes are free, but the Ménageries is between 6 and 8 euros per person. There are many free parks to choose from, including The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, located in the 19th arrondissement. Walking through the park itself is a dream, and it has spectacular views of the city at night. Another park of note is The Bois de Vincennes, also, free and Paris’s biggest park. It also has the Cartoucherie theatre complex. The Jardins des Tuileries has a chic promenade and beautiful sculptures, all for free. You could get lost in the variety of outdoor experiences available in Paris. Perhaps you’ll meet someone new while you explore.
Museums are beloved in France. Many of them in Paris offer free or reduced admissions, at least on certain days or at special times of the month. Otherwise, it’s best to purchase a Paris Museum Pass to the many (more than 60) museums in and around Paris. The price: 48 euros for a two-day pass, 62 euros for a four-day pass, 74 euros for a six-day pass. For more information, including a full list of museums covered by the pass, go to Paris Museum Pass.
Movies, concerts, festivals. The options for entertainment are endless here and the locals love them all. If you like concerts, there are any number to choose from, ranging from free to 90 euros or so in cost, depending on the act, per person. Check out lylo.fr for a Paris concert guide (and some are free).
Going to the Theatre will cost anywhere from 13 to 41 euros depending on age and the show being seen. You can see a reasonably priced show at the Comedie Francaise, or the Comedie des Boulevard.
The best options for movies, if you’re a fanatic, I mean, avid moviegoer, is to get a membership. For 20 euros a month you can see any film you like at the cinema. Allocine.fr gives you a list of what is currently playing. Art films are popular here, too, and you can get your fill at the Grand Action, Filmothèque du Quartier Latin or the Cinématheque Française.
13. Electricity & Gas
As for utilities, a Parisian can spend up to 200 euros each month. It roughly breaks down into Internet at 30 euros; cell phone calls/data per minute at 0.18 euros; electricity, water and trash pickup at around 110 euros. For 2 people living in a 85m2 flat, it could be as little of 153 euros per month.
Now, after reading all this, are you ready to be a Parisian?
Image Sources: Pixabay, Google Images, Unsplash
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