Paris in the spring is beautiful. Paris in the fall is breathtaking. Paris in the winter is hauntingly glamorous. Paris in the summer is hell.
People are quick to tell you how amazing Paris is – but heed my warnings about the Parisian summer. Although Paris has many great things to offer in the summer – plages, tourist traps, swimming pools, art events, etc. – I am not here to talk about that, since plenty of other Parisian/expat blogs have done a fabulous job of it. Instead, here are some of the worst things about living in Paris in the summer.
- Air Conditioning is Rare – Air conditioning can only be found in Starbucks, movie theatres, and shopping centers. No apartments have it, most restaurants don’t, and even daycares go without AC. If you ask a Parisian why, they’ll say that it’s not worth it for the short amount of hot days, or that the windows in Paris don’t work well with AC units. If you ask me, I’d say nothing because I’m too busy drowning in my own sweat.
- Most Au Pairs are Gone – I was (and still am) the only au pair in my language class. Most au pairs don’t start work until September, so summer can be a hard time to make friends as an au pair.
- You Might Not Find Bread – One day I went outside with the sole purpose of buying bread, only to find that the bakery on the corner was closed – for a month! The other bakery was closed for the day, so I had to buy a strange generic baguette from the supermarket. This also happens with fruit stands, mini markets, restaurants, and even the corner Tabac.
- The Metro is Murder – Did I mention that most metro cars don’t have air conditioning? Only the very new metro cars have AC, and if you’re on a metro without, the only breeze you’ll get is through the tiny windows that are barely cracked open.
- 1 is a Lonely Number – Beyond all of this, the end of July and almost the entire month of August is when Paris becomes a ghost town. The old people you usually see walking their dogs are gone – no, not dead, just away in their country mansions to enjoy the breeze of whatever quaint town they’ve visited since birth.
- Less Events – This is only true for events that happen year round – including pretty much everything I want to attend. This can include theatre shows, cultural events, and even classes or workshops.
- Language Class is Lacking – Did I mention that many language schools don’t operate in the summer? I only had the choice of a few schools, and the one I ended up picking was obviously only open in the summer to make money, money, money.
To sum it up, Paris is generally hot, empty, and frustrating in the summer. If you want an outsider’s opinion, my friend Hannah visited and said she would never visit Paris in August again, mainly for the reasons above. Now this isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed my time in Paris – I love it here! I just wish to inform the public of the struggles involved with Parisian summers. I am counting the days until I can wear a scarf and cuddle a Frenchman next to a fireplace (I can dream, right?).
I’m scared y’all. In fact, I’m terrified. A week from now I’m moving to a country I’ve never visited (France, for those who haven’t been following my au pair adventure) to live in a city where I have almost no friends. I’m putting my life in two suitcases and leaving the only country I’ve ever known to go on a crazy adventure. And although I’m excited to move abroad and live my expat dream, I’m also really afraid.
I’m afraid that I won’t make friends and the family I’m au pairing for won’t like me. I’m afraid I’ll say something horrible in French and embarrass myself out of the country, making me a nomad with no home. I’m afraid the stylish skinny people will turn up their nose at my frumpy frame and trying too hard outfits. I’m scared that I’ll be alone in the city of love. I’m scared because I’ve never been out of America, no matter how cool and cultured I try to be. I’m scared I’ll lose my friends back home and everything will be different when I return.
I’m terrified of change.
But what I’m more afraid of is never doing anything. I’m terrified of never doing anything and never going anywhere. I’m afraid of sitting on my laptop for the rest of my life watching other people accomplish what I dream of. I’m scared of staying in my comfort zone and missing out on adventures and relationships. I’m afraid of living a stagnant life.
So I’m leaving my safe comfort zone and heading out with the digital nomads and American expats worldwide. I’m going to live so that I don’t have to ask what if. I’m going to follow my dream and go on an adventure that will change my life. I’m moving abroad – because I’m terrified.
So here goes nothing. Follow me on my au pair experience in Paris and see where it takes me.
Spoiler alert from Celina in the future: All roads lead back to Paris 😉
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I don’t usually do “how to” posts, but I have seen a definite lack of useful how to posts regarding au pairing (specifically in Paris). Obviously I don’t know everything, but hopefully this will help make your search easier. Here’s what I’ve learned since starting my search a few days after Christmas to saying yes to my family on January 10th.
- Either pick an agency of your choice or join aupairworld.com. You don’t need any other sites. I wasted my time joining probably 6 other sites, none of which were necessary or led to any results other than spam emails. I didn’t use an agency, but Au Pair Paris seems to have good reviews if you’re looking to go with an agency, which I think is unnecessary unless you really want to use an agency. Aupairworld.com is free (to the au pair) and amazing.
- Put ALL of your experience on your profile; babysitting. retail jobs, language skills, hobbies/talents, education, certifications, etc. Make it easily accessible to the family.
- Add good quality photos. No selfies. Use a school photo or headshot. Add pictures of you with the children you have babysat. Add photos of you and your family.
- Be specific with location. If you want to work in Paris, put that on your profile. The suburbs can be nice, but the Paris metro closes at night, and if you end up living an hour subway trip away, that could mean you leaving the city at 10pm on your night off.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to families first. Make a basic first message and personalize it a bit for each family.
- Know your profile weaknesses. If you’re under 21, not from the EU, and can’t drive, your options may be slightly more limited (from my experience). Play up your strengths. Also utilize the search option under the “for au pairs” tab – it allows you to search by country without limiting families by driving requirement, age requirement, and date/length of stay. If you are about to turn 20, use this search to find people looking for a 20 year old, as they currently can’t see your profile.
- Don’t get discouraged. I got a lot of rejections and few positive messages. It all depends on when you’re searching, when you’re available, etc.
- DO NOT GIVE UP. I am a very impatient person and was quick to get discouraged after a few days without responses. Just be patient, I promise someone will message you!
- After messaging with families, SKYPE! This is how you make sure they are, in fact, real people. You can also see how you click with the parents and children. Treat this like a job interview; fix your hair, wear a nice shirt, make sure your room is clean, wear pearls. That last one is optional, but I actually wore pearls when Skyping with my family, and I think they appreciated that I took care with my appearance. Families in Paris want to make sure their au pair is not only classy, but that they will be able to fit in in Paris.
- Continue messaging families no matter how your Skype conversation went. Keep your options open and get your mind off the perfect (or maybe not-so-perfect) family you Skyped with. Skype with some other families if you so desire.
- Send the family(familes) with whom you Skype your references. It’ll show that you have chutzpah.
- Skype again. Yep, Skype again before/when you say yes.
- Skype while you work out contract details. Make sure you read the entire contract and both parties are aware of everything.
- Get to work on your visa! I might write another post about the visa process, so let me know if you’d be interested in that!
Hopefully this helps you with your search! If you find an au pair position in Paris, let me know so we can meet up! Also feel free to ask questions in the comments, au revoir!