Paris has always been a home to tens of thousands of US citizens (around 15K currently). Having published a post on genuine reasons to move to Paris, we thought it may be interesting to deeply understand what brings people and Americans, in particular, to Paris. In this post we’ll try to profoundly analyze the American communities that you’d find in the city of Light.
Basically, there are five categories (or communities - call them what you wish) of Americans in Paris. They easily recognize each other, but don’t mix as much as one would expect. What are the profiles of these “Americans in Paris?”
Here’s how we’ve categorized them. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below with your thoughts:
1. High-Class American Expatriates (Diplomats)
These are high-class expats; they range from embassy officials to US major media correspondents. They stay in Paris for an average of 3 to 5 years. These people have a very good and high knowledge of the French language and they use it basically for work or shopping.
Do they have French friends? Well, not really. They have French colleagues (within their offices at the embassy or French institutions-ministries, think tanks, etc).
Their kids go to American schools, they read the US press, watch CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, and are not big fans of FOX News (though they’d watch it from time to time).
They are religious believers and attend services at the American Cathedral or the American Church in Paris, and they love having an after work drink at the Ritz Hotel.
In this category of high-class American expatriates, you’d also find those that are assigned to Paris, in between similar assignments in Harare and London. These expats don’t speak a single word of French (well, maybe Bonjour, Bonsoir, and Au revoir). They live amongst themselves in a US compound, buy their groceries in the embassy shop, and when they retire, they won’t have a single memory of Paris.
2. American Expats that stay for a short period.
These are the ones in Paris for a very short length of time. What’s their profile? Students and young professionals sent to Paris for a year or two. These are my favorites.
They merge a lot with the French, expat communities, and other Americans. They are on a mission: enjoying each and every moment they’ll spend in Paris because they know it won’t last forever.
So, what do they do? They take French lessons, they eat nice French food, and they travel within France and Europe. And how does one meet them? You’d meet many at our events.
Another interesting fact that characterizes these people is that they always stay attached to Paris even when they’ve left. Ever read those comments on blogs or forums? I like it when I see something like, “…when I used to live in Paris…” They love France and enjoy visiting before finding a way to get another long term visa.
3. Permanent American Expats.
These are permanent expatriates. Yes, this group came over for love (one of the perfectly genuine reasons to move to Paris). They are people who married natives of France.
What’s their profile?
They graduated from world’s best American universities but, when they got here, they couldn’t necessarily find their dream jobs.
So, what happens is, they start teaching English as a second language in French schools or get translation jobs in French companies.
They respect the French people and are always doing their best to get integrated into the French society.
They view the French in a positive and happy light.
Their number one aim is integration.
This goes for reading the French press to watching local TV channels to traveling to places and villages that you’ve never heard of.
Yes, these people love France and they make every effort to learn more about its institutions, former and current leaders, and trends in almost every sector of the economy.
They understand the country better than any other category we are mentioning in this post.
What is their political affiliation?
Mostly democrats, they attend services at the American Church in Paris and don’t always mix with the others (diplomats, long or short-term expatriates).
It’s in this category that you’d find the largest subset considering renouncing their US citizenship.
For them, France is their home.
4. Second Home Owners.
There are thousands of them. They have a résidence secondaire (second home in Paris).
Who are these people?
Well, they don’t necessarily reside in France, but spend a few weeks or sometimes a few months every year in Paris.
What’s their profile?
Bankers, academics, former diplomats residing in Switzerland, etc.
They rarely mix with the other Americans.
They have their own longtime French friends and whenever they’re here, it’s for conferences or just to take advantage of the artistically creative breath Paris provides.
Where do you find them?
Well, everywhere. Mostly in the Marais, around Avenue Foch, Montmartre, or in the Invalides neighborhood.
5. Long Term American Expats.
In this category, we have long-term American expats, mainly lawyers and bankers. Some of them have been here for more than two decades. Their French is pretty fluent, they hang out with French people, they are members of community organizations, and they sing in different choirs at the American Cathedral or the American Church in Paris. You’d find most of them in 7th arrondissement.
Many are members of the Republican Party abroad. They live like locals (going to the Sunday market in their neighborhoods, taking the public transport), though they prefer hanging out amongst themselves.
Like the first category of diplomats, this group lives in France with the French as a backdrop.
In which category do you think the following type of person belongs?
They want to live in Paris but don’t have a substantial reason to be issued a long stay visa.
So, what do they do?
They rent an apartment in Paris and keep on traveling back and forth between the states and France. They boast about how they live between Paris and Los Angeles, New York, or any other big US city.
They’d love to live here full time, but can’t.
So they live on a tourist or French Language student visa.
Over to you!
Do you recognize yourself or someone else in one of the above-mentioned categories? Have we missed a category that you've seen around Paris that should have been included? Please share with us your thoughts about this in the comments below. We'd love to hear about your experiences as an expat and which group you call your own!
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