‘Parisians are quite lovely’: Your verdict on quality of life in Paris

Paris frequently ranks close to the bottom of international rankings of the best cities for foreign residents to live. But is it really that bad? Here's the verdict from our readers.

Terrace cafes in Montmatre, Paris.
Most readers of The Local told us that Paris is not such a bad place to live after all. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

After The Expat City Ranking 2021 placed Paris 51st out of 57 cities, we were hardly surprised. 

While most of us working at the Local France live in the French capital and enjoy life here, Paris rarely does well in the global rankings of the best cities for foreign residents. 

So we decided to ask for your views on life in the City of Light. Is it really as bad as the critics make out? 

The answer, according to most of you, is no. 

Over half of the scores of people who responded to our survey said that Paris is a good place to live. 

We have broken down what were, according to you, the key points: 

Culture and beauty 

By far and away, the culture and beauty of the city was the most commonly cited positive when it comes to life in the French capital. 

“Living in this city is at times like living in a beautiful museum. People from all over the world are drawn to this dramatic, glamorous city and I feel lucky to be here,” said Todd Foreman. 

Undoubtedly it is the culture of Paris which frequently makes it the most visited city in the world.

It is a city at the forefront of fashion, cuisine and art. It is home to more than 100 museums and galleries and more than 30,000 boulangeries. The trademark Haussmannian boulevards give the city centre a beautiful uniformity that is difficult to match elsewhere. And parks like the Buttes-Chaumont are sublime. 

Peter Ford praised the city’s “architecture, parks, low-level buildings general ambiance.” 

READ MORE 14 unexpected facts on careers, culture, food and fashion in Paris 

Paris is also steeped in jazz heritage and has a burgeoning techno and LGBTQI+ scene too. 

Many of you also pointed out the French work culture has its benefits too. France has strong workers’ protections and employees work some of the shortest hours of any country in the OECD.

Public services 

Many of you wrote in to say that public transport, healthcare and other public services are highly affordable in Paris compared to elsewhere. 

“It’s very accessible – every part of the city (and quite a long way beyond!) is in reach with a very affordable metro pass,” said Matthew Preston. 

In comparison to countries like the USA, healthcare is incredibly cheap. And waiting times to see a GP are generally far shorter than in places like the UK. It is no wonder that the average French life expectancy is higher here (82.5) than in either of those countries. It has been suggested however that the air pollution in Paris is as dangerous as smoking 183 cigarettes per year

“The bureaucracy takes a little bit of time to get used to. It took us a year to get into the health care system, but once we were in it seemed to work very well,” said Jess. 

Some of you also pointed out that the geographic position of Paris makes it easy to visit other places in Europe by plane, train and automobile. 

While great public services and transport links were a common theme, many of you said that housing prices in the French capital are prohibitively expensive. Per square metre, Paris has one of the most expensive property markets in the world

READ MORE Three ways the 2022 budget makes it easier to buy or renovate French property


This one proved divisive. 

Lots of you wrote in to describe Parisians as “rude”, “xenophobic”, and “dirty”. Others even complained that the French don’t speak English. There’s a clue to what language they speak in their name.

“The way Parisians talk about foreigners and other minorities – it’s actually hideous sometimes,” wrote Juan David Romero. 

Rameez Sayed said that Parisians are “unfriendly, rude and always have a resting bitchy face.” 

“Paris residents exude unhappiness in their own lives and take it out on expatriates as a means to lift their own spirits and provide a target for their animosity,” said Pat Hallam.

“Dating here is brutal,” added Erin Gould. “It’s the least romantic city you can imagine.”

Admittedly, even French people from outside the capital believe in a negative stereotype of the snooty Parisian. 

But a number of you said that a little bit of effort can go a long way. 

READ MORE Who are really the rudest – the French, tourists or Parisians?

“As long as you make an effort in French, I’ve found Parisians quite lovely,” said Andy McGough. 

“There is the rudeness factor but the good outweighs the bad,” added Corinne Lloyd. 

Others described Parisians as more kinder than residents of other capital cities, even going as far to compliment their politeness. 

“I appreciate the politeness and character of the locals,” said Virginia Choy. “Paris is gentler and less materialistic than London and Sydney.”

Like in every other city around the world, there are good and bad people. And even these labels are pretty subjective. 

Member comments

  1. Nah, I think it is pretty subpar as an expat city in general. Just feels kind of backward/inward-looking compared to other major cities worldwide. Less parochial than smaller European capitals, but not really on a par with London/NYC

  2. We chose Lyon over Paris simply because of size and being in a city with fewer tourists. But in our 8 years of living and traveling in France, we have found the French to be very nice and helpful on the whole. In a city like Paris (or New York), residents expect you to know how to conduct yourself – pace of walking, not stopping at the top of the Metro steps, how to order in a restaurant. Things are a bit more relaxed in Lyon – I tell friends that Lyon is to Paris what San Francisco is to New York; not a perfect comparison, but workable.
    And we visit Paris whenever we have the chance.

  3. Traveling to Paris multiple times we’ve been unable to find the stereotypical rude Parisian experience. We find the city and her people to be warm and generous. We had a meal and wine secretly bought for us after a 45 chat with our neighbor table – with limited French. We have made deep friendships (a thing not supposed to happen according to some) and are now considering Paris a place to live. In terms of cost, we’re from LA so much of Paris is to us a welcome relief in prices with incredible quality.

  4. As a long-term ex-pat, two things stand out: 1.) Paris visitors do NOT respect French culture, Parisians, or Paris in general; 2.) For ex-pats (and visitors), Paris owes you NOTHING! It is entirely up to you to embrace your host city diplomatically or face the dire and mostly legitimate consequences.

    Remember, there is a solution for stubborn, arrogant, and ethnocentric visitors to Paris: EuroDisney.

    P.S. The dreaded, insidious, revolting, and ironic ‘Disneyfication’ of La Capitale must stop. It is responsible for many of these issues…

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MAPS: How many Parisians live more than 5 minutes from a boulangerie?

Bakeries, butchers, wine shops and cafés - a new survey has been published studying Paris businesses and how close the capital is to being the '15 minute city'.

MAPS: How many Parisians live more than 5 minutes from a boulangerie?

The concept of Paris becoming a leading ’15-minute city’, in which all residents would have everything they needed within a short walk of their home, was an election pledge of the capital’s mayor – now Presidential candidate – Anne Hidalgo when she was up for re-election last year.

The idea is that communities within each arrondissement of the French capital become more ‘self-sufficient’, with grocery shops, parks, cafes, sports facilities, health centres, schools and even workplaces just a walk or bike ride away. This triennial survey of the city’s commerce shows that – in this one particular area important to French people – it already is.

The eighth study into the health of the capital’s shops, cafe culture and restaurants since 2000 found that 94 percent of Parisians live within a five-minute walk from a boulangerie.

In total there were 1,180 bakeries and patisseries in Paris in 2020, a figure that had remained stable over the previous decade after falling in the first 10 years of the 21st century.

More than 1,000 bakeries had been open for at least three years, 91 new business had started, and 94 had closed down.

This map shows the number of bakeries in Paris in 2020. Green dots show established shops over three years old, red are ones that opened since 2017, while blue dots indicate shops that have closed. Image: Apur

Bakers have kept their businesses viable over the past decade by offering new ranges, including snacks and sandwiches, the study by the non-profit Atelier parisien d’urbanisme (Apur) found. Nearly 200 of the bakeries in France have also set-up terraces to reap the benefits of Paris’s renowned cafe culture.

The 1,180 bakeries make up nearly two percent of the capital’s 61,541 shops and commercial services – an extremely dense commercial network compared to other cities in France.

On the flipside, the study also found that one-third of butchers had closed in 20 years, with retirement cited as the main reason for businesses closing, along with the rise of supermarkets’ butchery sections and what the report’s authors described as, ‘reduced enthusiasm’ for meat among the population.

It counted 516 dedicated butchers’ shops in the capital in 2020.

The evolution of butchers’ shops in Paris between 2017 and 2020. Image: Apur

Meanwhile, just 80 fishmongers stores were operating in the capital when the survey was carried out – though some 259 stalls operate in Paris’s various twice-weekly open-air markets.

There are only 80 permanent fishmongers shops in the whole of Paris. Image: Apur

Intriguingly, after going out of fashion in the 1990s number of ‘cavistes’, or wine sellers has risen by almost 75 percent since 2000, to number 613 in 2020, the study found. Nearly half – 47 percent – belong to a chain.

The total number of shops and commercial businesses in Paris dropped 1.9 percent between surveys in 2017 and 2020, having remained stable in the previous three years, with clothes stores, shoe shops, jewellers and wholesale outlets more likely to close, while restaurants, organic stores, health and well-being, and beauty outlets all expanded.

The capital saw 200 organic stores open in the three years to 2020, as well as 660 cafés and restaurants, while 1,097 shops and 583 wholesalers shut their doors.

The reports authors said the survey should trends that had started several years ago were continuing on Paris high streets. E-commerce, coupled with the rise of second-hand goods as a result of growing environmental concerns, explains the sharp decline in the number of  clothing, shoes, and jewellery stores.

The development of online shopping and accompanying changes in buying practices also largely explained the virtual disappearance of video shops, as well as the decline in high street banks, temporary employment agencies, travel agencies, and the difficulties the difficulties encountered by bookshops.

The latest survey was carried out in two parts in March and October 2020 during the Covid-19 health crisis.