Paris survival guide for interns and graduates
Well done! You are doing a job or an internship Paris. Elegance, intellect, beauty and romance – are just some of the qualities that come to mind when you imagine a city such as Paris. Countless tales and stories have been set within its famous boundaries over the course of a long history. And now you will also be living and working within an internship here and you are going to have the absolute time of your life!
Paris is a perfect city for the explorer-at-heart, its architecture and city design makes for magical afternoons admiring its buildings, windows and façades, as well as getting lost among the many laneways and small side streets.
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Before starting, watch this video on how to survive in Paris
The city of Paris has an amazingly long history – dating back as far as 52 A.D! At that time, it was merely a little fishing village called Lutetia Parisiorum which was situated on the riverbanks of the Seine. But then came Julius Caesar and the Romans who conquered, what we now know as Paris, and all its surrounding lands in 52 A.D.
Paris quickly became the centre for higher education and learning and during the 11th century Paris boomed in size and population. The famous Louvre was built during this time as well as the University of Paris, which was home to famous scholars such as Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas Aquinas.
Paris hasn’t always been all beauty and sophistication however – from 1337 to 1453 the Hundred Year War raged on in France between the English and French royalties, which caused mass bloodshed and starvation.
Paris soon bounced back from the Hundred Year War and during the 16th century it entered, what we now know as, the Enlightenment period. The 17th and 18th centuries meant further growth and glory for Paris and France and it was during this time that the city transformed and evolved into the artistic, romance-filled, dreamy city we know and love today.
10 reasons to choose Paris for your international internship or to work
1. Quality food
The French, and especially the Parisian’s, looove their food! Not only that, but they appreciate good quality food. There are very few fast-food, open 24 hours a day business-type set ups; the French appreciate real food, produced in non-harmful ways, using only the best resources.
Think endless cheese, pastries, coffee, steak, chocolate, coffee, creamy pastas… ahh, please take us there right now!
>> Click here to find the best bakery in Paris
2. The selection of restaurants
Can you tell there is a bit of a theme going on here…? If you love food, then you are going to have the best time in Paris! Paris is the centre for all things French cuisine, but it also has a great range of international selections on offer as well. There are restaurants varying from exquisite fine dining experiences through to street carts and food stands.
One thing you will notice about many of the cafes and restaurants in Paris is that they are independently owned. Sure, there are burger outlets where you can buy fries, but enter any one of the many food establishments in the city and you will likely find the owner taking orders or preparing food out the back. This individuality gives the Parisian’s a sense of pride when it comes to their food and this is also why so much of the food is of such high quality.
We all know real Champagne only comes from the French region Champagne and we all know some of the world’s best wine is produced in France. Wine has been a big industry in France for hundreds of years and over the course of its history the French have really perfected the art of wine. Reds, whites, sparkling wines – whatever is your taste, you will find it in Paris!
The Parisian’s definitely love their wine so be careful not to get into a debate with a wine aficionado during your next meal! Bottles of wine are often consumed during most meals, so be prepared to be offered a glass or two over lunch or dinner. Parisian’s will also take wine on their picnics and drinking in public parks is a common occurrence; it’s a great way to spend a sunny afternoon in the city!
4. Work-life balance
The French really know how to live a quality life. If you had all that great cheese and wine available all the time, then you wouldn’t want to be working 80 hour weeks either! Paris is an intern’s dream – you won’t find yourself still working at the office at 9pm on a Friday night because your boss wanted all of their files photocopied by Monday morning.
Parisian’s tend to work between 35-40 hours a week – and they actually stick to this routine. Most workers are also given 30 days of holiday leave per year and it is because of these policies that the OECD has ranked the French as among the most productive and efficient employees in the EU.
5. No to boredom
You can never be bored in Paris! When you can spend hours wandering beautiful, historic laneways; or lazing in parks reading books with friends on sunny afternoons; or perusing through one of the many art galleries and museums on offer – there is always something new for you to find in one of Paris’ 20 arrondissements (neighbourhoods).
6. Parks and Gardens
Paris is a huge city, but what other international hubs lack in greenery Paris certainly makes up for in parks and gardens! The city has public gardens on offer such as the Luxembourg Gardens, the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont grottos, and the Parc Monceau – just to name a few. But Paris is also famous for its many small green squares scattered around the city, which offer a place of respite and a chance to relax on a bench under a shady tree for an hour or two. You are surprisingly never far away from nature in Paris!
7. Conveniently located to other international hotspots
Make the most of your short working weeks and spend your weekends and spare time traveling all of the amazing international locations that are close-by, e.g. Brussels, Dublin or Rome! Or how does Barcelona, Athens or Copenhagen sound? The choices are endless. Plus, you have the option of traveling via airplane or train to most international destinations.
8. Fashion, fashion, fashion
Paris is one of the world’s fashion hubs – so if it is designer wear and the latest trends that you’re into, you are going to have a wild time in Paris! Paris Fashion Week runs from January 18-26 this year, so if you are lucky enough to be living in the city during this time then you will not want to miss out on one of the world’s largest fashion shows! Designers and consumers travel from all around the world every year to Paris for the event so make sure you get tickets to at least one of the many shows being performed.
9. The nightlife
Social life is very important for Parisian’s and because of this they have some of the hottest nightclubs and venues in the world! Generally, Parisian’s will begin a Friday or Saturday night by meeting up as a group for dinner where they will share in food and wine for a couple of hours. From there, they will then head to a bar or music venue for casual drinks and a show until around midnight. It is at this time that the nightclub scene really kicks off – clubs are open late until 4am so you will have plenty of opportunity to dance the night away until the early hours!
10. The language
Everyone can agree that the French language sounds like poetry to the ears! While most people do speak English in Paris, they will always be more impressed if you can speak French, even if you do make the odd mistake. Contrary to popular belief, Parisian’s are very patient when it comes to foreigners and they will take their time to explain the language if they can see that you are really trying to learn – and who wouldn’t want to learn such a beautiful language while they are on an internship?!
What to see during your work placement in Paris
- Obviously at the top of the list is the Eiffel Tower, which is arguably the most popular tourist destination in all of France. The Eiffel Tower is known all over the world and catching a glimpse of the beautiful structure at night is definitely worth your time and money !
Built in 1889, the Eiffel Tower was originally hated by most French people. It wasn’t until recently, with its constant appearance in films, television series and French tourism campaigns that the tower has received an increase in popularity with the locals.
The Eiffel Tower is located in the west of the city and can be accessed every day of the year from train lines 6, 8 and 9. Prices to enter the tower vary depending on how high you wish to climb – but let me tell you, the view from the top is well worth the €15 EUR you will spend !
- Second on the list is the Arc de Triomphe – another very well known Parisian landmark! Designed and constructed by Napoleon for his own wedding, the Arc was supposed to be completed by 1810 but it took a further 26 years to build, and only finished completion in 1836. It is located in the 8ème arrondissement (8th district) and you can access the viewing deck inside the Arc from 10am – around 11pm depending on what time of year you visit. The Arc stands at 164 feet tall and is surprisingly larger than most people expect! You can climb to the top of the Arc for only €9.50 EUR – and trust me, the view is well worth it! This is a general category encompassing all of the vistas and spectacular city views Paris has on offer. There are so many locations to choose from, we couldn’t even begin to name them all! The city is so well designed for scenic snapshots so make sure you bring your camera with you wherever you go.
- Notre Dame Cathedral – home to the infamous legend of Quasimodo; the hunchback who chimed the bells and befriended the cathedral’s gargoyles. Notre Dame first started being built right back in 1163 – over 850 years ago! It took 200 years to complete and it first officially opened in 1345.
Famous for its Gothic style architecture and giant Gargoyle statues adorning its towers, the cathedral is free to enter any day of the week. If you want to climb the 387 stairs to the top of the cathedral (which we highly recommend) you will have to pay a small cost. But from the top of the cathedral you can see views of Montmartre in the north, the Arc de Triomphe to the west and St-Sulpice and the Panthéon to the south.
- Of course The Louvre (or the Musee de Louvre in French) has to make this list! It was originally built as a forte in the 12th century. But before it was turned into the world’s largest museum, The Louvre was converted into a palace for French royalty, then it was the home to an array of famous French academics and then, lastly, during the French Revolution, it was decided it should be turned into a museum to house France’s most precious national masterpieces.
Home to famous artworks such as the Mona Lisa, the Louvre houses over 35,000 pieces of art! So make sure you have plenty of time when you visit to wander the enormous hallways. It costs €12 EUR for a day ticket which allows you access to all areas of the museum and it is open Mondays, Thursdays, and weekends from 9am-7:30pm, and Wednesdays and Fridays from 9am-10pm, but it is closed on Tuesdays.
How to get around in Paris
Paris is a huge city and it has a lot of traffic so taking the metro or the bus is always a good choice when traveling around the city or commuting to your internship. The public transport system is very reliable and cost effective, but there are always taxis and services such as Uber available to get you to your destination (or home from a late night out!).
Paris can be rather expensive depending on where you live and what activities you partake in, so it would be a smart idea – regardless of your lifestyle, to have some savings as a backup. France is a member of the EU so the Euro is the only accepted currency and depending what country you are coming from the Euro can be an expensive currency to convert to.
We’d recommend budgeting at least USD$50-100 per day for your stay in Paris – you will need more if you plan on taking weekend trips around France and other surrounding countries.
French and Parisian habits are like no other! But it is their subtleties and quirks that really make Parisian’s the fascinating people that they are.
- Firstly, smoking in restaurants and bars is permitted – so be prepared if you are a non-smoker. They will offer non-smoking areas in some establishments, but do not rely on this as an option.
- Parisians generally don’t get their day properly started until mid-late morning – this is awful if you’re an early morning person! Be flexible and relax into their lifestyle and you will soon realise its benefits – oh, you had that extra glass of wine at dinner last night? Good thing you get to sleep in a little longer!
- No free coffee refills. Do I need to repeat that? If you’re one of those lucky people that are accustomed to a constant flow of caffeine in the morning, be prepared to pay for it!
- Some shops and restaurants are closed on Sundays. Remember earlier we told you Parisian’s have a very good work/life balance? Well, this is one of the drawbacks to that system, not everything is open all of the time.
- Dogs are allowed in restaurants – fantastic if you’re an animal lover, not so great if dogs give you the creeps. You will find that most of the dogs are very well socialised and do not bark or get aggressive unless really provoked, so there is no need to worry if this idea makes you uncomfortable!
Best areas to live in
The city of Paris is basically divided into two halves, one half to the South of the river Seine and one to the North. Within Paris there are 20 arrondissements (districts) to choose from and depending where you are located they can vary quite a lot. One thing to be said about Paris’ arrondissements is that they are all unique and full of character! The top five arrondissements to live are:
Arrondissement 1 – located in the centre of the city, this is home to famous landmarks such as the Louvre and is also located right near the Seine. You will pay top price to live in this area, so if you’re on a budget, it would be best to move on down the list…
Arrondissement 2 – also located in the city centre right next door to Arrondissement 1, Arrondissement 2 offers nearly all the same benefits. It is central, getting around is easy and many shops and restaurants and other attractions are right at your doorstep – but you will also pay for the convenience.
Arrondissement 3 and 4 – located on the South bank of the Seine and very close to Arrondissements 1 and 2. Arrondissements 3 and 4 make up a beautiful old neighbourhood packed full of old-school charm. Home to the Notre Dame Cathedral, it is still very central so getting around is very easy.
Arrondissement 8 – last on the list is the district also known as Champs Élysées. This is arguably Paris’ most elegant and sophisticated Arrondissement since it is packed with high-end hotels, apartments and restaurants. Home to a great nightlife, this area would be well-suited to someone with a larger budget and professional lifestyle.
If you are working in an internship in Paris for an extended time you’re going to need a few essential items. Depending on the time of year and the activities you like to get involved in, you’re going to need a variety of clothing and necessities to get you through. Don’t stress if you forget something though, its not like you’re going to be short of options of places to buy and restock things when you need them!
- Electronics – remember all chargers and accessories for your phone, computer, iPod and any other gadgets you may be bringing with you.
- Power adaptor – you know, so you can charge things.
- Shoes – you will need a variety! One pair of good walking shoes, one pair of boots, one pair of dress shoes, one pair of sandals or casual flat shoes – plus a pair of runners if your walking shoes aren’t suitable for when you want to hit the gym.
- Clothing – a waterproof coat is a must and a lot of layers. This way your wardrobe will be suitable regardless of the season. Also make sure you bring (or are prepared to buy) an outfit perfect for an elegant night out. There are so many things to do and see in Paris, I have no doubt you will need that cocktail dress at some stage!
- Camera – hopefully it is a smaller size so you are able to take it wherever you go. There are picturesque scenes wherever you look in Paris and regardless of whether you’re a photographer or not, you are going to want to document the sights!
Paris really does have so much to offer, living up to its reputation as one of the world’s greatest cities. With its long history, lavish lifestyles and French charisma, Paris is sure to be a wonderful place for your European internship.
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