The English Channel (La manche, en Français) is the only geographical barrier separating the two great European capitals of London and Paris.
We, as humans, believe in superiority in every aspect of life, something always has to be better than something else, it’s just common sense.. isn’t it? Be it Messi or Ronaldo, football or rugby, tins or Buckfast, one of them always has to come out on top (Ronaldo, football, tins). We fail to fundamentally accept that different people/objects/countries can possess different qualities.
In this way, when comparing London and Paris, the only suitable question we can ask ourselves is:
Which City Is Better?
You’ll find countless articles on the internet praising either one or the other, exclaiming how there’s no contest between the two. “Paris Trumps London To Top Spot AGAIN” or “London Reaffirms Itself As The Greatest City In The World” are headings commonly used by authors to encourage clicks and generate propaganda with insufficient substance.
To put it simply, there can never be a definitive answer to this question as it is largely (completely) down to personal preference. However, in trying to determine which city would benefit YOU more, there are a number of factors that we can take into consideration.
Cost – Le Coût
Living in any major city is always going to be expensive. But in terms of overall cost and affordable living there is only one winner here, and that is Paris.
For most people who live outside of London, as well as a large percentage living within the city, it is simply unaffordable. With house prices set to rise even further in the coming years, the average age for moving out of your parents’ home is only going to increase.
According to AOL, 1/4 of young people in London “do not expect to be able to afford a place of their own until they are 35”. What is truly striking about London housing is that, a 25m2 apartment in one of the most deprived regions of the city normally costs just as much as, or even more than, a 4-bedroom house in a city like Belfast.
- According to the Paris and Île-de-France notaires, in 2015 the average price for a house was around €200,000, with higher end prices on the Champs-Elysées just surpassing €1,100,000.
- This is far cheaper than London, with even the ‘cheapest’ areas such as Barking and Dagenham boasting average prices of €310,000 (£227,500). At the higher end of the scale, in the lavish and luxurious areas of Kensington and Chelsea, average house prices equate to the equivalent of €1,630,000 euros.
In this way, London appears to be pricing its own inhabitants out of the city, and although housing in Paris is 3x more expensive than any other region in l’hexagone, it is still far more affordable than their rival capital across the channel.
Safety – La Securité
Every city, no matter how picturesque it is, has their dodgy regions & no-go zones, with London and Paris of course being no exception. In Paris however, due to the fact that it is far smaller than London, most of the crimes take place in the banlieues – the suburbs of Paris. This therefore means that the actual city of Paris itself is very sheltered.
In my experience, on a night out in Paris you are far safer, and this is largely due to the different drinking culture that I had mentioned in a previous article. Parisian drinking culture is such that, the locals tend to drink a few glasses of wine or a few pints, enjoy their soirée, and return home (knowing full well that they can turn up late to work the next day without anyone batting an eyelid).
In London however, due to its size, crimes can take place anywhere. Take then into account the aggressive drinking culture that thrives in London and it doesn’t make for pleasant viewing. In London, you are far more likely to see (or involuntarily become caught up in) a bar brawl at 1am – and you are far more likely to fear for your safety on London transport than you are in central Paris, but again this is only my experience.
It isn’t unusual in Paris to stay out until 2am at a bar during the week before going to work the next day. In this way, the Parisians don’t possess the need to release all of their frustrations of the week in two alcohol fueled nights at the weekend. It appears that when it comes down to drinking culture and nights out, Londoners could learn a thing or two from their French voisins.
London Underground – Le Métro de Paris
When it comes to getting around, Paris is once again far superior. The Paris Metro is largely recognised as one of the best in the world. To get from one side of the city to the other it usually takes a maximum of two trains, two trains that in general are far less congested and more aesthetically pleasing than their London counterparts. The metro stations in Paris are also without doubt more pleasing to the eye, with stations such as Franklin Roosevelt and Arts et Métiers exhibiting incredible designs and displays. Contrast this however with the bleak outlook at East Ham/Dagenham Heathway and I’m sure you’ll agree that the Parisian aesthetic triumphs here.
What’s more, if you want unlimited use of all of the public transport systems in Paris, It costs no more than €70 a month with a Navigo pass, usually reimbursed by 50% to €35 if you are working or if you are a student. If you want a monthly pass in zones 1-9 in London, you’ll be forced to cough up around £329.10, almost five times as much as you would be paying in Paris.
- Note – Paris is a lot smaller than London. It’s unlikely that you will ever need access to all of the zones in London, however even if you imprint the size of Paris onto London in any of these zones, the price still works out far cheaper.
People – Les Gens
Although we seem to do it everyday, it is impossible (as well as completely ignorant) to generalise a whole set of people.
- Parisians are known to Londoners (And the rest of France) as being moody and self obsessed.
- Londoners are known to just about everyone as people who keep to themselves (but speak/shout like no-one else is there when in a group) and avoid eye contact with strangers whenever possible.
In my experience, these generalisations have proved to be a false representation of both societies. Except London, that is completely true… So yes, a false representation of the Parisians.
I feel however the best way to tell if the locals are nice is by smiling at them. From doing so, I have found some interesting results – to say the least.
In Paris, if you smile at someone, they normally look over their shoulder to see if you were smiling at someone else, realise the smile was in fact intended for them, and return the favour before getting on with their day.
Now in London however, the smile is a rare commodity and has some truly incredible powers, when used correctly. If you happen to be walking down the street, or are on the tube to work, when giving someone a friendly smile, one of two things normally happens:
- 1. They look at you in utter bemusement before putting their head down and walking away as fast as they can from the strange smiling man (You’re not allowed to be happy without a valid reason in London).
- 2. They see you smile, ask ever so politely “What the f*** are you looking at” before elegantly and poetically threatening to take your life.
So yeah, try not to smile in either city, but if you’re in London, look as sad as you possibly can and people might actually take to you.
City Aesthetic & Lifestyle
When it comes down to how the City itself looks, I think the more cultural grandeur of Paris triumphs. But in terms of lifestyle, if you’re a vibrant person who is always looking for something to do, London might be the city for you.
Paris’ buildings and landmarks are incredible, and in a day you could probably walk from landmark to landmark and see all of them (You would probably have to get up quite early). The London layout is more corporate in design, with shiny new buildings and huge skyscrapers such as the shard dwarfing those which can be found at La Défence. If you prefer a more cosmopolitan, city feel, then I think London is for you.
On the contrary however, there is something about Paris that you can’t fully comprehend until you live here.
Paris, although a huge international city, is like a big village. Everywhere you go you can see the art and history of the nation. Even doing your weekly shop is different here. Although there are large retailers including Carrefour and Monoprix, Parisians tend to do their shopping in multiple local establishments.
For example, they may get their vegetables from the local market and then get their meat from the local butchers. They build relationships with these businesses and the whole experience feels more wholesome. Now, I can’t say that I personally prefer this because I’m satisfied enough with getting 10 chicken breasts for about €5 out of Monoprix, but for those who tend to stick to a more traditional & cultured approach when abroad, Paris would suit you down to the ground.
So, which city is better?
The conclusion is that there isn’t one. And there never can be one. I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived in both cities and experience the highs and lows of the two. I have found the Parisian experience to be incredible, but to say that it is without doubt superior to London in every aspect would be unfair.
My portrayal of Paris may be biased because I grew up in London, and over time developed a distaste and disregard for certain aspects of the city. After the Parisian honeymoon period ends and winter arrives, my irrational negativity will probably transfer to my opinion of Paris.
When that happens, I *might* begin to speak less highly of the city I am currently loving, and start mentioning the visibility of rats in the street or the general odour of piss that tends to reign free near the Seine ( & on some streets). But until then, I can only say that they are both great cities and you’ll never know which one is better for you until you experience both.
*But Paris is without any shadow of a doubt the better City*