It’s official, I have a place to live in France! After months of searching online and a week in a lovely Airbnb apartment (seriously, no sarcasm) I’ve moved into my forever (read next 7 months) home.
Apartment hunting in France is stressful. While some Assistants get placed in boarding schools with on-campus housing, most are left to fend for themselves. This isn’t to say that having what amounts to a dorm room at your place of employment is necessarily a good thing. I’ve heard some unfortunate stories about an Assistant having to share a bathroom with a 60 something German colleague. Not my (or his) cup of tea.
For every 10 messages I sent out to potential landlords and flatmates I probably heard back from 2 or 3. And the amount of middle-aged and retired singles (both men and women) looking for flatmates is frightening. It was especially difficult for me because the majority of university students arrive in August, thus most of the decently priced and equipped places were already rented by the time I arrived at the end of September.
Perhaps the best case scenario would be if, as an Assistant, you were able to visit sometime during the summer to look at flats and apartments. Unfortunately this is usually only a possibility for Assistants from countries in Europe.
Fun fact #1: Two hundred to three hundred dollar (or in this case euro) security deposits don’t exist in France. If you’re lucky your security deposit will only be equivalent to one month’s rent. If you’re me, your security deposit for your appartement meublée (furnished apartment) will be two months’ rent. Oof.
FYI future assistants, come with enough money to cover the equivalent of 3 months’ rent just in case.
For me, finding an apartment or flat that wasn’t being rented by an agency was necessary. This is because agencies require either a cosigner with a French bank account, an entire years’ worth of rent in your personal bank account, or an inordinate amount of paperwork from both yourself and your parents. This wasn’t an option for me. While I had come to France with a couple of contacts living in the country thanks to the graciousness of a family friend, asking someone you have never met to cosign for an apartment isn’t something I was comfortable doing.
All in all I am pleased with the apartment I’m in. I have three flatmates: a fellow Assistant, a French student from Corsica studying Law, and a Jamaican student studying Finance. Having spoken with the other Assistant throughout the summer, I felt a bit more comfortable going into a 4 bedroom apartment situation after living by myself for the last two years.
The apartment is located in the Vernier/Libération neighborhood of Nice, right across the street from an école (elementary school) i.e. adorable little children speaking French better than I could ever hope to.
The building was built in 1932 but the inside of my apartment has been updated. Clearly the landlord has a thing for neutral colors and chic décor.
Fun fact #2: Many apartments will have a washing machine (in the kitchen or bathroom… why) but no dryer : ( crispy socks and undies here I come.
Fun fact #3: Closets aren’t a thing. Out of the five apartments I’ve been in over the last week only one had a closet. And half of it was occupied by the washing machine.
Now that things have settled down on the apartment hunting front, things are picking up at work. Monday I begin teaching groups of students on my own after spending just three short days observing classes. The majority of my students will be Terminale (final year in high school) and are thus preparing for the BAC (the test that determines a student’s future…ACT or SAT flashbacks/nightmares anyone?). Thankfully I have years of experience learning about and discussing the themes for the BAC this year: Myths and Heros, Spaces and Exchanges, the Idea of Progress, and Places and Forms of Power. Wish me luck as I begin my first weekend of lesson planning !