Having lived in France for almost two years (with the exception of going home in the summer due to VISA restrictions), I have had my fair share of living in and experiencing housing in the country. From my first year as an assistante in a small town to my (current) second year as an assistante again in another small town in Normandy, I would like to share my personal experiences living in these places.
Before I start, I’m going to preface this by saying that, in my mere two years in France, I’m incredibly fortunate to have had housing pretty much handed to me by the schools at which I teach/taught. There are definitely perks to living in small-to-medium-sized towns, and this is one of them (as well as costing little in rent!).
However, I’m perfectly aware that other assistant(e)s who have the fortune of living in the big city are pretty much required to find housing on their own (and subsequently paying more for rent) and also the possibility that, if I were to stay in France in the upcoming years, provided housing might not be the case. If you are in either of these two situations, I wrote a post on how to find housing, which you can check out for reference; in hindsight, I’ll probably be using what I wrote later on!
Any case, let’s get to the housing!
It was my first year as an English assistante in Normandy (specifically, l’académie de Rouen). I was placed in a small town between Le Havre and Rouen; the town was so small that there wasn’t a train station there (closest being about 10 kilometers off), so my dad and I took the train from Paris over to that station 10 kilometers away and from there had no idea how to get into my town. We were informed by a couple that there are buses which go there, but only run four times a day (the last being by 18h00), and never on the weekends (and I believed that we arrived there on Saturday, so how inconvenient!).
Eventually, I ended up talking to the conducteur inside of the station on how to get into my town, and he called a taxi to pick me and my dad up. The taxi arrived, and we got into town in about 20 minutes; it was 20 euros for a short ride, but whatever- under those circumstances then, we didn’t know that it was possible to have contacted my colleagues beforehand and that they could have picked us up instead (at no cost!).
I had been in contact with my profs référants (I worked at two schools) before arriving in Europe and was informed that, while my respective schools didn’t have any flats, there was one at another school in town, but they had to confirm whether no one would be living there that year, so that I could take it. On top of that, preparations had to be made to get it ready for me, should I end up taking it.
That said, I had to wait: thankfully, there was a small hotel in my small town in which my dad and I had booked for a few nights while housing stuff was getting settled; I think the fact that I’d arrived two weeks in advance was a bit of an inconvenience for my colleagues, since my contract wouldn’t be starting until early October. In the meantime that I stayed in the hotel (which was quite nice, actually), my dad and I explored town, tried a couple of restaurants, and opened up my bank account.
After about four nights, my flat was ready; I could move in! One of my profs refs picked me and my dad up from the hotel and drove us over across town to the place. Upon entering the flat, I was actually impressed to see that it was quite spacious (30 m2) and was completely furnished (sheets, kitchen tools, oven, laundry machine). Granted, half of the two-person bed was broken, i.e. the frames used to support the bottom were cracked in the middle, but otherwise, I was in love with my flat from the start! Also didn’t have to deal with getting Internet from a service provider, as I ended up sharing the Wifi with my neighbor next door.
Since my flat was through the school in which I lived (but didn’t actually teach at), I didn’t pay too much per month, around 162 euros. Considering its size and furnishings, I wasn’t complaining! Didn’t have any problems with it at all, and overall had a good year living there.
Upon arriving in my new town this September, I met up with my colleague at the school I would be teaching at the train station, where she picked me up and took me over to her house first for dinner (it was late evening when I arrived and I was starving). She treated me to a lot of food, and we talked a bit en français, getting to know each other and so forth before she brought me to my flat at the school towards 22h00.
Upon entering my place, I knew right off the bat that it would be a different living experience than what I had last year. Unfortunately, I had not-so-good thoughts about it, since it is a studio; I would estimate that my flat’s around 15 m2, or half the size of last year’s. Also, it’s on the rez-de-chaussée (equivalent of the first floor in the U.S.), so I can’t fully open my blinds without risking a peep show for those outside; that said, I almost always have my light on, even when it’s bright out! But still, I’m very fortunate that I have a bathroom and kitchen to myself, as well as some random items leftover from previous assistant(e)s, e.g. full-body mirror, microwave, small grocery shopping cart, yoga mats, etc.
I’ve only been in this flat for over two months, and I admit, it’s starting to feel like home, despite the limited space. It also helps that I can talk with other assistant(e)s, who live in the same building as me, and be more sociable, since that was not the case last year (I was the only one there). Rent is inexpensive, around 130 euros per month, but interestingly under our contract, we don’t need to pay the whole amount during les vacances if we’re not in our flat; the price gets reduced. I actually like this deal, since then the money that would’ve otherwise been used to pay for the flat can be allocated to travel expenses! Granted, I’m still spending money, but at least it won’t be more than if rent was a set-monthly thing (which was what happened last year).
In any case, that’s about it for my housing experiences so far in France. So far, it’s been good and even with the conveniences of providing flat-living from my schools, I’ve still had to adapt to the new changes around me, knowing that it won’t be quite the same as it is at home in Los Angeles. I’m able to live comfortably, and that is all that matters!
How has your housing situation been? Let me know!