The single most stressful thing (for me) when I was preparing everything to move to France as a teaching assistant was that I didn’t know where I was going to live. Some assistants get housing through their schools, but others have to hunt for it. Doing my own apartment hunting terrified me.
How I got my apartment
If I could curse one thing with my dying breath, it would probably be the French national summer break. Sure, sure, it’s great to take time off and recharge, but when what feels like the entire country does it at the same time, it makes it pretty difficult for those of us less fortunate in the vacation department to get anything done.
So in the summer leading up to moving to France, I did a lot of waiting for people to respond to my emails. Well, mostly my contact teacher at the lycée where I would be working. In all fairness, she was very prompt in her responses. I was just a little anxious for news.
One of the first questions I asked her was about housing. I was banking on having the school provide accomodation (for free or a low fee) so I wouldn’t have to dive straight into the French rental market on my own. She responded that the school was changing principals that year, so it was still up in the air whether the former assistant accommodation would be available to me. And so I waited.
I received another email from a French email I didn’t recognize, glanced at it briefly (it arrived on my birthday), and then promptly forgot about it. At the beginning of September when I followed up with my contact teacher about possible lodging at the school, she expressed her disappointment that I had never responded to the other teacher who had emailed me about the option of accomodation at a school in a nearby town, as it seemed unlikely that I would be able to live at my school.
My stomach dropped. Had I ruined my chances of easy apartment hunting? [read: no apartment hunting]
I jotted off an email to the woman who had emailed me in July, another teacher at the school where I would be working, and she responded quickly, saying that she would look into whether that room was still available.
Fortunately it was: a room in a four-bedroom flat, sharing the apartment with three others—Italian, Spanish, and British assistants. My total rent would be €180 per month, with utilities calculated at the end of the year. It was a relief!
But I almost screwed myself over by replying so late, and for ignoring such a warm, welcoming email from a future colleague (she really is lovely, and I still stay in touch every so often). But it all worked out in the end.
How other assistants found housing
Some of my friends got lucky like I did and found flats through their schools. Others were placed in horrendous dormitory-style housing in the school and lived there in misery the whole time. For some it was free, for some it was outrageously expensive—my rent was €180 because the total rent of €720 was split four ways. For others, they had a huge apartment all to themselves, and the rent price to go along with it.
But others either didn’t have the offer of housing, or they chose to look elsewhere. One woman I knew lived with family. But the others had to search on their own.
The leboncoin site was my savior for so many things. Fortunately for me, I didn’t need to hunt for housing, but for those who did, this was the go-to. It’s basically French Craigslist, and you can sell, buy, offer services, anything you’d need to do. That’s how I landed three tutoring clients at €20 an hour. And it’s how most assistants found housing if the schools didn’t provide it for them.
You can click your region from the main page and then refine your search from there. Personal, professional, zip code, category, it makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.
University Bulletin Boards
If there’s a university in your town, the good old fashioned notice board is still alive and well in France. This would also be a great way to improve your French, if you’re living with real, live French people.
Begging Other Teachers for Leads
When all else fails, reach out to your network. And if you’ve never lived in France before and don’t already have friends or family there, that means your contact teacher. Ask for help, ask for resources, and see what comes up.
If you’re looking for more on everything TAPIF, click here. Have you struggled to find housing in France? Leave advice, tips or horror stories in the comments below!