Tagged: housing

Paris is the spring is magical. Supposedly.

  , , , ,

📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

During my last weeks in Munich, the eternal conundrum had reared its ugly head once more- that of finding accommodation at an affordable price, at a reasonable distance from work, in a foreign city, sorting out the paperwork which would get the ball rolling, without being able to view any places that were offered to me. Many sites wanted to charge me an extortionate fee just to use their services, with no guarantees. I sent dozens of messages from one site which I only found out weren’t being sent a fortnight later- apparently either I or the recipient of the message had to be a paying Premium member before they’d actually leave my inbox. Hmm. It all conveyed a terrible sense of déjà vu. In increasing desperation, I asked friends, friends of friends, and even friends of friends of friends for assistance- calling on every single French connection (ha ha) I had. Finally, in sheer desperation, I posted a cry for help on Facebook. Who says social networking is bad? A coursemate immediately steered me in the direction of a website, where a couple rented out properties solely to British year abroad students. It was pricey (200 more euros than I would be earning each month), on the outskirts of the city, and two train journeys/thirty stops/one hour away from the office, plus about twenty minutes’ walk, but it was the best I could do.

It turned out there wasn’t going to be time to go home in between my placements- I’d finished work in Munich on Friday afternoon, would arrive in Paris on the weekend and start work bright and early on Monday morning. Phew- no rest for the wicked. So I bundled my life into a couple of suitcases and set off on my travels again, roping in my mum to help me (nice excuse for a mini-break!) For some reason known only to the airlines, the cheapest way to go from Munich to Paris was to fly to Brussels, wait an hour, then take a connecting flight into Charles de Gaulle. By some strange twist of fate, my mum got sent to the back of the plane while I ended up in Business Class, and I spread my belongings over a whole row of unoccupied seats, reading the in-flight magazine as if I could afford the unnecessary bags and bijoux displayed there, and pretending I was the privileged daughter of a wealthy Asian businessman until brought back to earth with a bump- literally and figuratively. Before we knew it, we were on a battered tin can of a train, keeping our beady eyes on the luggage, speeding into the city. I won’t pretend it was a good journey, because none of the stations in Paris are equipped with lifts, escalators or anything else remotely helpful to the seasoned traveller. Reeling as we tried to get to grips with the fluorescent spaghetti of a Metro map, we bumped the cases up and down dozens of flights of steps, and- just as I was at the end of my tether- there it was, the tiny station of Porte de Saint-Cloud, which sounded rather quaint. A friendly lady who happened to live near my street escorted us to the block of flats. After a lot of waiting around and hammering on random doors, we found the Filipino janitor, whose cold facade immediately thawed when my mum started talking to him in Tagalog. He unlocked the flat I’d be sharing with seven other people and handed me the keys. I took in the cupboard-sized room and several breweries’ worth of beer bottles scattered over the sticky floors, and inwardly went “Hmmmmmnnnnhhh...” We went to pick up some groceries- I hadn’t located the local LIDL yet, so was stunned at how expensive everything was. I also met my housemates- half were studying abroad, half working like me- and burrowed grouchily into my pillow while they partied into the wee hours, and returned like a herd of bulls stampeding into a china shop. They would do this up to five times a week, while I would grow steadily more irate and sleep-deprived, before finally throwing in the towel and switching apartments, having heard of a vacancy in the 2-person flat upstairs on the grapevine.

In fact, the whole of my first week in Paris would turn out to be rather “Hmmmmmnnnnhhh.” It was a massive shock to the system, I admit. I felt like an aquarium fish who wanted nothing more from life than a regular flake breakfast and a resin tunnel to swim through, maybe some pretty neon gravel- but I’d been unceremoniously scooped up in a net and tossed tail over fins into the Dead Sea. Even things like the enormously long streets and thin buildings were enough to disorientate me. I’d been pretty cosseted in Munich, living a stone’s throw from the office and from all the main sights, actually earning a small profit, with plenty of time to socialise and unwind outside of work. Heck, even complete strangers were friendly. But this was Paris, my working hours were 9.30 am to any time between 18.45 and 19.15, you had to sell your first-born child just to buy mincemeat, everyone had their attitude switches set to lofty/aloof, and my life had assumed the standard Parisian pattern- métro-boulot-dodo. Rinse and repeat...