I was searching for families to spend a year in France with and I knew immediately that I did not want to be in Paris. Unless I found an extremely perfect match, I did not even want to consider living in the French capital. Luckily, I formed a connection with a great family in Biarritz, France.
Biarritz is a city located in the southwestern-most tip of France, just along the Atlantic Coast. It is part of a region called the Basque Country, which expands through both modern-day France and Spain. The first time I visited this region, I knew I wanted to stay – beautiful mountains, a shining sea, and vibrant people.
All that to say, I never felt at-home the way I did immediately in the Basque Country. So, I wanted to write a few reasons not to be an au pair in Paris.
Reason 1: I would miss the ocean.
Firstly, I grew up on the Atlantic Coast of the United States, and then moved to Colorado after college. And, after living in Colorado for two years, I started to ask myself why the heck I moved away from the coast!
Therefore, it was imperative to choose one who live near the ocean. Or… a lake. Or… even a river. Plus, I was so tired of being landlocked with no water.
Yes, in Paris, you have the Seine. Although, she is nice to look at, but you are in the middle of France! The closest beach is over two hours away, and the water up in Normandy is cold. I recommend living near the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea: blue water, warm sun, and soft sand!
Reason 2: I did not want to be in a big city.
Secondly, I grew up outside of Boston, and I like big cities. But, I’m from a New England community of about 60,000 residents and I definitely prefer the large town slash mid-sized city feel. Plus, I like walking around town at night or on a sunny day and seeing people, but I enjoy areas that don’t feel too overcrowded.
Paris has a population density of 25,000 people per square kilometer. To compare, Biarritz, the beachy southwestern French town where I currently call home, has a population density of 2,300 people per square kilometer; New York has a population density of about 10,500; and London has about 4,542.
But that does not mean that I live in the middle of nowhere! By train, Bordeaux is two hours north, and Toulouse is three hours east – very accessible!
Reason 3: Paris is really, really expensive.
Luckily, I saved up for about a year before I made the move to France. Naturally, I wanted to make sure I could stretch every last penny and have some money left over for whatever my year as an au pair would bring.
Therefore, knowing that finances would be a little tight for me personally, I also knew that I would not be able to afford a full Parisian lifestyle if I wanted to be kind to my bank account.
Living with a family, means they pay for many facets of my life. This includes dinner and transportation. Plus, I did not want to pay 7€ to buy a croissant and a café au lait. However, here in Biarritz, while certain tourist spots can be expensive, there are ways to live on a budget that do now require me to restrict myself too much.
Reason 4: I wanted to be able to visit Spain easily.
For me, nothing beats the fact that I currently live 30 minutes from the Spanish border. I often find myself boarding an 8€, one-hour bus to San Sebastian, Spain for the weekend. In addition, the Spanish culture from one side of Basque Country to the other, is very different from that of France.
I find it very refreshing to spend a simple weekend in the city, and I feel recharged for the week. In places like Strasbourg or Lyon you can easily access Germany or Switzerland, respectively.
Of course, Paris has Charles De Gaulle International Airport (CDG) as well as great access to trains. But, this also requires expensive tickets, planning and possibly the hassle of an airport.
I enjoy having the affordable option to visit France’s southern neighbour on a whim—it keeps the weekends interesting and a great reason to not be an au pair in Paris !
Reason 5: I was really tired of cold winters.
My hometown in the USA shares a border with Canada and I was absolutely tired of long, cold winters. Mind you, the average temperature for Biarritz’s coldest month (January) is 10 degrees Celsius which is 50 degrees Fahrenheit! So, of course, I was absolutely overjoyed to be an au pair in the warm south of France ! In fact, yesterday it was 23 degrees Celsius (74 degrees Fahrenheit)!
What are your reasons to NOT be an au pair in Paris?
Obviously, I am a little biased in saying Biarritz is the best city in France – but I can’t help but love where I live! I feel so much more comfortable here than I ever have in Paris.
Paris is a great city to visit, but I have known for a while that it’s not somewhere I want to live.
In conclusion, my point is this: there is more to France than its capital city, and sometimes looking farther than Ile-de-France will yield amazing results!