Blog Essential

Mimosa Season

You may have noticed many people carrying bright yellow flowers recently. These flowers are called Golden Wattle or Mimosa in French, and are a popular purchase this time of year!

The tradition of buying mimosa flowers in February is a cultural phenomenon during the winter season. Only from January to March, Mimosa is one of the few flowers that bloom during the winter months. Beautiful and fragrant, its bright yellow colour is seen as a symbol of the sun and the warmth it brings. This is why it has become associated with the end of winter and the coming of spring.

The tradition of buying mimosa flowers can be traced back to the early 20th century. A group of florists in the city of Nice decided to promote the flower as a symbol of the city . They organized an annual parade, known as the “Battle of Flowers,” where flower-covered floats were paraded through the city’s streets. Mimosa was one of the most popular flowers used in the parade, and its popularity soon spread throughout France.

So today, when you see the bright yellow bouquets of mimosas, know it’s a common sight to see in winter. The flowers are often given as gifts, and they are used to decorate homes and businesses. You can purchase them at any florist, but supermarkets tend to stock them, too.  Good news: when you see Mimosas in bloom it’s a sure sign that warmer days are just around the corner!


What to do in an Emergency (& how to prevent one)

Today’s blog was inspired by two robbers who broke into my apartment. Motivated by robbery, I wanted to cover several scenarios that merit an “emergency” status, so I’ve also included a leak (I had one in 2022), a flood (I had one in 2017), a fire (touch wood) and having your small valuable items stolen. We also cover how to best prevent these incidents!

Overall we thought it might be helpful to make sure you know how to handle different emergencies. Here’s what you need to know:


If your wallet or phone is stolen:

  • Immediately call your bank to cancel any credit cards or report the theft of your phone to your service provider. You can read in Antje’s interview how quickly the thieves went to work on her documents!
  • If you still have your phone it can be quicker to use your banking app to immediately cancel cards or put a “hold” on them so if you think you just lost one you can sometimes take the hold off instead of completely canceling!
  • Report the theft to the police as soon as possible. Do this either online or by going to your nearest police station.
  • Write down the details of what was stolen, including any serial numbers or descriptions of the items. Add these to your opened report with the police.

How to best prevent your wallet or phone from being stolen:

While there is no foolproof way to prevent theft, try to keep your belongings close to you and always be aware of your surroundings. Keep your wallet and/or phone close to your body, especially in crowded areas. If you have to use either, hold it close to you and keep a tight grip. Do not carry large amounts of cash.

Nowadays it’s common to be able to set “plafonds” for withdrawing cash or spending money, keep yours quite low so if someone steals the card they can only withdraw €100 or spend up to €300 on the card. Password-proof your phone and back it up regularly, this way when it goes missing, you keep your data. Install a tracking app on your phone which can help you remotely track or lock it once it’s gone. 

Breaking & Entering

If someone breaks into your home:

As someone who lives in Paris, the best mindset to have is not to wonder if someone will try and rob your home, but that it will happen, and you can only best prepare for when this moment happens.

  • Call the police immediately.
  • Do not touch anything or move anything in the room until the police arrive.
  • Call your insurance, especially if there was damage to the door. Only an insurance-approved locksmith will be reimbursed, so don’t go calling a locksmith on your own, the cost will be horrendous and you won’t get reimbursed!
  • Write down what was stolen or damaged and start gathering invoices if you have any. 
  • File a proper police report, you will need to go there in person – be mindful that you’ll probably have to wait a few hours until it’s your turn to give your statement. You need to file the report for the report number, which is mandatory to file an insurance claim.
  • Open a claim with your insurance – this can take forever, so I won’t give any advice here.

How to best prevent your home from being broken into:

Keep your home locked when you leave. Consider installing deadbolts or other security locks for added protection, if you can. Investing in a home security system, such as a burglar alarm, will significantly reduce your chances of being burgled, as thieves like to work in silence. To quote the policeman who came to my home after my robbery: “people with burglar alarms do not get burgled”. 

Don’t advertise your absence, avoid announcing you’re gone for a prolonged amount of time on social media or telling taxi drivers or delivery people, any strangers, really. Finally, get a security camera for your house. This way you can monitor your home while you are gone, and any wrongdoings are caught on tape which you can later share with the police.


If you have a leak:

  • Turn off the water supply to stop the leak. 
  • Turn off the electricity supply to avoid any risk of electrocution.
  • If you need a plumber, call your insurance to get it validated by them – if you don’t, they won’t pay for it. This is how I once lost €4000.
  • If the leak is affecting a neighbour’s property, let them know what’s happening, tell them your insurance has been informed and that you are working on resolving this. They, too, will contact their insurance.
  • Call the fire station if the water is rising quickly, they will help you once they arrive
  • Move your furniture and belongings to higher ground if possible.

How to best prevent a leak:

Regularly inspect your pipes for signs of corrosion, wear, or damage. If you notice any problems, get them repaired as soon as possible. High water pressure can cause pipes to burst, so make sure to check your home’s water pressure regularly and adjust it if necessary. Insulating pipes can help prevent them from freezing during the winter, which can cause leaks.

If you have old plumbing in your home, consider replacing it. Older pipes are more likely to leak or burst, and they may also contain harmful substances like lead. Only flush toilet paper and human waste down the toilet. Flushing other items like wipes, sanitary products, or cooking fat can clog pipes and lead to leaks. Personally, if I wasn’t sure, I would cut the main water mine at my home when I would leave the house, “just in case”.


If you experience a fire:

  • Call the fire station immediately – dial 18
  • Evacuate the building as quickly as possible.
  • Stay low to avoid smoke inhalation.
  • Once you are out of the building, do not go back in until the fire department gives the all-clear.

How to best prevent a fire:

Ensure that you have smoke detectors installed on every level of your home and in each bedroom. Test them monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year. Stay in the kitchen when you’re cooking and keep a close eye on your food. Keep flammable items like oven mitts and paper towels away from the stove, and always make sure you turn off the stove and oven when you finished preparing your meal.

Don’t overload electrical outlets: this can cause them to spark and start a fire. Make sure to use only one plug per outlet and avoid using extension cords when possible. If you have a space heaters, keep them at least three feet away from flammable items and never leave them unattended. Store flammable liquids like gasoline, paint thinner, and alcohol in a cool, dry place, away from heat sources and sparks.

Now that we’ve covered what to do in case of an emergency, let’s talk about how to best prepare for an emergency and in some cases avoid it altogether, as it’s important to be prepared and know what to do when the time comes. Make sure you have emergency contact numbers with you at all times, and make sure you know the location of the nearest police station, fire station, and hospital. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be better prepared to handle any situation that may come.


Car Accidents

If you witness a car accident in France, ensure your own safety and move away from the accident scene if necessary.

  • Immediately call the emergency services by dialing 112 or 18 (for firefighters) or 15 (for medical emergencies).
  • They will ask you for details about the accident, including the location and the number of people involved.
  • Do not move the injured unless it is necessary to prevent further harm.

It is also a good idea to take photos of the accident scene if you can do so safely.

Health Emergencies

  • Call the emergency services by dialing 15 (SAMU) or 112.
  • They will ask you about the situation and location, if you’re not confident in French try to find a French-speaker on the scene
  • Follow any instructions provided by the operator, such as administering first aid if you have the necessary skills.
  • If the injured person is conscious, try to keep them calm and comfortable while waiting for the emergency services to arrive.
  • If the person is unconscious, check their breathing and pulse, and be prepared to perform first aid and CPR if necessary.
  • Try to gather any relevant medical information about the person, such as allergies or medication they are taking, to provide to the emergency services.
Blog Essential

Scams when looking for an Apartment

Today’s blog post about avoiding scams can be summarised and condensed into a two simple pieces of advice:

  1. If it looks too good to be true, it is.
  2. Never, ever pay for anything before you’ve visited the location, read the contract in detail and then sign it. 

Moving to a new city in a new country can be stressful and overwhelming.  Everything is new and you may not yet know how to navigate confidently. When you move, there are people out there who will try to take advantage of your situation and make a profit.

Particularly when you start searching for a new home while you still are in your old home or abroad, you are bound to run into scammers because they will try and target you from the get go. We hope that this blog post will help you avoid the scams we know of. 

If you think you can add to this list, please get in touch so we can publish it!

A general guide to rental scams:

Signs of a scam:

  • Watch out for the ads saying stuff like : “My *insert relative* is leaving for *insert random city* so we have this GIGANTIC apartment that we want to rent for CHEAP but you have to pay everything in advance”
  • Beautiful property at a cheap price, not from an official real estate agency
  • Lengthy emails from the landlord explaining why they won’t have so much time and want to rent it quickly and so on. Real real-estate agents generally write short emails if at all (they prefer calling). 
  • Scammers ask for a deposit before signing a contract. They ask you to pay a deposit to see an apartment (or “reserve your spot” or “send a financial guarantee that you really are interested”). 

never send money, always visit the apartment first and have a signed contract!

Good questions to ask yourself:

Is this listing fake?

Especially on public platforms like PAP, Le Bon Coin and Facebook you’re likely to come across fake listings. There are some telltale signs how to spot them: The picture will be of a beautiful, bright and large apartment or room, usually at a cheap price (so cheap you’ll feel super lucky to have found it!) rented by a private person. Not all of them are offered under market value, sometimes they are priced at a “normal” rate, so be vigilant. 

Is the Landlord legit?

Let’s say you get in touch with the owner of the listing. Often the “owner” will explain to you why the rent is low: they might live in/move to another country, or someone died and they need to rent the property fast, or they don’t want the apartment to be empty and are looking for “a kind soul” to take care of it. 

Am I on a fake viewing?

If someone is doing a scam on AirBnB, they will push you to come visit immediately so you can view the apartment while they are still in-situ. Alternatively they avoid a viewing visit altogether. They have “reasons” why you cannot visit the apartment before sending a deposit or first rental payment. Or, also popular, they ask you for a financial guarantee before booking a viewing. 

Should I send a dossier?

We have an entire chapter on the dossier. Keep in mind that you are sending official documents to potential landlords. If you are sending it digitally, watermark your documents (using services like or doing it yourself on Photoshop). It’s not unusual to ask for a dossier upfront, but check that they are not requesting forbidden information like your bank statements or carte vitale.

Can my landlord ask for my Deposit / first Rent upfront?

If you are being scammed, they will ask for money upfront. Scammers might ask for cash or a money transfer (Orange Money, Western Union, Moneygram, Neosurf, Transcash, Toneo First, Ria) or some similar method. They might ask you for more money than usual, because you are not French. Scammers will try to get money before you see the location or before you sign a contract or get the house keys. Don’t do this. Don’t give money before you have seen the location, carefully read & signed the contract. 

Also trust your gut feeling – if you feel something is not right, walk away. The moment you give the scammers your money, you have lost your money and will get nothing in return. 

How to protect yourself:

  1. Never send money without having seen the property, read & signed a rental agreement and have the keys.
  2. Reverse-search the pictures on Google
  3. Check the average rent. Most landlords overcharge, however none undercharge, so you can check if the property you found is too good to be true.

Here are some popular scams to look out for:

The AirBnB Scam

It can happen that scammers rent an AirBnB and recycle the listing pictures for a real rental listing. They hold viewings and then sign contracts with everyone who came to see the apartment and collect the deposit and rent. When the renters are ready to move in, the apartment is not actually available.

You can protect yourself by doing a reverse-search on google with the picture of the apartment, you may find it already listed. You can also check the age of the ad online, and how hard the “owner” is pushing for you to come visit the apartment quickly. Extra points for you if you spot items in the apartment that probably don’t match the person showing you around. 

The Electricity Scam

I know someone who rented a chambre de bonne from a person who lived several floors down, owning multiple apartments in the building. This person’s landlord had swapped their own electricity bill with the tenant in the chambre de bonne. The tenant was foreign so unsure of the actual cost of electricity until noticing that something was off – paying €80+ each month for 10m2 seemed fishy, and upon calling EDF they confirmed that this is a popular scam.

You can protect yourself by taking out your own electricity contract, which is your right as a tenant. Most homes have a Linky device, so you can closely monitor your consumption and protect yourself from rogue landlords.

The Plumber / Locksmith scam

Every so often you receive a leaflet in your mailbox with convenient phone numbers, firefighters, police, locksmith, plumbers and emergency services. Often these numbers are serviced by rogue service people who will overcharge you and often not even fix the issue. These are expensive lessons that you can avoid.

You can also protect yourself when moving in, familiarise yourself with locally run businesses with reputable workers. Find out who most of your neighbours use or ask the local businesses who they have on call. You can check google reviews and even utilise the app Nextdoor. If you are prepared to call when something goes wrong, you won’t have to also worry about someone stealing your money.

Am I the only one being scammed? 

No, here are some stories from real people and the scams they encountered (these are all scams!!!)

Story 1

“My friend wants to rent an apartment and she really likes it. She has met the landlord and seen the apartment. They’re telling her that she needs to send €2000 (first month rent and agency fees) in order to apply for the apartment, but she hasn’t signed any contracts yet.”

Story 2

“Something I saw multiple times when I looked for an apartment in Paris. You find a nice apartment (photos probably stolen from an Airbnb) with a low price. The “owner” will explain to you (without being asked) that the price is low because they live in another country/in the countryside and only want someone to live in the apartment to heat it and not let it deteriorate.

They will ask you to visit the apartment the next day or very quickly which doesn’t make sense if they live far away. When you tell them no, they will try to guilt trip you, a real landlord wouldn’t spend time doing that and would move to the next person who sent their dossier.”

Story 3

“Sometimes scammers rent the Airbnb they stole the pictures from, that’s why they want you to visit the next day. They make you sign a “rental agreement” and make you pay for the first month and the deposit.”

Story 4

“I received this email when I tried to book a viewing: 

To make the reservation which will assure us of the availability of the funds and which assures you in return that we will not touch your funds here is the procedure to follow:

You will pay the security deposit which is equivalent to the deposit of 735 € (rent excluding charges) and the first month’s rent including VAT, i.e. 790 € = 1525 € by RIA DEPOSIT, the receipt for which (RIA receipt) will be given on the day of the visit after the signing of the lease contract. This procedure reassures us of the availability of funds and allows us not to travel for nothing given the distance. Since we have already made trips for visits that ended in disappointment because either the interested parties were not present or their deposit was not yet ready and cheques bounced and I would not like to waste my time again I hope you understand. 

The procedure is simple, the deposit will be made in the name of someone close to you (friend, family, acquaintance or your spouse) and not in my name. No one will be able to touch it except the beneficiary. This would be in the form of a guarantee for me and once this is done, you will send me a copy or photo of the RIA receipt to enable me to check the availability of the funds online to confirm the visit to you and to travel. The extra cost of sending it will be returned to you on the day of the visit, I hope you understand.

The documents to be provided for the signature of the Lease Agreement are the following:

  • Photocopy of both sides of the identity card:
  • Receipt RIA 1525 € (OBLIGATORY).

Then, after visiting the flat and signing the lease, we will go together to the nearest RIA agency to withdraw the money. In case you don’t like my flat, which I doubt very much, you will simply cancel the deposit and your money will be back in your account.”

Story 5

“I’m Spanish and I’m currently living in Annecy, but before coming here while looking for a flat I found a good one, started to talk with the owner by mail and then by Whatsapp. She asked me for money for a ‘refundable deposit” and sent me what I thought was her ID card and phone number.

When she learned I did not have a French guarantor, she doubled the deposit and I sent her €2000. I had even spoken with whom she claimed to be her real estate agent, they all were very rude. When I finally started to realise that I was probably being scammed, I decided to back out and ask for my money back.

The landlady asked me to pay a fine because all the “papers” were already done, and that I had to pay that fine to the actual agency (which by the way I never found online) before her financial agent returned my money (because she said she didn’t actually have it).

I tried to speak with her many times, explaining that she could rest those 250€ from the actual 2000€ and return me 1750€ but she insisted that “in France things work in another way”. And there was no way she would want to pay herself for the theoretical fine and give me the rest.

Even a friend of mine who is a lawyer, sent her an email in three languages and she ignored it. Now she has blocked me on WhatsApp, and has told me to pay and not bother her.”

Story 6

“I searched on Facebook, there’s plenty of reasonably priced apartments to rent, (450-500€ in the 5th arrondissement in Paris . They want me to use Neosurf to send my deposit in advance. Is this too good to be true?”

Story 7

“I’m searching for rooms to rent in Paris and scouring through FB groups for a place. There’s one apartment that seems too good to be true and for pretty cheap so I definitely smell a rat here. However the landlord has sent me a contract which looks legit at face value as well as his identity card.

His only condition was that he transfers the deposit to an international bank account (?!) which he claims he set up because he had international students staying at the apartment.”

Story 8

“I’m new to Paris and have been apartment hunting on top of preparing for grad school, switching over my phone, getting let go from my job. In the midst of all of this, I made a very poor judgement call involving a fake Airbnb rental scam and a wire transfer and now I’ve lost a few thousand euros.

I’m using Currencies Direct as my currency wire exchange and I called them fairly soon after payment to try to stop it from going through. They reportedly put out a stop payment request to the bank but when I checked the progress yesterday, the payment had gone through and been confirmed. I’m sure at this point the money is now just gone, but anyone have any suggestions as to how to get my money back?”

Story 9

“I have sent out hundreds of messages on all of the typical websites, lodgis, leboncoin, PAP, and plenty of others. I have had three people try to scam me: one claimed to live in the US and asked me to bank transfer him €1700 and then he would send me the keys, another person who lived in Germany and needed a €500 guarantee to visit the apartment etcetera.”

Story 10

“So I was looking for a room for a couple of months and this guy that I’ve contacted from leboncoin said it is available for visit and asks for papers and money upfront on the visit. The thing is, that it kinda sounds too good to be true. He is asking for 300€ “charges inclus” 15th district. Really good looking apartment. I’ll paste here some of the stuff he was asking. Thing that scared me is. :

  • ”Récépissé du (coupon Trans-cash) des 600 € (un mois de loyer & un mois de caution)”

Also asking me for the following:

  • Photocopie recto verso de la carte d’identité ou du permis de Conduire.
  • Quittance de votre dernier loyer (facultatif)
  • Photocopie de la dernière fiche de paie ou un Justificatif de paiement (facultatif)

It turned out to be a scam, otherwise they would ask for a cheque and not cash, they would not ask for it upfront, and the other documents would not be optional. A standard dossier would contain identity proof, tax proof, guarantor certificate but no RIB or money or cheque or coupons.”

Story 11

“My friend wants to rent an apartment and she really likes it. She has met the landlord and seen the apartment. They’re telling her that she needs to send €2000 (first month rent and agency fees) in order to apply for the apartment, but she hasn’t signed any contracts yet. It says “please note that you will not be billed until the landlord accepts your rental request.”


Setting up your Household

If you’re anything like me, you are not moving to a new country (or city) with your entire household in tow. You pack your things, your clothes and essential items plus those things that are not replaceable, and start from scratch at your new place.

Having done this three times now (so far) in my life, I consider myself somewhat of an expert and in this blog I will share all my learnings with you. If there are any tips and tricks I have missed but you know, please send me a message and I will add them! 

In this article I won’t be covering topics like finding an apartment or the moving process itself, we’ll begin where you already have the keys to your room / apartment, and want to get set up. Depending if you are renting a furnished or an unfurnished room / apartment, you’ll already have some things in place.

If you are renting a furnished property, your landlord must provide you with furniture (bed, table, seating, storage shelves), bedding (pillow + blanket), kitchen appliances (oven, stove, microwave, fridge and freezer), tableware (plates, cups, glasses, cutlery), lighting and cleaning utensils (hoover, mop, broom).

Furnished or unfurnished, here is where you can procure items at any price point:


Having a laptop and internet is essential for this option because you’re going to have to not only hunt for free items, but be the first one to strike. Finding free items is possible in several places online, and any social media that offers a marketplace (like facebook, for example). 

The top destination for free items is, the craigslist, gumtree or eBay Kleinanzeigen of France. At the top, you can select what items you are looking for, and then at the maximum price you add “0€” or “don (gratuit)” which means donation. You will find a plethora of items, the only catch is that you have to collect them yourselves (99% of the time). On you can also set an alert, so list what you want and then receive an email each time there is a hit. 

Another popular website is, where you can post an ad if you’re looking for something specific, or respond to ads from people who are giving away their things. Local facebook groups, reddit forums or even on (sort by 0€) can turn up results without you having to pay money for the items.


Working with a small budget is made very easy in France because of the wonderful secular charity Emmaüs, founded by Abbé Pierre in 1949 in Paris, to combat poverty and homelessness. They have chapters all over the country, and in these locations you can purchase all items at a low price point. Emmaüs sells everything, from furniture to dishes, cutlery to pots & pans, clothing, shoes, picture frames, electronic items, mirrors, board games, records, mattresses – really, everything you can imagine. You can find your nearest chapter by searching on this map. 

There are different types of Emmaüs locations, from huge warehouses to small shops in city centres, depending on what items you need, make sure you choose the right location. They also have an online shop. Transporting the items back to your place is up to you, some Emmaüs offer a delivery service for an extra fee, alternatively you can try your luck on public transport (I’ve done both metro and bus to move furniture by myself) or ask a friend who is lucky enough to have a car.

If you prefer new items in your budget have a look at H&M Home, Hema, or consider your local supermarkets, most Carrefour, Monoprix and Franprix have some basics available. In most neighbourhoods there will also be local stores, family-owned businesses, that offer most of the items you are looking for – have a wander around and see if you can find any near you!


Ikea. If you have some money to spend, most cities have an Ikea nearby. If you don’t, there often will be an Ikea shuttle that will take you there (and back) free of charge, google “ikea+shuttle+city”” and you should find a good result. I’ve used this service both in Toulouse and Paris, it worked great if you plan well. If you plan to buy large furniture this shuttle is not for you, you can either hire a man with a van (on or or just wait at Ikea, there usually are a bunch of people offering their services. Be sure to negotiate a price before getting in the car, usually it is around 50€ – 100€. 

Another option that I personally love is Selency, an online flea market. You can find unique pieces from all over the place and have them delivered directly to you – there are options for every price point (except for free). A great alternative to Selency of course are real flea markets, each city has them and you can check your city on Vide Greniers or Calendrier des Brocantes. If you want new items, look no farther than Zara Home, Maisons du Monde, Muji, Casa,or  La Redoute

A third option available is to find people who are dissolving their households and are trying to find a buyer for all of their things – especially if you are starting with nothing and need everything, this can be a great solution for you! You can find these listings on expat facebook groups, expat forums, and soon also on Urban Index!


If money is no object and you want to avoid the previous two categories, there are several options to choose from. The most popular store is Habitat, not only do they have a decent selection of items, but their sales are very generous and you can find a good deal. If you like their basics, it’s worth getting “la carte habitat” as you can save money on deliveries and access their private sales events. Another very popular store is Roche Bobois, the items purchased there are unique and usually fall into the luxury category. If your budget is uncapped, you can head to the Galeries Lafayette, La Samaritaine, La Grande Epicerie de Paris and other similar department stores, they’ll stock what you are looking for from various designer brands.

I hope this will make the prospect of setting up shop less daunting and you feel equipped on how, and where to get started once the time comes!


Going to the Library

The library remains one of the last places in the world where there is no expectation for you to spend any money. One of the things I love about France is that library culture is alive and well and very accessible. Libraries are spread across the country, usually easy to find and join. This blog will cover the particularities of libraries in France.

Public Libraries:

Most of the 16.000 public libraries in France are the responsibility of local and regional authorities (la ministère de la culture). Most of the things you want to see/know/do can be accessed online. You can find your closest one by going to the relevant website:

How to register:

Now that the first step is done, you should register as a member, you can sometimes do this online (have a look on the library’s website). You can also go in person and register with one of the members of staff. They will ask you for a photo, one identity document (identity card, passport, driving licence, residence permit or family record book for children) and proof of your address. Normally the process is very quick so you can get your card directly after you register, this is free and valid for the following 12 months. You need to remember to renew your card after it expires every year, by going back and speaking to a member of staff. This usually takes less than 5 minutes.

What to borrow:

You can now borrow books. Each library has their own rules on how many at a time. Other than books some also offer digital products, sheet music, CDs, films, access to computers, televisions and musical instruments. Note that most libraries have a foreign language section, meaning you can find books written in English, German, Spanish, Italian and more!

The Event Calendar:

Each library will have a calendar (in the building or online) where you can review the program for the month. The offering is plentiful – from film showings to history classes, help with writing a CV, language courses, drawing classes, interviews with authors, board games… Most people will find something that they are interested in. The offering is usually free of charge, and you will see in the program if you have to register or not.

You like your library quiet?

Libraries are also frequently used by students to study and prepare for their exams. You will notice when more and more young people take up the free spaces around the table. They tend to go to the libraries that are open the latest. If you prefer your library calmer, you can choose one that closes in the late afternoon.

Notable Libraries:

  • Bibliothèque Mazarine in Paris: the oldest public library in France, dating back to the 17th century. They have an original Gutenberg Bible.
  • La Tête Carrée in Lyon: It’s the architecture of the library that secured a spot on this list, we invite you to have a quick online.
  • Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire in Strasbourg: The library was stands since 1891 and has the second-largest collection in France. Despite being bombarded many times during the war it still stands strong. 
  • La bibliothèque Oscar Niemeyer in Havre: more fantastic architecture, designed by Brazilian architect of the same name.

Do you want to add anything? Which is your favourite library, and why? Mine is in Paris, Médiathèque Françoise Sagan. The building gives the impression to be in the South of France with the palm trees. There is plenty of space to sit in- and outside and they have a great collection. Even books in languages I can read, and a piano on the top floor to play!


Making Friends

One of the questions I get the most is about making friends, particularly in the context of moving to a new city or country. Making friends, especially as an adult, is not easy. My advice is to build up the courage and put yourself out there. Luckily we live in the age of the internet, we have countless resources available to us to meet new people. 

Making friends in France

This topic can be divided into two main categories, making international friends, and making local friends. Finding international friends is much easier, as you are diving into a pool of people who are usually in a similar situation as yourself – new in town, trying to meet new people and open to new experiences. Meeting local people is a bit more difficult as they usually already have a group of friends and are less open to widening their circle, however they do exist!

Adapting to the culture

One of the things I found helpful is to learn more about French culture to better connect with French people. From basic things like understanding which football clubs are popular, to what cultural activities or restaurants are popular at any time, having this information can help. Have you read the recent bestselling book, have you been to the latest exhibition or new film in the cinema? People like to talk about new and popular things, it can help if you can participate in this conversation. Has there been a political or celebrity scandal, is there a recent development in the news that people are discussing, or are you also exhausted of something that gets on everyone’s nerves? These are all great starting points. 

Online resources

As aforementioned, there are countless resources, however some of my favourite and easiest ones are:

Reddit: there are groups for each city, for example r/Paris, r/SocialParis, r/Lyon, r/Toulouse, r/NiceFrance, r/AixMarseille and more. Very often people ask if others would like to meet up or join them for planned activities, and the posts I’ve seen always have replies!

MeetUp: probably the most popular app to meet new people, with an endless offer of groups available, you can find like minded people to play board games, discuss books, go hiking, play football or do other sports, language exchanges, or just party!

InterNations: Not free, but I’ve had decent feedback. Internations specialise in the expat communities around the world and host frequent events everywhere. Once you sign up you can participate at events, usually for a small fee, and then meet many other people trying to connect with other people.

Facebook: Among the groups on facebook there usually are “Germans in Lyon”, “Spanish in Toulouse”, “British in Nice”, you get the idea. There will be social groups, local groups, find the one you feel most attuned to, join, and ask others if they want to do something – the posts I’ve seen usually gather up to 30 likeminded people which starts the conversation.

Local Groups: 

When I lived in Toulouse I joined Toulangues, a language exchange program that pairs you up with French people who want to learn your language. It was an easy way to meet locals and I learned some French along the way. MyLanguageExchange offers a similar project in Marseille and Lyon, people write ads who they wish to connect with. Tandem is also a language exchange, however this also works online and you don’t need to meet the people in person.

Sports Clubs:

Several of my international friends have met their tribe by joining local sports clubs, tennis, football, hiking groups or even playing chess in the park – have a look in your city if you can find activities you like, and give it a go!


Les Journées Européennes du Patrimoine

Did you notice unusually long queues across town this weekend and didn’t know why? It may have been related to the annual event of les Journées Européennes du Patrimoine.

Les Journées Européennes du Patrimoine, also known as European Heritage Days or Doors Open Days, originate in France in 1984. The French Ministry of Culture decided to open closed spaces to the public. This way they could have a glimpse of the unaccessible parts of historic and public spaces and buildings.

For one day a year, the Ministry of Culture opened the doors to historic monuments across the country. Everyone could come and visit, discover things they had not been able to access before. Unsurprisingly, it was a bit success and repeated the following year.

In 1985, the French Minister of Culture proposed to the European Council, to duplicate the project across all of Europe. After this, every year, more countries joined. Since 2010, all 50 signatory states of the European Cultural Convention have joined and are hosting their own European Heritage Days.

How to participate?

The Journées Européennes du Patrimoine are free for all, and usually run for a weekend in September from 10:00-17:00.

Find the program of your city and see what they have on offer!

Most French cities participate, simple search for “journées du patrimoine+your city+year” and you should find the program.

Alternatively, you can visit the government website who have an interactive map of all events in the country.


What is the Summer “Plage”?

Paris Plage is named after a beach in the village of Le Touquet-Paris-Plage until the mid-1960s. The beach was called Paris Plage because of its relative proximity to the French capital. Many Parisians would come visit on weekends during the summer months.

The idea to install “Plages” across the country came from the French city of Saint-Quentin in Aisle in 1996. Due to social action needed for their somewhat 60 000 inhabitants, the city decided to transform the square in front of the Marie into a beach. They turned it into a real beach with sand, games, and pools. It was such a huge success it became an annual attraction. 6 years later this event gained so much notoriety in the media, other French cities adapted the concept. 

Good to know: all activities are completely free, there usually is a program on the website or on site where you can see what the offering is.

Today you’ll easily find one near you. They usually begin during the national French Summer holidays July and August. They are designed to offer the same leisure and activities one would find on their holidays at a beach resort. I myself have gone to the Toulouse Plage and made use of the book library, boardgames library, a French language course and beach volleyball. 

Paris Plage, July – September 4th

Toulouse Plage, July – August 28

To find a Plage near you, head to Google and type “your city name” + “Plage été” and you can find it. Alternatively, go to your city’s website and look at their Summer offering. It’s more than just sports or swimming, you can also take part in a course or learn new skills. Grab a friend, put on your sandals, and enjoy having your feet in the sand where you usually would not!


Le Bouillon

Bouil·​lon – a clear seasoned soup made usually from lean beef.

French: bouillir, English: to boil.

In France, however, a bouillon is so much more than just broth – it’s one of my favourite types of restaurant. A Bouillon Parisien is a large, usually older restaurant that serves traditional French cuisine for a low price point, and the wine is sold by the size of the bottle – there is a variety to choose from!

a bouillon selection of wine sizes

Founded in 1855, French butcher Pierre-Louis Duval from Montlhéry, started selling boiled beef in its broth at a fixed price on rue de Montesquieu.

This was close to the market stalls of Les Halles, so the workers started coming regularly to eat. The success led him to open several more of these establishments. By 1900, Paris alone had more than 250 bouillons, now the name for a cheap eatery that serves good food fast, essentially France’s version of fast food before fast food really was a thing.

You know the wild nights of the French authors and artists near Montparnasse, getting drunk and arguing politics and philosophy that led to masterpieces such as Les Mandarins (Simone de Beauvoir) or À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (Marcel Proust) – they probably took place in a bouillon.

What dishes can you expect when going to a bouillon? You will always find the French staples, divided into entrée, plat, dessert, and cheese.

Starters include Oeufs Mayonnaise, boiled eggs filled with mayonnaise for 2,50€, l’Os à Moelle – bone marrow – for 4,20€ or Escargots, snails, for 7€. Popular “Plats” include Soupe à l’Oignon gratinée au Cantal – French onion soup with cheese for 8,50€, the famous Steak Frites for 11,80€ or Cuisse de Poulet, chicken with french fries for 9,80€.

Desserts are an event in itself – if you want to try all the “classics” at a low price point at once, head to your nearest bouillon and order Riz au Lait, Baba au Rhum, Pain Perdu, Île Flottante, Tarte Citron, Mousse au Chocolat, Crème Brûlée and Profiteroles. All under 5€, all delicious.

Each time I have visitors in Paris, without fail I will take them to a bouillon. The atmosphere is busy and joyful, the food is good and cheap, and there is plenty of wine! 

There will be one in a city near you:







French Etiquette: Bonjour!

In line with our first blog I thought I would cover some basic French etiquette – after all, there are some strict, unspoken rules that are very precious to the locals, and if you don’t follow them, you will stand out like a sore thumb. 

Consider this a  comprehensive guide on how to behave in France, taking into account French cultural particularities, etiquette, manners and behaviours that you should adapt to when living in France:

French etiquette in action!

Greeting and Saying Goodbye: 

In France, it is customary to greet people with a kiss on each cheek. This is called “faire la bise” and it is a standard greeting among friends and acquaintances. The proper way to do this is to lean in and give two light kisses, one on each cheek, starting with the left cheek. If you are meeting someone for the first time, it’s best to wait for them to initiate the kisses.


Saying “Bonjour!” is essential wherever you go, or whomever you speak to. When entering a shop you should say a general “Bonjour”. Before asking a question to a worker, start first by saying “Bonjour”. So, while in the UK, you’d go up to a worker and say “can you help me x, y, z.” In France it would be “Bonjour, can you help me…” and so on. Here’s Natalie Portman explaining that this was also her experience whilst living in Paris.

Equally important is to say “Au Revoir!” once you leave. You can add a “Bonne journée” if you like, but the “Au Revoir!” is mandatory. If you don’t say it, you might hear an angry “Au Revoir!!!” thrown at you on your way out. Remember, people take French etiquette seriously.

Public Transport Etiquette

Keep to the right whilst moving, and never stop in the middle of a path. More often than not, there will be a lot of people commuting with you. If you stop (like we see tourists do), you are sure to be run over. On the escalator, keep to the right (like in London), and when the train/metro/tram arrives, wait for people to exit before getting on. 

Seats are freely available, avoid using the ones reserved for people who need them most (they are marked). When you want to sit in a 4-seater, it is customary for the people sitting closer to the corridor, to just move their legs so you can pass and sit by the window, they will not scootch over to the other seat. 

Dining Etiquette: 

Meals are a central part of French culture, and dining etiquette is an important aspect to keep in mind. When dining at a restaurant, it is customary to wait for everyone to be seated before starting to eat. You should also wait for the host to start eating before beginning yourself. Table manners are quite formal in France, and it is important to keep your elbows off the table and to hold your knife and fork properly.


In France, it is considered impolite to cut in line. Queuing is taken very seriously, and people are expected to wait their turn. If you are in a queue, it is best to wait patiently and not try to push ahead of others.


Tipping optional in France, as the waiters receive a salary. You are welcome to leave a small amount of money to show your appreciation for good service. In restaurants, it is standard to leave a few euros on the table or to round up the total bill. In bars, it is common to leave a small amount of change.

French Language: 

French is the official language of France, and it is considered polite to make an effort to speak the language when in the country. While many French people do speak English, it’s a good idea to learn some basic French phrases to show respect for the culture and to help you navigate your day-to-day life. You’ll feel the appreciation by the locals instantly.

Personal Space: 

In France, people tend to respect each other’s personal space. It is considered impolite to stand too close to someone when speaking with them, and to invade their personal space.


Punctuality is more relaxed in France, while it is considered polite to arrive on time for appointments and meetings, outside of work there is more leeway. The famous “quart d’heure de politesse” means if invited, to show up 15 minutes late in case the host is not finished preparing yet. If you are actually running late, it is best to call ahead to let the other person know.

Public Behaviour: 

In France, it is considered impolite to be loud or boisterous in public places. It’s important to be mindful of your volume and to avoid disturbing others.

Work Etiquette:

Before starting to dive into a topic with a colleague, it’s always polite to first ask “how are you?” and then start the work conversation. I’ve myself fallen into this trap far too often, and it’s not considered good manners. If it’s your first conversation of the day with your colleague, first you say “Bonjour!” and then “how are you?”, and then you can get into the real discussion.

What are some unspoken rules you have experienced yourself? Share your stories and this blog may have a part 2 soon 🐙