Subject: Re: Maybe moving to Paris in three months - Help

I had a similar, but not exactly the same, experience with my employer in 1997. After much effort to position myself for an overseas opportunity, I was tapped to go to Paris for a four month project. However, because this was not a formal overseas tour-of- duty (as your situation appears to be), I was not able to tap into the support system that my employer had set up for expats on assignment in Paris. So I was on my own for finding a place to live and assistance with basic day-to-day living questions.

The accounting guys gave me a budget of 12,000 francs/month for rent and utilities which I was easily able to stay within. Through the resources available at the American Church in the 7th arr near the Eiffel Tower, I found a real estate agent to help me find a place. My office was at La Defense so I decided that it was practical to live in the city itself. I ended up renting a furnished 50 sq meter apartment in the 7th arrondissement for 8500 fr/month. I also paid for cable tv, phone and electricity and did not come close to breaking the budget.. It worked out amazingly well, especially given that I spoke almost no French.

Now for my lessons learned:

1) It may be hard to establish a bank account before you have an address, but see if Nestle can help you do this as my employer did. Having a bank account makes a lot of subsequent set-up activities go more smoothly. Every utility wanted to know my bank account number when I signed up for service. Also, have your local contact explain how to fill out a check. I found it to be slightly different than what I was used to. 2) If you rent, make sure that an attorney from Nestle reviews the lease which will probably be in French. There were not any traps in my lease, but I felt better when I found someone who could translate each clause so that I knew what I was signing. 3) If you rent, document in writing every nick and chip and other imperfection in the place while you and the landlord are walking through. Document the furnishings in each room. Take digital photos if possible. When I moved out, I paid 500 francs for damage to something that I thought was broken when I moved in. But I had no way to prove it. 4) My place was not air conditioned. By July, it became uncomfortably hot even with fans and open windows. A/c would have been very nice! 5) I never did quite understand the payment system for cable tv, telephone and electricity. I just wrote checks but I think the preferred method involved directly taking the money out of my bank account. And the post office was somehow also involved in the process. Again as with all adventures in living in a foreign country, not good or bad. Just different. 6) Be aware that there is no flat rate for telephone service. Even for local calls, you pay by-the-minute. Those internet sessions on a dial up modem can add up quickly. 7) Check the water pressure and test the air conditioning or heat at all prospective domiciles to see that they meet your expectations. 8) Make sure someone teaches you how to use all the appliances. Washers and dryers can be particularly mysterious. 9) I found room for all of my stuff because I did not have much with me but I found closet space to be especially lacking. 10) I made sure to avoid living on a major street. I also stayed cleared of places that were next to or near a Metro station. Traffic and noise start early. 11) Prepare for strikes among all possible workers. I kept a journal of work stoppages. There was almost one per week - train conductors, museum workers, hospital workers, truck drivers, etc. I read the International Herald Tribune and leveraged the helpfulness our department secretary to learn about these in advance when possible. Of course, whatever inconvenience you experience is all part of the adventure. 12) My time in Paris was among the most memorable experiences I have ever had. I say Go For It!

Bon voyage!

Mark Los Angeles