As I write this I am sat surrounded by carrier bags. Unfortunately they are not stuffed with the latest designer fashions; rather, they are full of things that I haven’t unpacked yet.
You see, a week ago I moved flat and I’m still a little traumatised – too traumatised to sort through a billion H&M carrier bags full of fridge magnets, tea lights and colouring pens, that’s for sure.
Anyone will tell you that moving flat in Paris is a stressful experience …
In the nearly three months it took me, there were several times when I considered giving up.
“I can live in a cold, damp and dark 20 square metre space, pas de problème!” I used to say to myself as I stepped over the puddles caused by my leaky sink, my leaky shower, and my leaky windows.
For those brave enough to attempt to rent a flat in Paris or for those who want to read a horror story and thank their lucky stars they don’t live here, this is roughly how it works …
A step-by-step guide:
Put together a dossier of how unbelievably great and reliable you are. Include pay slips, bank details, electricity bills, work attestations, and a complete back catalogue of all the boys/girls you’ve ever kissed.
Line up apartments to go and visit. You can do this via particulier adverts, for which there is no fee when you move, or via an agency, with whom you get charged one month’s rent in fees for them to do basically nothing.
Visit apartments. Apparently it’s good to dress smart and look professional. I’m not sure if this is important or not but you will need to take your dossier with you on visits. I used to put mine in folders with a contents page. They always got an admiring “ooh c’est très bien présenté”, which made me glow a little.
Get rejected for all the apartments you register interest in. Get offered the ones you wouldn’t rent for a dog.
Bang head against brick wall repeatedly.
Somehow find the will, the strength and the desperation to keep going until one day, by sheer luck and odds, you get offered the apartment you want because no one else wants it.
Rejoice! You have one day to enjoy the relief and the happiness before it’s time to start stressing about Ikea deliveries and whether or not you’ll get cheated on the deposit from your last apartment.
I know I paint a bit of a horror story, but honestly, it’s really hard to find an apartment in this town. There are more renters than homes, prices are really high, spaces are really small, and due to the laws protecting the tenant, landlords are really fussy about who they rent to as they’re afraid of getting stuck with someone who won’t pay their rent.
But, in terms of a character building exercise, it’s unbeatable. My French has improved because I’ve had no choice but to speak it.
I can now replace shower joints and assemble flat-packed furniture. And the problem solving skills I am gaining from figuring out how to organise my new 32 metre square pad will one day, I am sure, land me a job at NASA.
And now, sitting here surrounded by several yet-to-be-unpacked carrier bags, I feel an unbelievable pride at having finally found a place to call chez moi. For, as the famous saying goes, “If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.”
1. Unpacked bags in my new flat – Beth Peters.
2. Alx on Flickr.
3. SSShupe on Flickr.
4. lemarakk on Flickr.