Thursday, June 26, 2014

Everything's Cheaper In America

Remember how I brought up not finding your favorite brands in France? Well I'm for serious when I say stock up before you leave (I had a French friend asking me to bulk buy them Colgate Optic White toothpaste?). I don't mean pack all of your closets, but make sure you have your favorite things that you're sure you can't get. For instance jeans. More specifically JBrand. I couldn't find them, or Hudson's or Joe's or Current/Elliot or rag and bone. I guess the French aren't as big on "premium denim". I was once going to intern for rag and bone during Paris Fashion Week so they must sell them somewhere.

American brands in general are a bit sketchy to find. Some brands I couldn't find at all (like BCBG/Max Azria/Herve Leger) or brands that are there, like Theory, are much cheaper in America. I walked into the Theory store on Rue Saint Honoré and couldn't believe the markup. No bueno. I love their clothes but I'll make pilgrimages to America for that, or use Saks' worldwide shipping option.

JCrew Italian ballerina flats was something else. I love JCrews flats, in fact their Italian leather (and merino wool) in general is an obsession. While they did begin shipping to France, I don't even want to know what the cost of shipping is. Or if I have to pay tax. I mean I'll still find a way to get my fix, but I bought like 10 pairs while in America just in case. 

Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate, while sold in the US, Canada, Japan and China, not available in France. In fact pomegranate everything. Really annoying. The one pomegranate juice I found at Carrefour was like €6 for a tiny carton and I think it was a smoothie. Yuck. And forget about finding Pom (the Pom White Tea and Pom Coconut Water are amazeballs). I barely found Naked, and when I saw Green Machine I could have dropped to my knees and kissed the floor at Monoprix. It's probably not all that healthy for you but whatevs. I'm not big on breakfast so I need fruit and veg pre-blended for me in a convenient to go bottle. 

But you can buy Passion tea at Starbucks. I haven't found anyone who makes it just right though, probably because they don't have sugar syrup? Or I'm not ordering it correctly in French? But I mean how hard is it to understand "Trenta iced Passion tea sweetened"? (they don't have the Trenta size in France just FYI). Because all Starbucks are not created the same, I carted some Tazo packs just in case because I didn't see any when I was over there. 

French products are sometimes cheaper at home. You wouldn't think right? But, for instance, I wear YSL's La Nuit De L'Homme and it's €60, but $65 in the US? Duh dollars is cheaper than euros. Even Armani foundation (the best product in the world) is €64? It's $62 in the US. I really have no clue how it works out that way. We haven't exactly agreed on that EU/American Free Trade agreement just yet.

Don't worry though as long as you're not looking for drugstore makeup brands you should be ok. I am the laziest girl in the world. I hate wearing makeup, or doing my hair, or any of that girly shit, the only thing I wear daily is mascara and lipgloss, so don't quote me, but as far as I'm aware Sephora carries pretty much everything from it's American stores in it's French stores. At least the one on Rivoli seemed to. I didn't go into the one on St. Germain, and the one near Les Halles was kind of small. If you're a makeup girl you might want to Google you're favorite brands just to be sure. 

However if you're a lingerie girl, like me, don't expect to find all of your favorite department store brands. I'm obsessed with buying lingerie. I think it's actually more of an addiction because I literally have one suitcase in Paris that is just underwear. When I'm being lazy I love CK and Natori but I couldnt find them at BHV. If you're an American girl who is more of a VS girl, they deliver worldwide. I don't know what the price diff is though because I don't really buy their stuff (I prefer unlined bras and VS seems to be allergic to any bras that don't have at least 3 inches of padding). 

Honorable mentions: knot socks, Chapstick, Crest/Colgate, Pantene, (even though I kind of love Klorane), Nair, 5 blade razors, American Apparel thigh highs, and pretty much all electronics (I have yet to find $1 headphones and $250 laptops like at home), and of course that includes iProducts. Apple's European prices are not the one. The French price is cray cray. $300 versus €679? Yeah, non merci. 

Thankfully there's always Blighty. Phew! Most American products can be found in England so if you don't mind shipping, or Eurostaring it every once and again, you're not completely out of luck. Sometimes it's reassuring knowing London's just a hop, skip and a jump away. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Calling All Aupairs!

If anyone is interested in aupair/babysitting job offerings, message me. When I was last in Paris I had an ad up for tutoring and now I receive tons of people looking for native English speakers. I'm not looking for work but I know there has to be potential aupairs out there, and families are messaging me looking for someone so why not do a good deed and help people connect right? They're only offerings for Paris. Some are just a few hours a week (for those who are only interested in a bit of extra dosh), some are live in, most are just looking for someone after school to speak English with their kids. I guess latchkey kids is an American concept.

Friday, June 20, 2014

I Am the King and Will Not Beheaded

Moving to Paris is by no means easy. Moving in general is costly, but moving to a city where the value of your home currency is less than is no bueno. I'm like 10% poorer now. And as an American you have to get used to A LOT of cultural changes; paying more for everything you pay very little for at home (even French products?), nothing being open 24 hours (which is the EXREMELY frustrating), convenience in general, the language (although coming from a city with two dominant languages I'm used to not hearing or reading English everywhere), and you can basically kiss all of the brands you're used to goodbye. I'm not just talking about clothes; Tylenol, Pantene, Chapstick, Covergirl, these are all brands that do not exist in France. 

But by far the hardest thing for me was not having as much access to prepared food. Not fast food, but delivery and takeout. If I was a caveman I would have died from hunger because I would've been like "who do I have to pay to kill and cook for me?". At home the only thing in my fridge are bottles of water and Champagne. But on the plus side not spending at least $40 a day on just restaurants saved me a lot of money.

At the end of the day you have to be a risky idiot to take the kind of leap that involves leaving everything you know for something different. You have to be hard headed and determined, and have an unshakable confidence that makes you not give two fucks because the French are really good at testing you. I readily admit I'm a sufferer of Yeezy syndrome so in France it works in my favor. It isn't easy and failure is something you have to be okay with because it's going to happen. There's no way around it. Just chalk it up to growing pains and move on. 

If you're already over here, and feeling homesick, and thinking you shouldn't have done this, it's okay, in the beginning we've all thought it. As cliche as it sounds, it does get easier. You get used to all of the changes (and I say that as someone who hates change). True right now it's white noise but soon you'll be trying to finagle ways to extend that residency permit and all of your struggles and negative feelings will be a distant memory.

And if you're not ready to take that leap just yet, try out England. They're basically like home but with a different accent. You won't have to deal with culture shock. 

Or give Australia a go. At least Australia has Target (England has Walmart). Oh how I miss Tarjay. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

To Flat Share or Not to Flat Share

I started entertaining a flatshare which probably isn't a good idea for me. I'm a twin, so I'm very adamant about what's mine is mine. In fact the only time I think you should ever live with someone else is if you're sharing last names, and even then a Woody Allen/Mia Farrow, Tim Burton/Helena Bonham Carter type sitch might not be such a bad idea. Blame it on my grandparents. They owned a bunch of real estate and used it so they didn't have to live together (Catholics, smh). But now I know what all of those cheating creepers who hit on me meant when they said they found it easier to cheat than leave their partners because then they'd have to flat search. Lack of rent control in Paris is killing love. 

But I couldn't believe the ridic cost of renting in a flatshare. I thought it would be cheaper (and a good idea because if you're moving to France for the first time and don't want to go it on your own, having a French flatmate might be a good idea for you) but f' that. If you pay anything over €600 you should know that you could get a studette for that price. I don't exactly advocate studettes because no one should live in less than 20m2, and they should be banned as basic Human Rights violations. Let me put it into perspective, it's 215sqft. That's just the size of my bedroom in my apartment at home (my apartment as a whole is 65m2). But I guess which would you rather have, your own space for that price? Or sharing your bathroom with someone else?

And for those that don't know what studettes are (bedsits in the UK), they're those teeny little flats that usually have the shower in the corner of the room. Before Paris I had never seen that. And sometimes the bathroom is shared by other flats on the floor. They usually measure between 9m2 and 17m2 and usually the "bed" is a convertible couch (clic-clac). I've never been in one so I can't comment on the claustrophobia but NYC apartments look like palaces in comparison (and that is a city that regularly implements "pressurized walls"). 

This company called Comfort Paris starts off at €800 to stick you in a flatshare. I don't know what arrondissements this starting price is in but I'm here to tell you that's some bullshit. A company exploiting foreign students is all shades of fucked up and nothing pisses me off more than some asshole exploiting people. Especially when they're using their Americaness as a tactic for luring them in. They actually have a waiting list which makes me feel so bad for the people considering using them. Please go to Cite Universitaire and ask them for help. 

I'm not exactly jonesing for a job as an estate agent but I've looked at so many apartments I can look at a flat and value it. This is what happens when you start perusing the Parisian market. Start researching rental sites so you can get an idea of what costs what it in each area, cost for size, amenities, etc. This will make it easier for you to know if an owner's poking your eyes out. Consult the map I posted in an earlier post so you know which areas are cheaper, and don't jump on something just because it's the first thing that comes to you. You might lose out on a flat or two but you gotta break a few eggs.

One thing that helps, post an ad. That's the easiest way to get people to contact you. And a lot of people on Fusac are more willing to contact you because it costs to post there. They save money by consulting the wanted section. They're also usually owners so you don't have to deal with ridiculous agency fees. Make sure you stipulate that you want to be within the périphérique if you're only looking in Paris proper. I put central Paris and still had people trying to convince me that the suburbs were great. Um no, not ever. 

The most important thing, try not to stress. It's supremely frustrating, believe me, and you might not get everything you want. You might have to lower your expectations or live in your 5th choice area. As I stated before, the 18th and 11th have tons of rentals. But start early, and make sure you have ways of getting out of it in case you get stuck with something that looks nothing like the picture. 

If possible have a friend who lives in Paris look at it for you and have a lawyer friend go over the contract (quick life tip date at least one doctor and one lawyer so you can always ask for advice). Most importantly make sure that contract is beneficial for you. Do not sign anything until you're sure you've gone over everything five times and it works in your best interest. And if you hand over money make sure you have a way of getting it back, no cash (places like airbnb are usually guaranteed and your credit card company will usually give you back disputed funds if you pay with it). 

Other sites: (I don't really recommend this because I had nothing but dudes messaging me, like this isn't Tinder, get a life, and you have to pay to view certain members messages or send messages). (most posters want proof of income three times the rent and previous rental references. Mostly for people who are already established in France). (Cite University offers help for students and teachers moving to Paris) (some French guy sent this to me on Twitter. I haven't really used it because there aren't very many ads but it doesn't require you to pay). (make sure you look at the flat's map and postal code because so many people put "in central Paris" for listings in Montmartre. That's not even close to central Paris. I guess they're trying to dupe tourists who don't know that from there 'center Paris' is actually a 20 minute metro ride). 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hustle Hard Since Fisher Price

I've gotten asked this and I'm not really sure how to answer because I don't know exactly how France regulates it, but according to my student visa I'm allowed to work 60% of the duration of my visa, which comes out to like 25 hours a week. I know that everyone has different stipulations on their visa so check yours to be sure of the hours. But I don't know how students, or those that are actually in France to work, pay for housing, and food, and the general cost of living in Paris on that kind of budget.

I know as an American working less than 40 hours a week seems absurd. After all we love money and how else are we going to make money if we can't work?!? American kryptonite. But I don't know how overtime (working more than the 25) and that kind of thing works in France. And none of the French people I know complain about not being able to work more. If anything they complain that they work too much. I can't even. 

At one point I worked 80 hours a week because I was getting paid extra for basically doing what I liked and who doesn't like more money? I still get money from my parents but they don't put out as much as they used to since I started working a little less than two years ago. Yeah I really shot myself in the foot by getting a job because now I have to pay for stuff. But I'm not all against working to support my expensive habits, especially since my jobs consisted of me mostly playing with Louboutins and Chanel. It wasn't exactly "hard work". It was more of an obsession. You'd be surprised how much time goes into making a store look the way it does. But I doubt this weird American work ethic flies in France. Especially since they tell you you can only work so much. 

I don't know how they would check on that type of thing. Your W4 forms? Or whatever the French equivalent is. You would think they wouldn't totally be against it because you're now paying French tax, so the more you work, the more goes in their pocket (and feeds the economy. America trained me well)? If I can find someone to give me more information I'll definitely post it here. You could try consulting the Ministry of Labor, but trying to get anyone in the government to answer your questions is like pulling teeth. Most of the time they don't even know what they're talking about. And if your French isn't that great it's going to be even harder.