Americans and Paris: A Never-Ending Story

Photo by Hannes Wolf on Unsplash

The relationship between Americans and the city of Paris is the stuff of legend. From Hemingway, Henry Miller and Man Ray there has been a well-worn path of Americans swapping their lives in New York, Philadelphia or Oak Park, Illinois for one in the City of Light.

While post-World War I, the 1920s had America wrestling with prohibition, France was enjoying the années folles. In Paris, the Roaring Twenties brought social, artistic and cultural collaborations to a froth and pulled creators – and their admirers – towards the French capital. Life in Paris was inexpensive and endlessly exciting. Paris, a city even Hollywood couldn’t even manufacture, became the glowing cultural center of the Western World. And thousands of Americans found their way to this “Moveable Feast” (as Hemingway put it) and more often than not, never looked back.

Nearly 100 years later, Paris is still a magnet for Americans. VINGT Paris, one of the city’s leading real estate agencies, has logged almost two-thirds of its high-value property purchases in the last 12 months from Americans – Americans seeking a new life in one of the world’s most enduring jewels of a city as well as in the South of France.

VINGT Paris clients are typically innovators and leaders from fashion, industry, the arts, academia, science and technology. And as we head to mid-year and the Paris Olympics set to start in July 2024, there is little abatement in the influx of Americans purchasing luxury apartments across the city.

Yet global uncertainties remain challenging, with instabilities across Eastern Europe, the Middle East, China and in America as well, as the US heads towards a momentous presidential election. In an informal poll of our clients, we are hearing a significant majority wondering aloud – and at times, anxiously – about whether Western liberal democracies are at an inflection point. Time and again, American clients are telling us they are are seeking a kind of safe harbour in stormy weather, and coming to Paris to live either full or part time is a way to safely navigate chaotic times.

“Since 2005 I have worked directly with more than 150 clients, mostly Americans, seeking advice regarding property investment, but also about the life decisions that go hand in hand with such a project,” says Susie Hollands, our founder and CEO. “Should we move to Paris? What’s it like to live here?” Real estate investment, especially in Paris, is a life-changing event. Living here in your own space offers a unique choice for the future and a chance to fully engage with everything this multi-cultural and safe city has to offer, from food and music to a vibrant international community.

Over the last 12 months, VINGT Paris has seen a 2-4% increase in the proportion of foreign buyers across the entire French market and with the summer Olympics opening in Paris this July, the focus on France’s capital city will undoubtedly offer the city an opportunity to show off its many features. The enduring bond between Americans and Paris reflects a shared ideal for authenticity and inspiration. The legacy of expats who once sought refuge in the city during the Roaring Twenties resonates with contemporary Americans navigating a complex world.

For many, Paris offers a compelling blend of tradition and modernity, making it an attractive alternative to the rhythms of American life. And those who become “ex-pats,” perhaps seek a different sense of belonging that transcends borders. In an era characterised by connectivity and mobility, Paris stands out as a city where diverse cultures converge, fostering creativity and cross-cultural dialogue.

While many Americans will opt for London, largely because of the shared language, access to the Contient – and beyond – is often a key reason why Paris is seen as an increasingly desirable destination, says Susie Hollands. “The internet infrastructure, transportation system (the Métro), access to multiple airports and a well developed high-speed train system (The TGV) make Paris a kind of capital of Europe. All roads do – at least today – lead to and from Paris.”

As our sometimes fraught global narrative evolves and political divides widen, Paris continues to serve as a canvas for personal reinvention and artistic expression.

“In my experience as an immigrant – from Edinburgh – American expatriates I find contribute to the city’s complex tapestry, infusing it with their unique perspectives and ambitions,” says Hollands. “This exchange of ideas and experiences enriches Parisian society on dozens of levels. Paris remains a beacon of hope and opportunity—an invitation to reimagine one’s life against the backdrop of history and possibility.”