A Tale of Two Cities


Perhaps simply due to geographical proximity, or maybe age old Franco-British rivalry, Paris and London seem to be intrinsically linked by more than just the cross-channel Eurostar service; a relationship that has captured the imagination of authors from Charles Dickens to George Orwell. So how do these two European capitals measure up to each other nowadays? Is there a better quality of life in the ville des lumières or would you be happier in the big smoke? Here’s our list of reasons why each of these cities is better:

Paris is Better

  • The Food

You simply have to look at the number of 3 Michelin starred restaurants in each city (11 in Paris, 2 in London) to see that, when it comes to food, Paris undoubtedly has the upper hand. This is not only true for high end dining; whereas you’d be hard pressed to walk for 5 minutes in London without coming across a Nando’s or Pizza Express, Paris tends towards small, independent restaurants with a much more personal feel.

  • The Architecture

Paris is, undeniably, breathtaking. Its architectural consistency lends it an unmistakeable elegance such that Parisian buildings could not possibly be imagined anywhere else. That’s not to say that London is ugly! Of course the British capital has some gems of its own, but as a whole it simply cannot compare to Paris.

  • Manageability

Central Paris is conveniently contained within le boulevard périphérique, a ring road that wraps around the city’s 20 bite-sized arrondissements.This set up lends a kind of friendly ‘neighbourhood’ feel; although you live in Paris, first and foremost you live in an arrondissement, where you know your local boulangerie and fromagerie (Did we mention that bread and cheese are excellent in Paris?). This can feel a lot easier to handle than the sprawl of London, where you can spend an age moving from one place to the next.

  • Living Costs

With housing costs coming in at 27% cheaper in the French capital and transport a whopping 50% cheaper, for your wallet the choice is a no brainer. Paris is without a doubt the more affordable of the two cities.

  • ‘Je ne sais quoi’

Paris has a certain something that is difficult to articulate, a product of its early 20th Century glory days. The films would have you believe that the whole city is bathed in a warm toned Instagram filter, and for many this romantic view of Paris does ring true. Then again, for some this ideal can lead to disappointment with the reality (See ‘Paris syndrome’, a comical but altogether real condition that befalls poor Japanese tourists whose experience of Paris does not live up to their expectations)


London is Better

  • Culture

Paris has an excellent cultural offering, with world class museums like the Louvre giving it a real edge in this domain. However, it’s hard to match up to museums like The British Museum and the Tate, which are, by the way, all free.

  • Size

Although Paris being manageable was stated as an advantage, depending on your perspective you can view London’s immensity as a good thing. You’re sure to find something to do in one of London’s many boroughs at any time, whatever your interests, provided you’re willing to spend some time on the tube of course!

  • Job Opportunities

London is certainly the place to be in Europe when it comes to work, especially in the finance sector. Add this to the higher average salary in London and you might actually be able to afford to live there!

  • Internationality

London has a significantly larger international population than Paris, and with this comes all kinds of benefits, from interesting foods to try (head down to Brick Lane’s Sunday food market and you’ll understand) to diverse cultural events. Furthermore, if so many people are flocking to a place, this suggests it’s an attractive place to live, which brings us on to the final point…

  • French Migration

In 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy gave a campaign speech, somewhat unexpectedly, in London. He praised its vitality and labelled it ‘one of the biggest French cities’, and he wasn’t wrong – an estimated 200,000 French people are now living in London. This gives us some food for thought, isn’t it rather telling that French people are choosing to cross the channel to their neighbouring capital rather than staying in their own?

Overall, it’s near impossible to definitively state that one of these great cities is better than the other, as it depends so much on what you’re looking for. When it comes to beauty and ambiance, Paris is a clear winner, whereas London has the edge in diversity and excitement. Which do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below, and if you liked this post you can check out the other entries here, or if you’re looking for work you can consult our job offers for bilingual assistants here.


France’s sixth city: what does London offer the French?

Many of us have been shocked to read in the news recently that London has been dubbed “France’s sixth city”. We read on thinking that this must be some joke, nothing more than a twisted statistic. On the contrary, recent estimations have shown the number of French nationals living in the UK capital to top figures for important French cities such as Bordeaux, Nantes and Strasbourg. It is difficult to calculate an exact figure, but an estimated 300 to 400 thousand French nationals currently call London their home. The figure is so staggering that the French in London have won the right to elect a candidate to represent them in the French National Assembly. So what exactly does London have that encourages so many to make the move across the channel?

If you don’t know London well, you may be unaware that the French presence there is actually nothing new. Following years of persecution in their home country due to their protestant faith, the Huguenots were offered sanctuary in the United Kingdom by King Charles II. Large numbers of French migrants began to arrive in London in the seventeenth century. Often known as “Le Refuge”, this movement even led to the coining of the term “refugee”. Attracted by cheaper prices, the Huguenots converged in the east of the city, where their mark can still be seen in the area around Spitalfields market, with names such as “Fleur de Lis street” and “Fournier street”. Feeling towards these refugees was not entirely positive, with many feeling that the newcomers were depriving Londoners of work.

Several hundred years on, the French can be found in just about every corner of London. In the streets around the embassy in South Kensington, French “Londoners” flock to the finest patisseries and send their children to the posh “Lycée Charles de Gaulle”. The charitable “Centre Charles Peguy” in Shoreditch helps new French arrivals to find accommodation in London and demand has greatly increased in recent months. Surely it is not just the promise of familiar home comforts that entice more and more people to make the move?

Image via TJ Morris (Flickr)

In some areas of France, employment and family problems provide an incentive to leave. Department 93 for example is renowned for such problems. An abbreviation for the Seine-Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, department 93 is home to a high proportion of French nationals of African origin. Probably thanks to its high immigrant population, the area is synonymous to many with high unemployment, racism and discrimination. In France, job prospects can be harmed by the obligation to list such a postcode on your CV, as well as by name and skin colour. Fleeing the banlieues, many young French professionals see London as a land of promise, where their ambition might really come to something.

Looking closely at the demographics of migrants, it is clear that it is young professionals in particular that London attracts. They like the freedom that the UK capital offers, including its welcome escape from French bureaucracy and increased opportunities in the East End’s creative sector. Furthermore, many see London as a gateway to globalization. They are under the impression that once you come to London, the opportunities are endless (as long as you speak English!). Another reason for the recent increase in arrivals is of course the appeal of the Olympics, offering a perceived myriad of jobs. There is a definite case of the “bright lights syndrome”, which by definition can lead to disappointment. It is not unusual to move to France totally unaware of the expensive lifestyle, with housing often costing even more than that of Paris. Moreover, living conditions are often questionable and are particularly poor in areas such as the French-friendly Brick Lane.

Despite its initial appeal, it would seem that the French don’t always find life in London easy. Some claim that London is not for the faint-hearted and that those fond of their French food and holidays should stay put. London is an adventure. Wait to see if the risk pays off and you never know, it just might. One thing is for sure – a city with such a long history of French inhabitants isn’t about to give up its claim any time soon!