Paris on a Budget


See this building?! It was the “Prison de la Sante” meaning the “Prison of Health.” I had to walk past it twice a day; taking the kids to school in the morning and picking them up for their two hour lunch. There were the “cat calls” from above as I walked by, which I ignored. If you haven’t guessed yet, I was an “Au Pair” which means nanny. There were five kids: ages two, five, seven, nine and ten. Two girls and three boys! They lived in a ten room apartment in Paris, near the Sorbonne, where I took French classes. This apartment was huge! Balconies and all! The father was a banker, who was always away and the mother, who was studying for her PhD, was always home. After I brought the kids home for their lunch, I was free to attend classes and do whatever. I had to be back to get them dinner and then give baths and put them to bed. I had weekends off.

This was the “economic” way to live in Paris. (My stepdad worked for the airlines, so getting there was cheap!) Anyway, while friends of mine were on study abroad programs, I signed up to be an au pair. I went through an agency that hooked me up with the family. All I needed to pay for was the plane ticket and I brought whatever money I made, over the summer working two jobs, for extra expenses. The family paid my rent at a nearby student housing complex and paid me so much every week. They also gave me Metro passes so I could get around Paris! Even back then I was told to stay out of the Arab neighborhoods!!

I had just turned 21 and was ready to explore and most importantly, SHOP!! I met another student from Switzerland and we had a blast running around Paris together! Mind you, this was the eighties so there weren’t cell phones! No social media where I could share experiences with other friends and family. I took pics with a small automatic camera! I’m not even sure where those pics are now. It was ages ago! I learned the language, but now, I even lost most of that ability. I remember phrases et. al., but am no longer fluent. It’s a shame really, but it was a long time ago and I was so young. “C’est dommage….”

Being an au pair was an awesome way to live like the French and really absorb the culture! It only took me two months to set everything up through the agency. I started the process in June (summer break) and was in Paris by mid September, right after having to stop at the French Consulate in Chicago, for my Visa. It was an easy process back then. I don’t know how easy it is today, especially with everything going on after 9/11?! So, all I can tell you is that this is a great way to live, work and study in Paris and get paid at the same time! Bonne Chance!!!



FYI: The shops!! O la la!! Also, every morning, either the father or I would run and buy a fresh loaf of bread, a baguette!! I would devour one baguette all by myself!! YUM!!


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