Well. I’m wrapping up my first week here in Paris, and it has certainly been full of adventures.
My housing situation: I was initially staying with a friend in her cozy apartment, but then I got my own apartment for the short-term. I have this teeny tiny apartment for 3 weeks, by which time I should have a permanent place. The apartment is in a fantastic location, and it’s 16 square meters (that’s just over 170 square feet). Even though it’s tiny, it has everything I need, and the small space is used very well. The apartment is in a 16th century building, and it belongs to a very nice Frenchman who now lives in the suburbs in a house with a garden. Another cool thing about the apartment is that it has a Murphy bed, which I’d never slept on before. It has a tiny but well-equipped kitchen and a bathroom. The closet is like magic: the door opens out twice so that there is additional storage in the door of the closet. This is hard to explain; I’ll post a picture if I get around to it. The major downside of this wonderful little pied-à-terre is that it has no internet (hence the dearth of posts). I’ve sort of unpacked, and some of my stuff is still at my friend’s apartment. I hate limbo. I just want to start getting settled in already.
My school: I went to my school for the first time on Monday. It was fine. It was my first brush with the French bureaucracy, and it involved a lot of waiting around. Fortunately, I brought a book. Also, all the waiting around was not alone, and I ended up meeting some people and making a French friend! Hooray! We all had to wait a really long time to meet with the woman in charge of enrollment, and once I finally did meet with her, I went to get my student ID card and enroll in social security. Once I got my card, I quickly realized that it was incorrect. I went back upstairs to the enrollment woman’s office, but she wasn’t there. I was told that I could wait until she returned, so I got out my book again. A few other people were waiting as well. We waited for an hour and a half, and eventually someone told us that the enrollment woman was gone for the day. Great. So I went back today and took care of it.
Getting Situated: Today I tried to get a “NaviGo” metro pass (the Paris equivalent of a SmarTrip card, for you Washingtonians). I waited for about 30 minutes until someone told me I need proof of residence. Oops. So I guess I’ll have to wait until I’ve signed a lease to get my NaviGo.
Speaking of lease-signing, apartment hunting is equally bad here as it is in the US. As you can tell from the description of my temporary apartment above, the apartments are teensy tiny here. That’s fine with me; I don’t need much space. Also, many landlords require renters to have a French guarantor. This is so that if you don’t pay rent, they can get the guarantor’s money. If the guarantor’s money or property isn’t in France, they can’t get it and therefore aren’t interested. This rules out a lot of apartments up front. My friend advised that I offer to pay more upfront toward my last month’s rent. This has proven successful. People seem more interested (but now I’ll have a higher cost up-front). I also wasn’t expecting the huge deposits involved. Most places charge 2 month’s rent as a security deposit for furnished apartments. If you use an agency, they’ll charge you a month’s rent plus taxes as a finder’s fee (you’ll never see that money again). Once you find a place, you submit a dossier proving that you have money and can indeed pay rent. If they select you, you can sign the lease and you have an apartment! Unfortunately, there are usually a lot of other applicants, so it’s never a sure thing until you have the lease. I’ve submitted some dossiers, so we’ll see if anything comes of it.
That’s about it for now. I still haven’t gotten a bank account, so I still don’t have a cell phone. I’ll have to get going on that. I begin an intensive French language class on Thursday, so that should help. I’ve been getting around fine with my French, but it will be good to brush up so I don’t make so many mistakes. I can usually make myself understood, but I sound like an idiot frequently.
More to follow!
New words: le panier (the basket), les courgettes (zucchini), l’espèce (cash and coin, as opposed to card), dépôt de garantie (security deposit)