Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Feature! The Gold & the Beautiful: Expats chime in on Paris being voted Best & Most Expensive Place to live

The French newspaper, Figaro, in conjunction with the "No Fucking Shit", "Figure That Out All By Yourself, Now Did You?" and "Captain Obvious" associations, has astutely declared that Paris is the most expensive place to live in the known universe.

Thanks for that amazing piece of investigative journalism. My socks = blown right off. If you figure out how babies are made or some other incredibly, earth-shattering breakthrough, please, keep me informed. Personally, I find Paris incredibly expensive, mostly because I come from Sticksville, USA and my rent was literally 1/10th of what I'm now paying for less space and no yard. Living in the city reminds me every day that I'm not in Madison anymore!

But there are those who take issue with my stance. They feel that Paris really isn't bad for a major international hotspot. From baguettes to brussel sprouts, everyone has their own take on what things cost, or rather, what they should cost.

The kicker is that Paris was also voted the best city to live in. (Again... shocking!!) Seems like the good life comes with a hefty price tag. I've asked some fellow bloggers & expat friends to donate their two cents.

I asked my girlfriends two questions:

1) What as the most ridiculously expensive thing you purchased in Paris that should've been cheap?

2) Paris was recently elected the "best place to live". Why do you think Paris is the best place in the world to live? Or do you think it should be some other place - if so where & why?

Here's what they said, thanks for your contributions ladies!! And don't forget to check out their lovely blogs, dear readers!

"Milk Rent" - Badaude (between the UK & Paris since 2006)

1) A cup of white coffee. In a cafe. Anywhere in the centre. Why do we have to pay a whole extra 2 Euros 50 for the splash of milk? In England, the milk's the cheap bit, the add-on. In Paris, a coffee with milk costs more than twice as much as the straight coffee. How does this add up? Are we paying Parisian rents to keep their organic cow in the apartment above the bar? Or is it that they're like, a cafe, so they're really unlikely to have milk just lying around in the kitchen and have to make a special journey to Franprix every time they're surprised by a customer requesting it. Or is it that they just know it'll take us more than twice the time to drink a crème rather than an espress and they're making us pay 'milk rent'? Yes, I think that's it...

2) Paris is the best place to live because you can hang around a cafe for about an hour drinking a really great crème which is better than anywhere else in the world.

PS - check out Badaude's amazing Art to accompany her post...

"They know how to enjoy life" - Lindsey T. (3yrs in Paris)
1) A coke/diet coke! When you've paid between 5 and 8€ for something that often costs $1.50-3, you know you're in Europe. Other than that, I'm always dumbfounded by the price of shoes. Take a pair of converse sneakers, for example. In the states, I paid $35 and in Paris they were asking between 50 and 60€! It's outrageous. I try to get all my shoes in the states because the prices are so exorbitant.

2) There is no contest for me about this. I love the tumultuous relationship I have with the French (of course they are not aware that such a relationship exists) - they're whiny, stinky-cheese loving wimps but they know how to enjoy life. Now, if they could just take the complaining down a notch, it'd be a utopia. The open markets, the never-ending choice of restaurants, and their unequivocal passion for art and culture make me feel like this is where I belong.

Anytime I feel down or homesick, I just smack myself and say "LOOK AT WHERE YOU'RE LIVING!" and then I come back down to earth.

"It's like a real love affair" - Rebecca Leffler (5.5yrs in Paris)

but I'll go with "a manicure"
or "walnuts" (seriously a bag of Trader Joe's walnuts to last you 12 years costs like $3 and here I pay like 8 euros for about 15 nuts in a bag)

2) It's the best and worst place to live all at once -- it's like a real love affair, one minute it's the greatest, most beautiful place on earth, and the next it feels like a horrid 3rd world country but dealing with the latter is worth it for all of the excitement of the former :)

"Queen of Free" - Sion Dayson (3.5yrs in Paris)

This is actually embarrassing in the reverse – I am a total cheapskate, so even though I’m in the fashion capital of the world with (apparently) amazing shopping (of all kinds), I don’t really, erm, shop.

Or if I do, it’s with the “bargain basement” goggles firmly in place. Back home, I was known as the “queen of free.”

That being said, Paris was recently voted the most expensive place in the world, so you don’t have to try too hard to spend too much. Just about every meal I have out in Paris gives me a heart attack (the bill, not the food – though sometimes the food’s so rich, I'm sure I’m building towards cardiac arrest in that sense, too). Oh, how I miss the cheap little ethnic restaurants of New York!

I also prefer not to calculate the cost per square foot of our apartment. Parisian apartments are tiny little things (often without such things as, say, stoves), yet the rent can reach to egregious proportions.

But you still want to know what I’ve splurged on, right? Ok, I spent an ENORMOUS amount of money on a new mattress. I can’t even fess up to how much. Both my mother and sister almost choked when I told them the price.

In my defense it was right after I got married. I think an incredible bed was a good investment :)

2) I was at first surprised that Paris was named the best place to live. The locals have taught me their treasured pastime : complaining. There’s a whole host of things wrong here! I say.

The surprise started to wear off the more I thought about it, though. If it weren’t for the bureaucracy (and ok, at times, the Parisians), I could go along with it. As a SAD-sufferer, though, I ask Paris to really do something about its perennial gray skies.

Still: fresh bread, outdoor markets, hot chocolate, easy travel, great health care, beauty everywhere. I am a lucky girl.

(I do need, however, to put in a plug for the love of my life, New York. I miss the energy, diversity, and dynamism of the city. Paris can’t compete on those fronts.

Also, I’m not sure I’d turn down the opportunity to live in sunny Portugal or Spain. I still dream of a more hospitable climate – and a language I can speak without being laughed out of the room).

"Easier to explore" - I Heart Paris (6yrs in Paris)

1) Probably something on import that only foreigners with a dire craving would buy, like marmite or Heinz Baked Beans. And when you have a serious craving for marmite on toast, they know you'll be prepared to pay 5 times over the odds for it. But ouch, €4 for 10ml of yeast extract...

2) for me it's because, for a capital city, Paris is pretty small and so it's much easier to explore than say London, and (contrary to erroneous reports in The Economist) I think it's actually pretty cheap - certainly a lot cheaper than London, particularly re. eating and public transport.... the small size and the cheaper cost of living, whilst still being one of the most happening capital cities in the whole wide world, for me = better quality of life....

"I miss me some tar-get!" - Margo B.
1) 500 euros for crappy curtains!!! seriously, if it's going to cost that much they should at least not be see through. but of course, to have the added layer of fabric would've more than doubled the price. the worst part: everyone french thinks this is a reasonable price. I miss me some tar-get!

2) b/c louis lives here!!! awwww... so cheese!

"a whole lotta mark-up!" - Ashleigh T. (10yrs in Paris)

1)Prime example is anything American. Like a box of Mac & Cheese for 4€; or american brunch for 17€...Compared with .40c and 3.50$ back home, that's a whole lotta mark-up!!! Also, rent = expensive; cab rides = expensive; food = expensive; drinks at a bar = expensive, you get my drift? I would argue that the only reasonably priced thing here is the wine! At least that helps us forget how much we're paying for the rest!

2) Did the people who voted actually LIVE here? It may be the most beautiful place to live, but the best overall, I highly doubt it! Don't get me wrong, I do love it or I wouldn't stay...But when every time you leave the city you are shocked to see smiling people who are hospitable and even nice...Well, that doesn't say much for the general mood in Paris!

"an endless source of entertainment" - Forest Collins (7yrs in Paris)
1) This one is close to my heart: cocktails. Compared to New York & London - two of the most influential and expensive cocktail cities - you’re hard-pressed here to find drinks of the same quality for the same prices. In fact, pretty much anything you imbibe is more expensive here: coffees in popular cafes, soda, tea. Anything liquid…except wine. And, really, you kind of have to love a city where a glass of wine is cheaper than a coke!

2) I find it interesting that Paris was elected ‘best place to live.’ I love Paris and the idea that there is always something new to find and explore – it’s an endless source of entertainment and discovery. For a big cosmopolitan city it’s easy to navigate on foot, bike or metro and pretty damn gorgeous to look at as well. But, Paris seems a bit staid to me sometimes – I think there are other large cosmopolitan cities that are a lot more vibrant and creative (again: New York, London). I’m not saying I’d rather live in those cities, I’m just saying I think ‘best place to live’ is a pretty subjective thing. Definitely depends on each individual’s criteria.

"Just walking down the street is dreamlike" - Eve J. (2.5 yrs in Paris)
1) Everything! But it's the price of coffee, tea and beer that annoys me the most (no prizes for guessing where I'm from ;-)) I once paid 10 euros for a pint and 5 euros for a cup of tea is the average!

2) It's best because....It's like living in a film - just walking down the street is dreamlike as it's so incredibly beautiful. Plus the food is amazing.

Worst - waking up from the dream with a bump by rude parisians shouting at you and looking you up and down!


  1. Ok, you are just FUNNY!! Thanks for the laugh :) After dealing with a bunch of idiot savant masons on our Grange renovation here in la campagne I needed to hear other people whinge ;) We've been here 11yrs, 10 of which were full time in Paris, now we're part time (studio) and the rest of the time in the country in the house we bought. I have to say, there are things we miss about Paris (which is why we have the studio) but suffice it to say we don't miss what we have now gained in the country--actual friendly French neighbours and citoyens, space, fresh air, cheap fresh food & beverage products of every talk to me about sushi withdrawal & that's a different story! Glad to have found your blog! :)

  2. LOL! Loved this post! Its lovely to see everyone's take on Paris. Don't personally live in Paris (am in Lyon) but find France expensive for many things compared to the UK although you can live quite cheaply here if you play your cards right. I wasn't in London in the UK, I think London is apart and that if you compare capitals surely London is more expensive than Paris?

    Anyway, I don't know but I really enjoyed reading your post and everyone's comments (and thanks for helping me discover all those other blogs!!).

  3. Hi! I came here via Sion's blog, but oh! There is PigletinFrance, too! Yay! I am in good company. What an awesome blog. So much truth in it.

    I freaked the other day when in Monoprix I saw the same L'Oreal lipstick I had gotten for about 7 dollars in Target in the States last summer was 17 € 90!! Yikes. I was thinking about getting a new color, but nope. Not here. It'll have to wait until I make another trip back and can go to a Wal-Mart or Target, lol.

    I'm with Piglet, I'm glad to have found this and a lot of other great blogs as a result. Thanks!

  4. @M-J: Fanks! Glad you enjoyed. Diggin' yours too! Sushi-less? Why don't you make your own? I do it w/ Ashleigh on a monthly basis lately. Sure, they kind of look like ass, but It's super easy & fun, and you get exactly what you want. I <3 it.

    @Piglet: I know! Fun right? Why didn't I do this sooner? Long live the Friday Feature! Giving a voice to the masses of expats who want to moan about shit.

    @Karin: OMG. Lipstick = VOLE. Don't get me started on mascara. IN.SANE. I'm with Margo, I miss tar-zjay largetime. I literally stock up makeup for the YEAR when I go home. Cheap? Yes. Do I care? Not at all. More € for sushi & cocktails.

  5. What's this about my sushi looking like ass???

  6. Ash, you know I love you girl, but our sushi is not attractive. It does not put stock in appearance. But... damn is it good.

  7. Wow! Ladies, is make up really that cheap over the Atlantic? Lucky you, its expensive in Britland as well (as are all trainers, jeans etc) so prices here seem normal... Perfume, wine and cigarettes are all cheaper here as is a good meal out in a restaurant compared to where I hail from but the US must be really really cheap?

  8. Maybelline Great Lash Mascara @ Target, $4.49. No kidding.

    I think it was over 10€ when I priced some in a Carrefour in Antibes. Oh, the almost MIL is coming in April! I should have her bring a couple of tubes. Hmmmm, I smell a small business brewing, lol. Contraband Maybelline "Importer." LOL. ;-)

    Cheap makeup is the shizz. Some stuff is really, really stupid in the States, but cheap makeup is not. More €€€ for sushi and cocktails: here, here!


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