If you’ve got questions about what life is like in a Paris neighborhood for an expat, the best source to go to are fellow expats with a few years of experience in their new country under their belt. Expert author Aurelia d’Andrea sat down for a chat with Dan Smith, age 62, formerly a worker in the pharmaceutical industry but currently a bon vivant, about his life in the 14th arrondissement.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Idaho and lived in New York State and the Philadelphia suburbs for many years.
When and why did you move to Paris?
I moved to Paris in 2004 as a temporary expatriate for my global pharmaceutical company. We are supposed to say “global” but it is really a French company.
In which arrondissement do you currently reside?
In the 14th between Alésia and Pernety.
How did you find your current home?
I found my current apartment on SeLoger. I made the application myself with the many required documents.
Are you a homeowner or do you rent?
What are some of the factors you considered before moving to this location?
I originally selected this area because of the proximity to my company’s shuttle bus to my place of work in the southern Paris suburbs. Since moving here, I have grown to know and love this area.
Describe your quartier to someone who’s never been there before.
The 14th arrondissement is what I would call a French middle-class area, not as diversified as other Paris areas but not as “prosperous” as others. It’s a working-class area even though the apartments are fairly expensive. The area around Alésia has a wide range of services: boulangeries, bouchers, fromageries, supermarkets, cinemas, boutiques and more. [It’s] more diverse than my former residence on rue de Vaugirard in the 6th. Everyone establishes relationships and often goes to the same store for daily needs. There is a market Wednesdays and Sundays that I attend. The vendors recognize me and know what I bought before.
Is the quality of life in your arrondissement what you expected it to be?
The quality of life is very good here. I know vendors in the area and have discovered many special boutiques and restaurants that are out of the mainstream of tourists in Paris. There is only one touristic place in the 14th, the Catacombs, where I take guests to view a special macabre experience of ancient Paris.
Describe your experience making friends with neighbors or others in your community.
Living in my area I have met many people and experienced many one-on-one relationships with vendors, my gardienne, and people on the streets. The closeness of living in a city requires a certain level of closeness and mutual understanding. Interaction with others, even strangers, makes life special here. At the same time, proximity with others brings conflicts as well. I am often frustrated walking along the streets when tourists, casual shoppers, and those families who walk hand-in-hand with toddlers blocking us fast walkers who know exactly where we are going. Even these negatives seem trivial compared with the benefits.
Have you made any unexpected discoveries in your neighborhood?
Some of the streets and buildings in the 14th have not changed in the last 100 years. I feel like a piece of history living in an apartment where people have lived for 120 years, walking the streets where people have walked for centuries. All I see now will exist a century after I leave. I will become like the others before me, a ghost of the past, a habitant of this quartier forever.