Paris on 1700 eur/month - doable?
August 27, 2016 2:23 AM   Subscribe

Help me figure out if my dream job is worth the low pay. Snow flurries inside.

(Anon because I'd rather not people from my current job see this.)

So I got offered my dream job in Paris, doing something that's a much better fit for me than what I currently do. The only wrinkle is that the salary is a bit lower than what I was expecting, and I'm trying to figure out if it is, actually, doable. Snowflakes:

- I'm fine living out in the suburbs along one of the RER lines; my primary concern is safety and reasonable rent. (Is 6-700 eur/month reasonable for a studio or flatshare?)
- I don't really eat out much, being vegetarian. Are tickets restaurants going to be of any use to me?
- I'm also not much of a drinker or partier; my main forms of entertainment are the movies, the library, and museums. Is there some kind of a Paris Visite card but for residents?
- How much (as a percentage) of my gross salary should I assume is going to taxes and stuff? Is 30% a safe estimate?
- Any other tips or advice would be great.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, this is doable.

Do you have any student loans or anything that would cut significantly into your salary? That is one major consideration. If not, you can definitely survive on this. You won't be living luxuriously (which you said you don't plan to do anyway), as this salary is below average, but I know people who lived in Paris on around this or even less.

Re: housing: just a quick search for Gentilly, a decent Parisian suburb, shows apartments in this price range. You will be able to find even more if you adjust your search to look for shared housing (and obviously look in other suburbs).

Congratulations on the job offer, and good luck in making your decision!
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 3:12 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is the 1,700 figure gross monthly salary? Salary calculators are pretty easy to find online - I just did a search for 'salary calculator + france' and found this guy. which says you'll be taking home about 1,575 per month net. Have you accepted the offer yet? Is this the best that prospective employer can offer you? Do a bit of research on comparable average salaries in Paris to see if they're lowballing you.

As for whether it's worth it, that's really up to you. It's going to be very, very tight. Have you drawn up a budget for yourself yet? How much will your utilities cost? What about public transport? Groceries? Phone? Internet? Savings? It's not hard to estimate your actual cost of living to figure out just how tight this is going to be.
posted by nerdfish at 3:25 AM on August 27, 2016

Is there a way you could negotiate a trial period after which you would be considered for a raise? And maybe take a side job until then?
posted by greta simone at 6:27 AM on August 27, 2016

European salary offers are often presented confusingly and inconsistently with respect to net and gross. Get a very clear idea of your take-home -- but if it is reasonably close to EUR 1500, it is COMPLETELY doable for someone of your lifestyle preferences. Lots of people who love to eat and drink more than you live in Paris on less.
posted by MattD at 8:42 AM on August 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

First: negotiate. Ask them if they can do better on salary. It all depends on the business and your experience, but I too think they could do better.

Second: for housing, ask them about 1% logement. You can find studios for 300-400/month through that: it is in effect social housing. Larger employers (50+ employees) are required to pay towards it, so if your employer is among them, you'll be able to send in an application. Protips: be very specific about what you want. You can refuse a couple places, but if you refuse the third offer, you will be back-burnered for a year. Also note that you'll need somewhere to stay while waiting for it to come through. Se Loger is a great site, as Enchanting Grasshopper linked.

Tickets restaurant can be used in supermarkets to buy fresh produce (bonus for you) and prepared meals.

A well-known French salary calculator for gross/net. It's pretty accurate.

Your employer should refund half your public transportation subscription (it's required by law). A pass Navigo for one month is 73 euros, unlimited transportation throughout the RATP network (including suburbs).

Re: safety, you don't say where you're from originally? If you're American, yeah, all of Europe is incredibly safe in comparison. If you don't mind a dollop of politics (trigger warning for death), when faced with panicky French people worrying about "all the attacks", I remind them that I've lost about a dozen friends, acquiantances, and teachers to gun violence in the US in the last 20 years. We have a mass shooting – mass, not individual – every day on average in the US. Several American friends have been mugged. Meanwhile, in France, over the same time period, I personally know exactly zero people who have been killed or mugged. And I live in Paris and have a very wide network. I'm a woman, I regularly go out alone at night, and the worst I have to deal with is the occasional hurf-durf remark from random men. When I lived in the US... yeah, well, I stopped going out alone at night. And that was when I lived in Eugene, Oregon.

As for those saying it's completely doable and people do more with less, sorry, that is incorrect. This salary is well below the mean. Apologies to linking to Le Figaro, but this article has a nice graphic of income distribution by class. It's a firm barely-lower-class salary for a single person. You are not going to be living a carefree life on it. Doable, yes, "completely" and "absolutely", no. You're going to need to budget carefully and make compromises. This is why I highly recommend negotiating. Push hard, especially if you are indeed from outside of France.
posted by fraula at 11:46 AM on August 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

As further comparison for salary: the SMIC, legal minimum wage, in France is 1,466.62 euros/month gross. (Click on "Montant" on that page to see the monthly amounts.)

The salary they're offering you is one I expect in construction, transportation, or the public sector, and generally anything for someone with 1 or 2 years of experience. If you're working in the private sector in something like the sciences or IT, you should just walk away. Base salaries at the worst-paying IT places here start at 2000 gross/month for fresh graduates. And those are the lowest salaries.
posted by fraula at 11:54 AM on August 27, 2016

Mod note: From the OP:
- My gross salary would be 30k/year, which I'm told is standard for my (low-paying, non-IT) industry. The 1700/month was a guesstimate based on various calculators; I'd appreciate it if someone could let me know if this is an accurate calculation.

- Part of why I'm taking this job rather than staying in my much lower cost-of-living location is that it's important to me to work on my French. I'm okay with living the broke college student lifestyle for a bit longer if it means doing it in Paris.

- I'm not from the US, but I'm not white, either, so I don't know how that changes the security aspect of things. I will say that I'm not one for late nights generally.

The responses so far have been really helpful, thank you!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:31 PM on August 27, 2016

Take the job only if you're under 27, can live frugally, fantasize about Paris, and think the French experience will add value to resume.

Otherwise, forget it. On that kind of money, you won't be able to save much, if anything. Rent and subway fare alone will set you back close to €1000 per month.

Young French graduates from good schools take home around €42,000 per year.
posted by Kwadeng at 3:14 PM on August 27, 2016

Another thing to consider : does your company has a Comité d'Entreprise? A low salary with good CE advantages (such as Chèques Vacances, which are discounts on transportation and hotels, discounts for cultural events, etc) make a big difference. I agree 1700 euros brut isn't a lot for Paris, but doable.
posted by BlackBirdFly at 6:30 AM on August 28, 2016

And no, young French graduates from good schools don't take home 42.000 k per year. It's more a 30.000 - 40.000 range.
posted by BlackBirdFly at 6:34 AM on August 28, 2016

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