Parisian Living

Why I Moved to Paris During a Pandemic

by Jessica Johnston

If I could describe my current life to my December 2019 self, she would think I was crazy. Of course, the whirlwind that was 2020 would take anyone by surprise. But the most notable change that last year brought for me was quitting my stable full-time job in the middle of a pandemic to move across the world, to a place I had never been before: Paris. 

Left: A woman is standing in a relatively empty Parisian street with her back facing the camera. In the middle of the intersecting streets, Paroisse Saint-Paul Saint-Louis is visible. Right: Through the window of a restaurant, stacked chairs are visible, implying that the restaurant has closed.
Top: kats_live_to_eat / wiwoos Above: Paroisse Saint-Paul Saint-Louis,
purpleparadis / sophieannenadeau

After about a year of working a corporate job post-university graduation, I realized that it really wasn’t the right choice for me. I would come home from a long day at work, and think to myself: Is this really it? Am I just going to work, eat, and sleep for the next 35 years? There was so much more of the world I wanted to see, and my two weeks of paid vacation weren’t going to cut it. 

Left: A bed is pictured, pushed up against the open windows inside of a Parisian apartment. There is a coffee cup and flowers resting on top of the bed. The view from the balcony is of a typical Parisian apartment building, and the Eiffel Tower is pictured in the background. Right: The inside of a French boulangerie is pictured. There are many different types of baguettes and other bread pictured in the back, as well as pastries and other sweets in front.
Left: ananewyork / Right: pamelaloufti

By January 2020, I made up my mind. Within the next 12 months, I would quit my job and live in Paris. I had saved up enough money by working full-time over the last few years, and thanks to the Canadian education system, I already had a solid foundation of French. I imagined my life in Paris, spending mornings leisurely drinking coffee, afternoons perusing through endless art galleries and museums, and evenings having an apéro by the Seine. With my free time, I’d have the rest of Europe at my doorstep and could spend weekends in some of my favorite European cities, discovering new ones along the way. My next few months were spent quietly planning as anticipation built for this next chapter.

Left: The outside of a restaurant called Fleurus Café is pictured, with patrons sitting on the restaurant’s terrance. Right: The key code box on the outside of a Parisian building is pictured, with someone (not pictured) holding up two baguettes next to it.
Left: backinldn / Right: franziskanazarenus

But I couldn’t have predicted what would happen to our world in March. Borders were closed. France stopped issuing visas. Still, I was five months out from my planned departure. We’ll be back to normal by the end of the month, I kept telling myself. As the pandemic evolved and worsened, there was still never a doubt in my mind that I would get to Paris, one way or another. At the end of July, France started issuing visas again. So I quit my job and had three weeks to pack up my life in two suitcases and prepare for my move.

Left: A Parisian bookstore is pictured in an indoor passageway. The bookstore has a large sign that reads “Reliure Librairie Ancient & Moderne”. Right: The outside of Printemps Haussmann, a busy shopping centre in Paris, is pictured. Pedestrians are crossing the street in front of the shopping centre, and are blurry and out of focus in the photo.
Left: hifromalix / Right: Printemps Haussmann, dathhh

After a tearful goodbye to my family outside of the airport, I made it through check-in and security in record time. Since Canada was on the EU’s “safe list” at the time, I didn’t require any additional documentation to board the flight. My first plane ride in over eight months was uncomfortable. The flight was fuller than I had anticipated and wearing a surgical mask for over seven hours felt restricting to say the least. I tried to sleep, but my racing thoughts wouldn’t allow me to. When the lights turned off, I felt a few tears stream down my face. Have I made a huge mistake? What if I get there and it’s nothing like I expected? Once I got off the flight and made my way into Paris, my worries were put to rest. 

Left: From the point of view of standing in an alleyway, a gate opens and the Louvre Pyramid is visible, with a small crowd of people walking around. Right: There are large white columns vertically aligned, and underneath there is an empty restaurant terrace.
Left: Louvre Pyramid, littlelouinparis / Right: tesshell

Though there are some drawbacks to moving Paris during the pandemic, I feel fortunate to experience this quiet side of the city, visiting the Louvre and Versailles with just a handful of other people present. I enjoyed tourist-free terraces, as Parisians experienced a quiet summer. I was even able to celebrate my birthday just before curfew hit us in October. Rather than focusing on the negative aspects of life in Paris under Covid-19, I’ve learned to appreciate the little things. Whether it be trips to my local boulangerie for a warm crunchy baguette, the view of the Eiffel Tower from my apartment, or walks around my local park.  It’s easy to see the beauty in everything here in Paris. While living in Paris might not be exactly what I had in mind, I wouldn’t want to change a thing.

Left: A staircase is pictured with various artwork and plants as decorations. There is a large chandelier and windows that show typical Parisian buildings. Right: The interior of a bedroom is pictured, with a bed with pink and red sheets on the floor by an open window. The balcony faces a Parisian apartment.
Left: Pink Mamma, lukecabrahams / Right: hifromalix

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Written by Jessica Johnston for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates. 

Written By

Jessica Johnston

Jessica is from Toronto, Canada, where she studied communication and public relations at Ryerson University, and worked in internal communications. She moved in Paris in the summer of 2020 after quitting her corporate job in the pursuit of the Parisian lifestyle. She loves trying new things, discovering new cultures, and connecting with people. In her free time, you can find her trying new restaurants, browsing the skincare section in pharmacies, and spending time in parks across Paris. View Jessica Johnston's Website

17 comments on “Why I Moved to Paris During a Pandemic

Hey Jessica! I took the same leap of faith and arrived here last year in the middle of the pandemic. Very inspiring article. Would be keen to stay in contact and discover Paris in Pandemic!

Marie-Louise Kelday

Loved your article! Chapeau to you!

Merci beaucoup!

How exciting! But I’d love more details, like what kind of visa you attained. What job you have now? And how long you plan to stay? Working overtime for most would not equate with quitting a job and a move across the ocean, so feel either you were very well off or had some sort of income lined up when you arrived. Those details matter.

stephanie sullivan

How have the past few months been? We moved to Paris in Jan 2020 and returned to California May 2020 (we were scheduled to live there for 2 years). We are now thinking of returning this summer for 2 years (work and a dream to live abroad) but city living in lockdown/tight quarters (married with 2 kids) was tough. I loooove Paris though and dying to get back but want to be realistic about it (hopeful but not confident next fall will be normal).

It’s been quiet for sure! We’re under a 6 p.m. – 6 a.m. curfew now, with only stores opened in between those hours. These lockdowns haven’t been as strict as the first round last March, so I commend you for making it work! Hoping you can return soon!

What an exciting venture; I have wanted to study abroad there for a semester or two and your comments here, especially during the pandemic, are pretty awesome!

Thank you! Paris is a great city to study abroad. Bon courage!

At 53, it has hit me that it is time for a change from the last 30 years in Toronto. While I am fortunate to have a EU Citizenship, my biggest fear is employment opportunities and income at my age. My goal is to live a simple life in Paris, experience the streets, its energy, and live out the rest of my life content for once.
Your article has made me more inspired today to make this happen.

I’m happy my article provided some inspiration. Wishing you all the best in following that goal!

I have been longing to move to Paris and do not know where to begin… Any suggestions ???
I have been several times, speak decent French, and am willing to do whatever it takes!!!♥️

Depends on your interests, age and nationality, but there are many options for visas on the France-Visas website! Stay tuned for a follow-up article with more of these details 🙂

Who wouldn’t move to Paris in a heartbeat given the financial ability and wherewithal to do so in a heartbeat. I would. I’m lucky that I’ve been there 5 or 6 times, but never long enough.

Even with the “plague” I would go. Just to sit in a cafe with a glass of wine or a coffee and watch the passing parade of fascinating people and gorgeous women would be enough.

And then there are the museums and the food……THE FOOD!! OMG. And like NYC and London, the ability and freedom to just walk and walk.

So much to see and experience. Mon Dieu!

Hope you can come back soon! Cafés are currently closed for dining in, but I find it’s just as nice to grab a coffee to go and sit in a park!

Very nice and interesting article. What do you do for work in Paris and what kind of visa did you obtain?

Brave and wonderful. Brava.

Merci!

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