The whole family is moving to Paris, & the preparations have begun! Whether or not you are laissez-faire planners or super organized, if children are involved, chances are you will be looking for resources. Here is a compilation of considerations for your move:
Activities of all varieties are available in or just outside Paris: le bowling américain, day trips, the circus, Eiffel Tower, feed the ducks, les jardins, ludothéques (like a library, but for games), museums, the planetarium, shopping, swimming pools, Théâtre pour Enfants (Theatre for Young Audiences), theme parks, zoos… Theatre companies often have ateliers d’enfants (kids workshops) – think French immersion!!!– a great way to interact with local children & have fun.
Chances are, there is a municipal swimming pool in your neighborhood; it usually has additional activities during school holidays. In summer, look for les piscines en plein air (outdoor pools). Piscine Joséphine Baker is an amazing option.
High ticket theme parks are on the outskirts of Paris (40 minute RER ride): Disneyland Paris, Parc Astérix, Acquaboulevard (biggest water park in Europe). For full listings visit the ParisInfo Visitors Bureau. Aquariums, zoos & animal farms are scattered across Paris; visit ParisInfo Zoos. The Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes is in central Paris, just next to the Seine! It is one of the oldest zoos in the world, & a convenient & cheap activity for you & your family (children 3 & under are free).
River Cruises – Les Bateaux Mouches or Les Vedettes de Paris – offer a relaxed way to sit back & be a tourist with your feet up. They have a variety of options (lunch & dinner cruises, sightseeing cruises.) Remember to bring your hat & sunscreen when it’s sunny. (I’ve been burned before!) Get a different perspective of Paris. Prices for simple cruises run around €11/adults, €5/12+, FREE/3&under.
Here are a few good links: Avenue Foch Bowling, Mouffetard Bowling, Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie/Cité des Enfants-Universcience, Paris Parks, Theatre for Kids Listings (Mairie de Paris), Ludothéques de Paris, Museum Atelier Program
Many of the links are in French; some web browsers (like Google Chrome) will translate entire web pages in an instant.
Apartments are a plenty. If you are relocating to Paris for an extended period, consider visiting potential apartments an investment. Once you’ve seen a few parisian flats, you’ll have a better understanding of decoding property descriptions like, “cosy” (a.k.a. small). If you rent directly from a landlord, make sure he is the true owner. ParisExpat charges a low, flat 8% agency fee. Visit ParisExpat.com to view availability.
If you do rent directly from a property owner, make sure you ask for proof of ownership. You can ask for un extrait notarial or more easily, the latest Taxes Foncières bill. It confirms the owner’s address & the address of the property.
Babysitters/Nannies (bébésitter / “nounou” / au pair / l’Assistance Maternelle) are not hard to come by, but you do want to verify any references before you hire someone, & going through an agency may be worthwhile if you don’t have personal referrals. Please don’t assume someone is nice & honest, based on “feeling.” Do the research.
For a full-time au pair or nounou expect to pay anywhere from €1250-2000/month, depending on whether or not you offer her or him living accommodations, cover transportation, or expect her to do housework or cooking. Where you live can also play a role ($€$€). Babysitters typically earn between €7-10/hour. The rate standard has hovered around €7 for several years now. A professional nanny may expect her salary to be declared on your taxes. Agencies will usually facilitate salary payments.
Daycare/Pre-school – crèche collective, le jardin maternel, le jardin d’enfant et la halte garderie – In France you can enroll your future baby in municipal daycare during your 6th month of pregnancy. (Placement is THAT in demand). Les Pages Jaunes will give you a complete list of private options.
French classes, after all, it does help to speak the language. Get kids involved with local activities. Interacting is the best way for kids to learn (& for adults too)! For adults, Alliance Française is the internationally trusted language school. They have an option for everyone.
If you are moving to Paris through a job, your company should offer, or at least supplement, private/corporate lessons or a group class. Otherwise, consider budgeting it into your monthly expenditure. Learning & being able to communicate will help you adjust.
Health Insurance is something your family needs while living in France, as you WILL (eventually) be billed for hospital services, like in the USA, if you are not an EU citizen. Foreign nationals are not automatically entitled to the French subsidized healthcare system. The good thing is that due to government subsidies, doctor’s visits & prescription drugs are a fraction of the cost of what they are in the USA.
If you are a UK citizen, apply for your free EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) well before your trip to France. (This will cover most, but not all hospital costs. Hospitals will make the reduction immediately; doctor’s visits, lab work & prescriptions must be paid upfront & will later be partially reimbursed). This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Medical professionals & pharmacies will ask you for your Carte Vitale (your national health insurance card). IF you are planning on being long term (legal) residents, it will be worth your while to go through the bureaucratic process of obtaining this. It will take a while to arrive. Medical News Today offers a basic outline of the French medical system.
If anyone in your family has any significant medical history, or if you foresee any such happening (i.e. a pregnancy), consider requesting a copy of your medical records before you leave for Paris, then email them to yourself as a PDF (Portable Document Format – it’s like sending a fax – it’s an unalterable doc. attachment). In France, individuals keep their own records.
Bottom line: Research health insurance for your family when you buy your airfare. Shop around & do read the fine print.
Passports – The official line is: Passports must be valid 90 days after your planned travel abroad, with at least 2 unstamped pages. New passports or renewals may take up to 3 months. If you are also obtaining a French visa, the delay is potentially longer.
I have experienced both ends of the spectrum: A passport returned rapidly, within 3 weeks & a French visa that took so long, I was going to miss the start of my school program. (I called my local Congressperson for assistance. He happily assisted & my visa was processed.)
Pediatrician – le pediatre – Ask your local pharmacy for good references for a pediatrician, and one who also speaks English. You may also be interested in the US Embassy’s list of hospitals, doctors, dentists, & specialists, who offer English speaking services in & around Paris. French doctors generally do not write prescriptions for antibiotics as readily as US doctors.
Public transportation – Métro, RER, Bus et Tramway is free for children under 4. Kids 10 & under have 50% reduction, when you buy un carnet (pack of 10 métro tix) or billets Origine-Destination (single destination tickets).
Schools – l’école maternelle, école élémentaire, collège, lycée – Enrolling your children in French schools is a process. Plan well in advance, especially if you want to send them to a French government school. (Public schools are open to all legal residents, not visitors). Vaccines required are diphtheria, tetanus & polio.
The first step is to contact the local mairie of your arrondissement. If you want to go private, there are bilingual/French immersion programs. International schools tend to offer US or UK curriculum.
Don’t stress too much about kids learning the language. Children generally learn faster than adults. Mairie de Paris School Enrolment, Comprehensive School Info (HSBC sponsored), L’Annuaire Officiel des Ecoles Privées, ParisFranceGuide also has a comprehensive list of private/bilingual school.
Space in Paris tends to be more limited to what your are accustomed. Consider finding an apartment with a nearby park, so the kids can burn off that excess energy outside in le parc (park) – les aires de jeux (playgrounds). To name a few notable parks, following the escargot that are parisian arrondissements: Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin des Plantes, Luxembourg Gardens, Parc du Champ-du-Mars (Eiffel Tower), Parc Monceau, Place des Vosges, Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Parc de la Villette, Bois de Vincennes, Parc Montsouris, Bois de Bologne. Follow this link for Luvaville.com’s list of favorite parks.
Visa Requirements are black & white in print: If you enter France as a US Citizen, you & your family have the right to stay without visa up to 90 days. You do not have the right to work. (If your country does not have visa-waiver agreements with France you may need a visitor’s visa.) If you are not planning on working in France, & you plan to stay for a year or less, many visitors forego the lengthy & complicated immigration process, opting for the occasional side trip outside France to maintain visa-waiver validity. You must ask for your passport to be stamped for proof.*
If you or your partner is seconded to Paris through work, the employer should help make visa arrangements for your family. It may be difficult if you & your partner are not legally married.
Resources/Links: American Chamber of Commerce in France, L’Annuaire Officiel des Ecoles Privées, Mairie de Paris School Enrolment, Emergency Contact Info, French Embassy & Consulates Abroad, VosDroits-ServicePublic, GREAT Blog – traveling with kids: MLN Travel, Luvaville.com, ParisInfo: Official Convention & Visitors Bureau, Relocation Website sponsored by HSBC, SNCF Family Card (Legal Residents only), US Embassy’s List of English speaking Doctors, ParisExpat.com/resources
*ParisExpat does not advocate illegal activity of any kind. It is recommended that you seek advice directly with the US Embassy & French Embassy & Consulates Abroad for complete & current visitor or resident requirements.