If I were to choose between France and US, which would I prefer and why?
The thing is, the question isn't so simple.
Cos France or US, isn't like Singapore.
In Singapore, there is only one Singapore.
The lifestyle in Tampines is pretty much the same as Jurong.
However, in France or the US, or any big countries, there are many different faces of France, or different faces of the US.
I've heard stories of other parts of France, like Toulouse, Lyon, Normandy, etc. People have told me that the lifestyle there is very different from Paris. Less crowded, people are nicer, slower pace of life, etc.
Same as in the US, San Frans, New York, Los Angeles, etc, more homeless, more social issues, more expensive, more people, so people rush around more, etc...
So to answer the question, at best I can only answer, Paris vs Houston.
Cos these are the only 2 cities I've lived in, in the respective countries.
Also, I can only comment about my existing standard of living when I was in Paris or Houston.
I can't talk about being richer or poorer in the respective cities.
I'll also remove dumpster diving which really helped me reduce the cost of food in Paris, although I didn't need to do it to save money, it was still a fun thing to do.
I'll also remove the coupon-ing which we're doing now in Houston, were we get really good deals on food, groceries, etc... sometimes we will even make money on purchases after stacking the coupons.
(I'll probably do a post on that soon.)
It's really hard to compare both these cities fairly cos Paris is an old city, with old buildings and architecture, and that is part of the charms of Paris.
And Houston is a growing metropolitan city, where new apartments are being built as more people move to Houston to work.
Our lifestyle in Paris and Houston are both considered quite good.
In both places, we live in probably some of the more expensive areas.
Safety is a concern so we stay in the better neighbourhoods.
Also, we chose to stay pretty near where she works.
So rent is higher than what the average resident would find reasonable in the 2 cities.
They are both comparable premium areas, but in Houston, the space is 2-3 times bigger. Slightly smaller than the size of our 4-room HDB.
A bigger place, it makes a difference. It's like money, after a certain size, the additional size doesn't make much difference, but at the start, any small increase makes a difference.
Also, apartment is significantly newer as compared to Paris. Actually we are currently staying in a new apartment which was built maybe 1.5 years ago and we are the first resident in the current unit we rent.
In Paris, I had to walk up 3 flights of stairs to get to a small platform (around 5 metre square space) with 3 doors, one of them was my apartment and the other 2 are my neighbours.
Everything is small. Bathroom, bed room, living room, kitchen. No amenities.
Imagine living in an old Chinatown shophouse in SG. You walk up a flight of stairs, it's old and they sub-divide the 2nd floor into multiple units to rent it out to many families.
My current apartment in Houston is like a hotel, with long corridors lined with doors.
Everything is around double the size as what I had in Paris. There are amenities which we hardly use. Swimming pool, lounge areas, BBQ areas with a gas BBQ pit, etc. It's probably comparable to a serviced apartment in SG.
Everything is air-conditioned, reception area, corridors, etc. Just imagine a hotel but instead of rooms, it's apartments without housekeeping.
Oh, and Paris doesn't have any air-conditioning. It's not normal for homes to have air-conditioning cos it's mainly cold in Paris. Only a couple of months are hot in Paris, BUT, when it's hot, it's really really hot.
The heat in summer was terrible. Maybe it's the direction my apartment was facing, but it was terrible. Even with the fan on, there were days that I was walking around stark naked in the apartment.
And yet, Paris is miserably cold most of the year. My mood was pretty low in Paris due to the cold for the bulk of my time in Paris.
In Houston, the climate is pretty much... home. When I first reached Houston, people were warning me about how humid the climate was going to be and how hot it was during summer. I wasn't concerned cos... well... Singaporean... how hot or humid could anywhere else be right?
And yep... the climate in Houston is pretty much home.
Summer is almost ending, and we've not had to turn on the air-conditioning at all. We just have a fan and it's good enough for us in the apartment. Could also be due to the facing of the apartment.
Some days, when we go out, it's really hot outside. The temperature could just be around SG temperatures, but the heat feels a lot worse, cos there's a lot less trees. So even though it's 35 degrees outside, it feels a whole lot worse than it felt in SG. But still bearable for me.
Strangely, the car doesn't get as hot in Houston after an hour in the sun compared to SG though. You know, when we go shopping in SG and park in the sun for an hour, we don't even want to get in the car, and we open the doors and blast air-con for a while before we are ok to get in the car? Well in Houston, I've never really felt the need to do that. The car is hot, but still bearable. I can just get in the car and carry on. It's still hot, but ok.
After I experienced Paris, I told myself that I would never complain about hot weather ever again. Cos I really cannot handle the cold. It just kills my mood/morale, everything. I wake up miserable. I just feel miserable most of the time.
There are also cold days in Houston, but pretty much 10 degrees, so a jacket should be good enough for winter months. So maybe my mood will get worse soon in the coming months.
Transport in Houston is mainly by car.
I pay US$360 per month to lease the car, US$180 per month for insurance (insurance is more expensive cos it's a new car), petrol is around US$40 per month at least, depending on what I do or where I travel. Parking is free almost everywhere in the Houston area.
In Paris, my wife gets a monthly train pass for €75 or so, forgot the amount. She gets unlimited travel via most of the metro system. I didn't go out enough so I buy my tickets per trip, which is €1.90 each trip. Which is quite expensive.
In Houston, a car is a need. It's highly inconvenient to travel by public transport. An old reliable car could be purchased for around US$7k or so.
Driving conditions are pretty ok. Slightly better than in SG. Drivers are quite nice, not all, but they are a nicer than SG drivers. Roads are wide, parking is easy to find, fuel is cheap.
Paris is the entire opposite. It's convenient to travel by public transport. Unless there's a strike, which happens yearly... It's not particularly expensive with the monthly pass.
Driving is terrible. Significantly worse than SG. Roads are small, drivers are impatient. Imagine driving through Shenton way area with half the number of lanes in the roads.
Cost of eating out... well I would say for both cities, eating out is considered expensive.
Cos I'm used to SG prices.
I find Paris more expensive cos I feel I'm getting less for the price I pay.
Depending on where I go, €17 might get me a pasta with bread and some dessert.
Whereas US$17 would get us enough to feed both of us. But to the locals, that's the normal quantity that they eat. And the meal would probably consist of some meat and stuff, so I consider the value to be better in Houston than what I get in Paris.
There's also more Asian food options in Houston, Korean places, Chinese places, etc, and they are more reasonably priced than in Paris.
But for both places, we hardly eat out cos I find it pretty pricey in SG prices. Cos I still convert to SGD.
Which then leads me to cooking at home.
Cooking at home is significantly cheaper in Houston. There's no comparison. Cooking at home in Houston is even cheaper than in SG.
Then there's the homeless...
In Paris, they are everywhere. Cos we travel on foot and public transport, we notice them a lot. They are found in almost every street corner. It's very obvious.
In Houston, it's not so obvious. Cos everything is far. We get into our cars and drive past everything.
There are homeless, we do see them around. But it's not as obvious in Houston and we don't get the opportunity to interact with them much.
Same as for crime. Cos we're out in the streets more, we have to be more aware of our surroundings in Paris.
Not saying that Houston is entirely safe, but there's less chances of encounter depending on where we go and most of the time we drive.
In Paris, we must walk, we must take the subway, we must squeeze with people, etc.
But in Houston there are guns... so...
Anyway in both cities, we avoid going out when it gets dark. Just not worth the risk.
And then of course there's language.
It's probably unfair to compare Paris and Houston based on this... Cos the language barrier changes the game entirely. I can't do anything in Paris. I can't call the telco companies, can't converse with the vendors at the market, can't ask questions when I have issues with the train pass, etc...
All these issues disappear when I'm in Houston. I can do anything without being limited by language.
There's a certain freedom that comes with being fluent in the language.
And I suppose that also gets worse with the Parisian attitude.
Cos I don't particularly feel as out of place in Japan or Thailand. Where there's also a language barrier, but the people aren't as grouchy as the folks in Paris.
Or maybe I'm just reading the Parisian attitude incorrectly cos I don't understand the language. I don't know really.
In Houston, I feel the people are generally more fun, and it's also easy to chat with people so that's always fun.
As for medical care and health insurance, I'm not familiar enough with either cities to compare anything. Although I would guess that the healthcare in Houston would be more expensive than in Paris.
So as you read this, I'm sure you already know the answer.
Unfortunately, I find Paris has really little redeeming qualities from my point of view.
That's not to say Paris is a terrible city. It's just that my lifestyle, way of living, things I'm interested in, etc... it's just not aligned with Paris.
The main things I appreciate about Paris was...
1) I feel the food I get is quality stuff. Even though I got most of my food from the discarded areas. It's still good stuff. I ate a lot healthier when I was in Paris.
2) Paris is a walk-able city. I like walking. I could walk to the supermarket, take strolls to the park, places of interest, etc. I could walk to see the Arc de Triomphe, walk along the Champs-Élysées, cos we stayed a walking distance from the area. Houston is big, there are parks, but I'll have to drive there, or drive to the mall to take a walk.
The thing I realized as I was typing this post is that everything is relative.
I compare prices by converting them to SGD. So I come to a conclusion of what's more expensive vs what I'm used to.
Or traffic, or living space, or lifestyle, income level, etc...
Even my own personal mentality, beliefs come into play. I don't think about politics cos I don't really care about it. As long as I can live my own life with a place to stay, affordable transport and food, that's ok.
Like Sharon Au stayed in Paris for a long time, I'm sure she must have seen some charm of Paris to stay there for so long.
But for me, if I don't go back to SG, I can see myself staying in Houston for long term.
I really cannot bear to think about staying in Paris for long term.
Top reasons for the decision.
1 & 2) Climate and Language (I don't know which is ranked 1 or 2)
3) Overall lifestyle (Living space, car, food options), we live quite simply, but our income level can get more in Houston than in Paris.
Other things... friends and family... absent in both situations. This makes a lot of difference if it's taken into consideration.
Safety... I feel safe enough in both cities, but I won't try to push my luck by going out when it gets dark.
Politics... All countries have issues with politics. But generally, I feel that after people get above a certain financial situation, politics doesn't affect them much.
Entertainment/Travel opportunities, is not particularly important to me. We can always fly or travel when we need to.
So when I compare Houston & Singapore... I get...
Climate, language, overall lifestyle...
PLUS safety, friends & family...
and that's why I want to go home.
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