Living In Paris Was Really Bloody Hard

Living In Paris Was Really Bloody Hard

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his is something that has been in the back of my mind for ages now. Literally months – maybe even coming up to a year! Yes I lived in Paris for 10 months, and no I did not have the time of my life.

Except I did. I had the best year of my life. However, not for the reasons you’d expect from living the Parisian dream for a year. I had the time of my life because I met some incredible people, travelled to some beautiful places, and found a lot of strength within myself that I didn’t know I had. Notice how none of those things involve the Eiffel Tower?

I was incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to live and study in Paris for so long. I was incredibly lucky that Durham offered it to me as an Erasmus placement, and I was incredibly lucky to be in a position to accept it. Please don’t get me wrong when I say that Parisian living was awful. I appreciate just how lucky I was, and am.

But Paris was awful. Not sorry.

Like, it wasn’t awful in a bad way. It wasn’t awful in a scary way, or in any form of objective way.

Paris was awful because it was just so damn hard. It broke me, physically and mentally, and I’m pretty inclined to say that if we called the last 11 months The Great War of Imii v. Paris, Paris will be known forever as the victor. Paris gobbled me up, chewed me a bit, showed me the sights, then spat me back out.

I’m probably exaggerating. Truth is, I actually feel really awkward writing this. People can get really weird about Paris. It’s so built up as this perfect romantic city, full of French fun and love and beauty, and people really get into that. Back in October I wrote a pretty satirical article about Paris being awful and I got so much abuse, including a death threat (lol). Why are you all so obsessed with Paris? Copenhagen is stunning. Berlin is super cool. Rome has the most incredible food. Barcelona is full of incredible architecture. Why get so worked up over a city that is certainly beautiful, but also smells bad a lot of the time?

For me, Paris wasn’t a fun holiday. It wasn’t a mini-break with my boyfriend with fun trips to the Eiffel Tower and cheap wine on balconies (you all know that I don’t drink). Sure, I did all those things. I did the tourist stuff. I did the fun with friends stuff. I did the fun few days with Ollie doing cute things like walking and eating. My Parisian friends are the best friends I have ever had in my life. I did experience the Paris that you all love.

You know what else I experienced? Crippling loneliness. Anxiety. Stress. The inability to communicate for the most basic necessities. Depression. The French banking system (an ongoing issue…). Arguing with sales assistants about wifi, in my first week. Paying bills I couldn’t read. Always being the ‘English girl’. Brexit while abroad. Binge eating. Food poisoning alone, late at night. A trip to the dentist. Begging my parents/university to let me come home.

Whenever I post an insta, or tweet a tweet, or even blog a blog, I get a handful of people telling me how lucky I am. A handful of people telling me how much they love Paris. How jealous they are. My favourites from recentlyΒ go along the lines of ‘hope you had a nice time.’

On the whole, I did have a nice time. But that’s such a weird question?! Like, I lived there. I lived there in the same way that you live in Wigan or Guildford or Blackpool or wherever you live. Did you have a nice time, living there?

I lived my life the same way I live my life at home, in London or in Durham. I bought loo roll, I cleaned my bathroom and kitchen, I put on washes and ate cornflakes before uni. I didn’t live my life any differently to any of you, except that I did it all in a language I didn’t speak, or at least didn’t speak well enough. It wasn’t a constant Woody Allen film or a walk through the Tuileries.

I’m making a fuss over nothing, I know.

People would give their right arm to live in Paris, I know.

In the words of one angry tweet a while ago: Life’s what you make it, bitch.

Would I go back? Would I do exactly the same thing again? Well, I think so. Now that I know I can get through to the end alive – something I wasn’t sure was possible back in November/December.

Would I do the same thing somewhere else? Would I move to Barcelona or Rome or anywhere else? No. I couldn’t put myself through it again. It would break me completely.

While building up my confidence immensely, my 10 months in Paris also smashed it into pieces. It made me nervous and anxious, depressed and stressed. I gained a stone in binge weight that I still can’t bring myself to get rid of because I’m not quite sure I’m worth the effort. Two months on I’m still tired and sad and worried.

According to my mother I looked ill when I came back – something she assures me is not the case now.

It’s weird because it really was the best year of my life. I’m so incredibly proud of myself and I’m so glad that I was able to take the opportunity.

I’d also say it was the worst year of my life. The lowest moments and the longest nights.

I think what I actually want is a little credit. For someone to really appreciate quite how hard it was for me. Quite how much it crushed me. Something more than just ‘ooo how lovely.’

So when it comes up I smile and nod, and say my thank yous and sing my praises for the year I’ve just had. In truth, I don’t really want to talk about it. Not yet. Not for a little while. Having promised I’d go back for a few days in September, I just can’t face booking my tickets yet.

I need to look after myself a bit first. I need to let myself get over it all. Let myself think it all through.

Then maybe I’ll remember Paris through the rose-tinted lens everyone else sees it through.

But not yet.

 

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36 Comments

  1. Kayleigh Lindstedt
    19th August 2016 / 8:28 am

    I think this is a great and honest post-I really hope you’re okay after such a traumatic time. I love Paris, in fact I love France and always go there for my holidays, but I understand that living somewhere in comparison to holidaying is something completely different. Upping sticks and moving somewhere alone is scary and I think you should be immensely proud of yourself for doing it-I’m 30 and I’m more sure I could do it even now!! The language barrier must have been so difficult too. I hope in time you can see the positives and remember the good from your trip, but also remember whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger-and you survived!
    Loved reading this-well done for being so honest (it’s beautifully written too!)

    Kay xx
    http://www.idreamofcoco.co.uk

  2. 19th August 2016 / 9:20 am

    This is such a fantastic post Imii! I’ve never been that enamoured of Paris tbh. I went when i was 16 with school and felt very meh about it all. I definitely don’t get the obsession so many people seem to have with it!

    Living abroad alone is really, really hard. Especially if you’re studying, but living in a flat and not halls (which I was lucky enough to do), it can be really isolating. I’m not surprised you struggled, but I think you’re so so brave to have stuck with it and seen it through to the end.

    The good memories will come, you just need time! πŸ™‚ xxx

    Little Miss Katy

  3. 19th August 2016 / 10:46 am

    I love how honest this post is, Imii. I think it’s easy for people to assume that living in Paris, or anywhere abroad, is fun or easy when you think of it as a vacation destination. It’s easy to think it would be perfect to live somewhere when you’re on holiday because you never really face the actual realities of living there. While you’re in queues for tourist attractions, you don’t consider how much you might miss people, or the small things you take for granted at home. It must be even harder to live somewhere when you’re always considered “the english girl”.

    I wish you all the best in getting over it, and remember that though you might not feel it, you’re so strong for making it out the other side.

  4. 19th August 2016 / 11:45 am

    I relate with this post a lot. Moving from Canada to England has been such a weird experience that most people can’t really understand. And things that my friends and family find exotic and strange are just normal to me now. It really just becomes your life. I kind of understand how celebrities must feel when they become famous. It probably starts off feeling weird and alien and then you get used to it. I think humans are just good at adapting to their situations.

    For the record, I visited Paris three Christmases ago and I didn’t like it either. I loved Rome. I loved Amsterdam. But Paris was pretty meh for me.

    Aisling | anthologie.

  5. 19th August 2016 / 11:45 am

    I went to Paris for 10 days when I was 16 – on a school trip with 11 other Australian girls (and 2 guys) and we’d spent our entire lives being told that Paris is “the” city. So much about it was nice, but it smelled like pee and was far from even being my favourite place in France!

    I also understand what you mean by it being the best and worst year of your life – I’m just coming to the end of mine now. I spent most of the last 12 months in a job which was rewarding, a lot of fun and full of amazing people… but it was also very high pressure, the hours were far too long and the pay was far too little.

    Sorry to hear that you had a tough time, and hope you can get to the rose-tinted glasses stage soon!

    Jessi
    http://www.fullofliving.com

  6. WishVintage
    19th August 2016 / 11:48 am

    I lived in Cardiff and London to study and found much the same experience. Your post definitely touched a nerve and reminded me of those four years of purgatory! I look back now with 20 years between me and finally coming home and feel some fondness, I certainly love the cities. But the trauma of having no money to live it up! The loneliness on the weekends when everyone went home and I couldn’t afford to because I lived on the other side of the country. The sadness I felt most of the time. But I know that those experiences made me strong and self-sufficient, they were part of my journey. I don’t regret them. I wish I could have the chance to go back and do those years better but I know I couldn’t. I did the best I could. Time is a great healer and I really hope that with some distance you can appreciate that you actually rocked it! You did it. So many people wouldn’t have the guts. You did that. You went and lived in another country. All credit to you. And I do love Paris though I have never, not once, bought toilet roll there xx

  7. 19th August 2016 / 12:09 pm

    I have so much respect for you living in a foreign country on your own, people find it hard enough living in a different part of the UK so I don’t know why people don’t seem to understand why you would struggle in Paris!

    I’ve travelled around Europe quite a lot and to be honest I really don’t rate Paris. It is probably amongst my least favourite European city, I don’t understand why people romanticise it so much! That being said, it obviously has its positives and I really really hope one day you look back at your time there more fondly. You did an amazing thing!

    Teri-May xx
    http://Www.acupoft.co.uk

  8. 19th August 2016 / 12:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience, I’m sorry you had an awful time but I’m glad it has made you more confident if anything.
    I moved to France when I was 9 and came back to the UK aged 13, I get it, I didn’t know a word of french and was put into schooling there, honestly felt like I’d just been left to fend for myself, I got on with it though as hard as it was, back then I didn’t enjoy it as a child but thinking back now I’m very glad I had the experience, I have a language with me for life and I know another way of living, no wifi, no immediate commodities, I would go back and do it again though.

    Thank you πŸ™‚

    HANNAH FROM NYLONTOAST

  9. 19th August 2016 / 12:45 pm

    So sorry to read about this. I personally never felt the need to visit Paris, especially after all of the terror attacks (even though they can litterally happen everywhere). My flatmate just moved there last week and one of his biggest is coming true. I moved to London for a year after finishing high school and I had the best time of my life although it was hard in the beggining. It is difficult being on your own but I always think that we grow so much in this kind of situations. I am sure that you learned a lot from it and you should be proud of yourself for doing it! Thanks for your courage and honesty πŸ™‚
    Love from cologne x
    Lynn | http://www.nexttolondon.com/

  10. 19th August 2016 / 1:21 pm

    I love how honest this post is! I get it must be difficult admitting that it wasn’t a perfect fairytale in Paris with everyone telling you how lucky you are. Very brave and interesting post lovely!

    Ella xx
    http://www.inellaslelement.co.uk

  11. completelyrambling
    19th August 2016 / 1:37 pm

    I had a similar experience on my year abroad in the US & my dad actually came and took me home because my depression was so bad. My year abroad was a huge factor in my mental illness worsening & people didn’t get how I wasn’t having the time of my life.

    I feel like universities really need to have more honest discussions about the effects a year abroad can have on you. I know lots of people who loved it but lots of people who equally hated it, some even left.

    I really enjoyed reading this post, definitely made me feel like I’m not alone!

  12. 19th August 2016 / 4:05 pm

    This was such an interesting post to read + I totally get parts of it (not about Paris, but other awesome cities if that makes sense!). You should totally be proud for making it through the harder times πŸ™‚

    If you ever need any help with resolving French banking issues I’m happy to (try) to help as I’ve been in a similar position, even if it did take me 6 months after leaving France to persuade CAF to pay me!

    Xx

    http://www.theblondemoment.co.uk

  13. 19th August 2016 / 4:14 pm

    What a brave and honest post to read. Now that you’d done it, you should be proud of getting through and persevering but also elated in the fact that noone can ever make you do it again and you know that Paris wasn’t the one for you. Alice xxx

    http://www.woodenwindowsills.co.uk

  14. 19th August 2016 / 4:31 pm

    This really sums up how I felt about living away for university, although the cold grey streets are quite far removed from Parisian neighbourhoods. I know I haven’t shut up about Paris and my trip there because I really loved the city in the short time I was there, but I could never live there. The smell, for a start… Like you said, there are so many other amazing cities in the world that don’t get mentioned anywhere near as much yet are just as brilliant, if not better. You popped in to my head whilst I was there and it was pure admiration at your time spent there, living anywhere new can be hard at first let alone living in a country with an entirely different language and set of cultural norms! I’ve been home from Aberdeen for a little over a year now and I’m finally trying to focus on the parts of living there I enjoyed as opposed to the nights spent crying on my bedroom floor or hiding from flatmates, so I hope you get to that stage too. It’s a huge thing to have done and you should always be proud of yourself for getting through it! xxx

    Charlotte / Colours & Carousels

  15. 19th August 2016 / 5:04 pm

    Really amazing to read through a really honest and open post. I’ve heard a handful of people saying how Paris isn’t all its cracked up to be, and I kinda guess that how you felt. Its sad that it gave you a hard time living there with anxiety, depression etc. But you seemed to gain some good experience by being out there so thats good at the end of the day haha!

    Lucy | Forever September

  16. 19th August 2016 / 5:21 pm

    I’ve followed your Paris posts and think you’ve done amazingly and overcome so much. I studied abroad in Germany, albeit for only four months and I studied in English which meant that it was only the general life stuff which was tricky. So I understand how hard it is to face having to do every day life without enough of the language. I think sometimes it’s easier to not speak any of a language as it forces you to bluster through – having some knowledge (I’d done AS level German) makes you really feel your own inadequacies.

    I know you can’t face it now but I promise you that when you do eventually go back, you’ll realise how that year changed your confidence. I go back to Germany now with the confidence that my German might not be good (I am still taking lessons) but that I can survive there, because I have.

    Lisa | Not Quite Enough

  17. 19th August 2016 / 5:36 pm

    I totally understand what you’re saying! I mean, I never went to live in another country away from everything I know but I get your point. People always look at Paris as a city you visited for a week or two, you stay at a nice hotel, you go get lunch and dinner at different restaurants & visit incredible places and museums and when you’re tired you go back to your hotel room and sleep until the next day. Repeat for a week or two. People just forget that walking around & do nothing is not what you do when you’re living there, you just have a standard life like everyone else but probably a bit more difficult because you’re away from home and don’t know the language. Honestly, I don’t know if I could make it, I’d probably get to the end of the first month and I’d run back come! Take your time now πŸ™‚ x

    abittersweetdiary.blogspot.pt

  18. 19th August 2016 / 5:49 pm

    I love how honest this is, because I had a similar experience. Last spring I moved from the US to Germany for a semester abroad, and while I made many good friends and got to travel all over the continent, it was also the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I only knew a handful of people while there, and many of them were very different from me so I didn’t feel like I could connect with most of the people I met. I know a bit of German and could get around, but anything beyond the basics was a frustrating communication process. By the end I was happy to return to a country where everything was labelled in English, but now that I’ve been back for a long time, I do miss it immensely, and I would love to go back given the chance.

    Kate | girlinthebluejacket.blogspot.com

  19. 19th August 2016 / 6:26 pm

    I always wondered how so many people see Paris in this dreamy perfect-city kind of way. I’ve never lived there, but I’ve been there a few times on holiday and while I enjoyed my stay, I also saw the negatives, the things I didn’t like. Because every place on this earth has good and bad things about it. It just is so weird that so many people can’t seem to see the bad things about Paris. Probably because all the bloggers go there, eat macarons and buy fancy lipsticks in Sephora, before strolling around the Eiffel Tower and shoot cute pictures for their Instagrams. That’s not how Paris is and it’s quite concerning that people believe this Disney-esque picture bloggers paint of this city.
    I can’t quite believe that people seriously write death threats to you?? How insane! It is one thing to have an opinion about something (rose-tinted or not) but that doesn’t mean everyone has to share that opinion. I can only hope people on the Internet grow up and can accept different opinions, even on such “holy” things as Paris. Because Paris is not only dreamy. I’ve actually been to much nicer cities, in France I prefer Lyon for example. Beautiful, not as big and not as dirty. But still French. There you go. πŸ˜‰
    I always appreciated your honest posts about Paris and I hope you don’t let those idiots get you down! πŸ™‚
    Patti Shifting Tales

  20. 19th August 2016 / 10:43 pm

    Really enjoyed this open and honest post, Imii. I’m so sad that your YA wasn’t all sweetness and light in Paris. I did my YA in Barcelona and had a blast. There were definitely some tough times, I mean I can totally identify with the loneliness, stress and anxiety. Being plunged into a whole different country and culture and knowing that you’re living there and not a tourist can be so difficult to adjust to.

    I think ultimately, you have to be prepared to be challenged mentally, physically and emotionally and I think this post is a great eye-opener for those thinking of going on a year abroad. You should be super proud of yourself though. I know that my year abroad changed me – made me stronger, more resilient and more determined; it taught me lots of things about myself, about other cultures, about independence. Living abroad for a year, honestly made me feel like I can tackle anything. I’m sure that even if you’re not 100% convinced, you made it through the year and you’ll definitely be a better you because of it.

    Apologies for the ramble.

    Martha | Martha Dahhling

  21. 20th August 2016 / 9:03 am

    I loved reading this post but I kinda also hated it too. Because it’s exactly how I’ve felt the last year. You managed to completely put all my thoughts and feelings in a blog post, and though I wasn’t in Paris, I was in Germany, it’s like I could’ve wrote it and it may have nearly made me cry. I completely get it. A year abroad is so so so hard and this isn’t talked about enough. Everyone says that it will be the most amazing year of your life and you’re so lucky but damn it doesn’t feel it when you’re struggling with the language and feeling lonely and just want some home comforts. Even though it’s left me with quite a bit of anxiety I need to work through, we both got through it! ☺️☺️

    Hannah xx
    http://www.hannahemilylane.com

  22. 20th August 2016 / 11:57 am

    I relate to this a lot. I lived in Sevilla, Spain for 10 months during university and it was one of the most challenging periods of my life. I felt isolated, the language barrier was so rough (even though I’d been learning Spanish for 6 years) and most of the time I was there I was looking forward to leaving. I agree that that year was a learning experience but it wasn’t the dream year abroad that most people imagine.

    Danielle | solongusa.blogspot.com

  23. francescafell
    20th August 2016 / 2:14 pm

    Loved reading this for the honesty. I absolutely love Paris but I do not want to go there again. Why? Because it’s a dreadful place to be a plus size woman. There are NO plus size women. I feel awkward and my hips don’t fit anywhere. There are no clothes for me and I feel left out and fat and ugly. I hardly ever feel like that in my home town here. It gets to me and I know I should be confident in myself and not let it get to me and enjoy myself and body when I am there. But I can’t. I feel like I’m all wrong when I’m there.

  24. 20th August 2016 / 3:07 pm

    I know exactly how you feel, I studied aboard in Paris for four months a few years ago. Although I think of Paris fondly now and can’t wait to visit, it was a very hard adjustment. I was without my boyfriend who is also my best friend, I spoke three phrases in French and even though I tried to practice in stores I was shot down right away as the dumb American. I did get to travel around Europe though and I grew independently. Great post, your honesty is refreshing =o)

    http://www.dreamofadventures.com/

  25. 20th August 2016 / 11:24 pm

    Cities only seem as dreamy and wonderful and perfect as long as we do not have to live our everyday lives there πŸ˜‰

  26. Yasmin Rebecca
    21st August 2016 / 4:05 pm

    Great honest post and nothing wrong with it, I think everyone needs an awful time at some point. I’ve had a few awful periods, whether it was a place i was living in or just a stage of my life. We all need to be pushed out of our comfort zones and I’m sure you’re a way stronger (and even more awesome) person because of it. Thanks for sharing this! πŸ™‚ xxx

    Y x | http://www.thesweetsevenfive.com

  27. 21st August 2016 / 10:17 pm

    It’s difficult because although you have spoken honestly about your struggles, it’s easy to just look at the photos and think that Paris looks amazing and to imagine the ‘incredible lifestyle’ you would have over there. When you haven’t experienced it, you forget that it isn’t all rainbows and happiness.

    But you’ve achieved an amazing feat over the past year. Like, you moved to a different country alone, you learnt a new language, you managed your own place/bills etc in a different language, you were studying. That’s amazing in itself, ignoring the fact that you just so happened to be in Paris. (The city we all apparently want to live in!)

  28. 22nd August 2016 / 4:34 pm

    Lovely honest post, Imii. I’ve actually not totally understood the hype around Paris, myself. Sure, I’d love to go. To say I’ve been, really. But there are places much higher up on my list; Venice, Amsterdam. And more. I also think you were incredibly brave to move out there for a year, as you did, and to deal with everything so well. You stuck it out; you stayed there, even when you desperately wanted to go home, you stuck it out. That tenacity counts for a lot, so well done you! x http://www.aimeeraindropwrites.co.uk x

  29. 22nd August 2016 / 9:47 pm

    I cannot relate at all, seeing as I’ve never done a YA, but I’ve obviously followed you since the beginning, and it’s good to see you finally articulate everything in this way. I imagine plenty of people struggle with their YA, and I’m sure there are so many factors involved. I think this will be helpful for so many people, Imii x

    Martha Jane | http://www.marthajaneedwards.com

  30. Oui In France
    23rd August 2016 / 7:12 am

    It’s funny, right? People really do get super angry if you speak your truth about living in France. It’s like they perceive it as a personal critique and act out defensively — because in their minds they’ve built it up to be something it’s not. Living in France (having a job, paying bills,etc.) is nothing like a vacation!

    I think you’re entitled to your feelings and your words on how Paris was for you. It’s not an easy city and living abroad isn’t easy either. I like living in France but there are pros and cons to life everywhere. I’m sorry you didn’t have the best experience. I enjoyed reading your post. πŸ˜‰

  31. 23rd August 2016 / 7:57 am

    I seriously love this post! It’s so honest and I felt myself reading the whole thing before I’d even realised. You’re really brave living in Paris alone. My partner and I want to live in the UK for a bit, perhaps a year, we’re from Australia. I couldn’t do it without him, I’m not strong enough. But at least it’s somewhere they speak English!
    Tegan xx – Permanent Procrastination

  32. 24th August 2016 / 8:28 am

    It’s not just you! I spent only two months living and working in Nantes and was so lonely most of the time. It didn’t help that I stayed with a weird not that nice family which made me feel so uncomfortable. Not the best time, but also some of the best time of my life! I wish people would understand that living abroad is hard! Thank you for writing such an honest post about it xo

    Amber Love Blog

  33. 31st August 2016 / 12:24 am

    Wait a second, did you just say Durham? Durham, England? My Italian university allowed me to study there one year for my Erasmus scholarship!! My best friends there were other foreign students from, guess where? Paris! What are the chances?!
    I would really like to hear your opinion on my post about the whole experience (but you can find many more under the Erasmus tag, obviously) http://300daysofengland.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/the-survival-of-erasmus.html

    Barbs

  34. 5th September 2016 / 2:40 am

    Absolutely adore your honestly in this! I completely agree – people have this idea of Paris in their head where they think it’s a place constantly resembling a romantic Disney movie. Even though i’ve visited Paris 3 times, and have absolutely loved it, I have always known that I would rather keep it this place I visit occasionally rather than live there to have my love for it to fade when reality sets in.
    Anyway loved this post! Holly x | http://www.thechroniclesofholly.com/

  35. 5th September 2016 / 11:03 am

    I absolutely love this post and understand entirely. I lived in Italy and I would get constant comments about how beautiful the pictures were and how lucky I was to be out there for so long. In reality I felt exactly the same as you, I didn’t even think I’d make it out alive at the end!

    Nicola // pink-confetti.co.uk

  36. 18th September 2016 / 11:27 am

    very late to the party here, but I lived in Paris for eight months when I was 20 – four months studying and then four months living/working – and I had a really hard time too. it *is* a bloody difficult city and the French are bloody difficult people, much more so than I’d expected because of how everyone is so in love with it all. and you’re right, you can’t tell people that you weren’t brilliantly happy there because they think you’re being terribly ungrateful and there must be something wrong with YOU for not making the most of Paris. but no – when you live somewhere, life is about more than croissants and the Louvre and the Seine and the Eiffel Tower and wine. It’s about doing laundry and trying to get out cash and getting harassed on the metro.

    anyway, I hear you πŸ™‚