You’re about to realize your dream: living in Paris for a month. You found an apartment, booked your flight, and learned how to ask for les toilettes.
You imagine strolling through the city, taking in the sights, hanging out at cafés, and being…Parisian. Of course, part of the fun of travel is making new friends. As much as we love French hospitality, local Parisians and expats aren’t always hanging out in cafés looking for tourists to befriend. If your plan was to strike up conversation with the local artists over espresso at your neighborhood bistrot, you might want to think up a slightly more elaborate back-up plan. Just in case.
Plus, maybe your idea of Paris includes escaping the tourist traps and discovering truly local haunts – great live music at an otherwise unassuming dive bar, or a fantastic meal at your neighborhood restaurant. With a dash of creativity, there are plenty of original ways to meet people and experience a little of the true Paris. Here are a few ideas:
- Jim Haynes’ Sunday dinners. Jim Haynes, an American ex-pat, has been holding Sunday dinner at his apartment in the 14th arrondissement for 30 years. You will meet plenty of Americans, but also people from France and other countries. Make your reservation early, as Jim’s apartment is small and can only hold about 50 people. If it’s a warm and clear night, he’ll accept more people as the crowd spills outside. After making a reservation, contact Jim on Sunday morning to get his building code and plan to arrive at 8 pm sharp. A donation is suggested, but you don’t need to bring anything else.
- CouchSurfing. This organization connects locals who have a little extra sleeping space with travelers looking for a place to stay for free. Beyond finding a cheap place to rest your head, it’s also a great way to meet locals and see a city through their eyes. CouchSurfing has groups in most major cities; the Paris group is very active, with over 60,000 members. Every Monday night, Parisian members meet at The Lions pub for trivia night and in the summertime, picnics are organized in parks all over the city. On any given day, you can find half dozen things to do: meet someone to go sightseeing, attend a party at someone’s home, join a vegetarian brunch… Once you sign up, go to the Paris group page to connect with locals and travelers looking for things to do in Paris.
- Practice your Franglish. Franglish (it’s actually called that) is a group of French and English speakers that meets every week in Paris. The concept is kind of like speed-dating-meets-language-lessons over drinks, but rather than dating, it’s a way to make friends. You first chat with one person for 7 minutes in French, followed by 7 minutes in English. You switch partners and languages several times and recent transplants will be happy to know that your French doesn’t have to be perfect.
- Join organizations or volunteer. The American Library in Paris, the largest English-language library in Europe, puts together a number of events and opportunities for expats to mingle, including author readings, discussions, art and photography exhibits, and a book club that meets monthly. They’re also always on the lookout for volunteers. Whether or not you attend worship services at the American Church in Paris, you’re welcome to partake in the yoga, karate, or Scottish dancing classes they offer, among others.
- If you’re in Paris to get away from your fellow Americans, try the Expatriate Party – a social group for ex-pats from all over the world. They put together events such as Cinema Night, Zoo Day, Karaoke and a Sunday morning run.
- For more ideas, check out other ex-pat sites like AngloInfo Paris.
Clearly, opportunities for mixing and mingling with locals and expats abound in Paris. If this list just filled your Paris agenda with a little too much activity, remember that there’s also nothing more Parisian than leaving room for the unexpected, as you sip an espresso on your local café terrace… Who knows what might happen!
- La Mom comments on the strange expat slang time warp
- Jennyphoria on the highs and lows of visa trouble in France
- Meetup.com also organizes lots of getogethers for American expats in Paris