9 Things I Wished I Knew Before Moving from NYC to Paris

on a flight moving NYC to Paris

This past week my husband and I made the leap: We moved our entire lives from our comfy Chelsea apartment to the unknown life in Paris. Well, not entirely unknown—my husband is from Paris, and I lived there 10 years ago for a year and a half between school and teaching English in the suburbs of St. Denis. Yet this time around, there were still plenty of unknowns. Here are nine things I learned from my move that might be helpful to anyone else looking to leap the ocean.

Just deal with your landlord (even if he is a scumbag). When we contacted our landlord to let him know that we were moving out of the country and wanted to get out of our lease five months early, he asked (in not so friendly of a tone) not only for the security deposit but another month’s rent. We offered to find a tenant to replace us. He told us we “must be naive” to think that he would just let us bring anyone into the apartment. So we tried to figure things out on our own. Long story short, NYC real estate sucks. We grew to wish we had just dealt with our slum landlord in the first place, even with his shady deal.

You own more stuff than you think. I don’t know how many boxes I thought we’d have to pack. Maybe eight, 10 at most? We weren’t planning on shipping our furniture, and we already lived in a shoebox in New York City. How much stuff did we really own? Ha…

junk we found in our apartment when moving

17 masks we found in our closets from various costume parties

lots of stuff to sort...

lots of stuff to sort…

Use a freight carrier. …Turns out, we own a whole lot more than we thought we did.

Trying to ship our stuff piecemeal: One shortcut we wished we avoided. When we got the initial quote to have movers pack up our stuff and ship across the ocean via freight, at more than $3,000 we thought we could do better on our own. In fact, back when I first lived in Paris at 22, I had shipped my life’s belongings in two boxes. If I could afford it then, I could afford it now.

Well, I was wrong. Each box did cost $200 to ship. But each box had to stay within a 60-lb limit…which is way harder than you think, especially when you’re shipping all the goodies from your wedding registry. The USPS website that each box we shipped could weigh up to 70 lbs. Turns out, we realized when we brought three random boxes to USPS, each box can weigh up to 70 lbs, but over 60 lbs the shipping cost skyrockets from $200 to $400. Now we were stuck with 10 boxes that were all overweight. Though we had bought a scale for exactly this purpose at home, the thought of painstakingly rearranging them was too much the day before we were scheduled to move. And if we did actually succeed at shifting things around, we’d still likely have 15 boxes total, which would bring our total right back up to $3,000. Plus we’d take 15 times the risk of each box getting lost along the way.

So we caved and called the freight company. They were able to come the next day, midday (the day we planned on moving…we were in luck). True, we had already wasted $400 on extra extra-large suitcases (we thought we could also baggage check a lot of our stuff on the plane, but we ended up shipping half of those suitcases). Even more painful: It would have saved us a week of packing and packed our stuff for us. But in the end, they really saved us. I just wished we had gone freight to begin with.


the final stack of bags and boxes (or some of them…) outside of our NYC apartment

Pack smarter. Despite the fact that we had packed our own boxes and bags, by the time we put away our essentials it was an insane rush to simply find space. Which meant it was impossible to know, looking at three identical suitcases, which one held my medications, which one had my running shoes, which one held my jewelry, where I had stashed my glasses. And opening them at the airport led to stuff spilling out. Going back, I would have started with the important suitcase and packed back from there, making sure to carefully label as necessary. And left the painstaking packing of the rest of the apartment to the movers.

You’ll spend more than you think. That goes for everything. Not just the movers. From the Uber to the airport ($160 from Chelsea, Manhattan to JFK for an SUV big enough to carry all of our baggage) to the airplane tickets (we booked last-minute and the airline ended up charging us $200 more than what we had reserved online) to the surplus on the baggage (ours were so overweight at 60 to 70 lbs each…so even though they were within the airline limit, we ended up paying $700 to the airline). By the end we just handed over the credit card and winced.

Have your papers (or tickets) in order. Think you can just buy a one-way ticket to Paris? Good luck. If you, like me, are an American married to a Frenchman/woman, you can’t. You have to either have proof that you are continuing on to another destination, or you need to buy a return ticket. While we had plans to travel not long after we arrived in France, we hadn’t yet bought the tickets. But since we knew we had to return to New York in July for a friend’s wedding, we decided to buy the return tickets then. For a premium. We basically paid as much for each one-way ticket as we would have paid for round trip. Again…#money. Be prepared to spend it.

Try not to stress. Yep, you’re about to leave your home, your city, your country, your friends and possibly your job. It’s stressful, no getting around that. But I got so worked up about the idea of it all that I found myself with not only a nasty cold that just wouldn’t give up (as did my husband) but a case of the shingles. YES, SHINGLES. The disease for seniors. The one you don’t get a vaccine for until age 55. Except…sometimes it crops up if you’re extremely stressed. Later, when I went into a nail salon to get a shoulder massage with my last cheap NYC mani/pedi, the masseuse kept commenting on how tight, aye! my shoulders and neck were. Tell me about it. All that stress? Not worth it. Whatever happens will happen, no matter how much you worry (or not) about it.

our to-do list got shorter...eventually

our to-do list got shorter…eventually

Make contact before you leave. This was one thing I did that I was glad every moment. Even on the day of our move, in the midst of our maid cleaning the apartment and the new tenant breathing down our neck, as I literally ran across town to catch the six train to Grand Central, I was happy an old colleague was taking the time to meet with me. These are the people who will keep you in touch and grounded with your life back in New York, and—in my case, at least—who may help you score freelance work. So no matter how busy your days get, make the time to see the contacts you want to stay in touch with, those who are close to you but possibly more importantly those you don’t know as well.

It’s not your husband’s fault. He’s doing his best, even when stress has him unable to see straight. So chill! Wise words I wish I had told myself but didn’t.

Talk to Me