I met up this month with Carsten Sprotte to talk about his company ParisSharing, his experience as an American expat in Paris, and his advice for visitors to his adopted home.
Secrets of Paris:
You're one of the long-timers, an expat living in Paris for over 15 years. As much as you're probably sick of answering the question, could you give us an idea of what brought you here, what made you stay, and what has kept you here all these years?
Well Heather, that's the first time anybody has ever referred to me as a long-timer! What will it be next time I'm invited back?
My story started out as so many: I was borne across the sea by romantic illusions. The catch is that I became quickly and chronically fascinated by French language and culture. With all I thought I knew about the world as an American, I was astonished at my own ignorance. You know, I didn't pry open and slurp up my first fresh oyster until the age of 26 ! It was a bit of an initiation rite (among many others). Having started from scratch (learning bonjour at the age of 19), it required a good seven years before I had really integrated (to use a French formulation) into French society. Now, I would say that being entirely bi-cultural is a quintessential part of who I am. That, along with the fact that I still find Paris and France stunningly beautiful, explains why I'm happy to stay.
There are quite a few apartment rental websites in Paris. I like your company's focus on the local community. Can you explain a bit about why you decided to go into this market, and how you have made ParisSharing different from the competition?
From a very practical standpoint, I simply observed that there were thousands of apartments in Paris left unoccupied while their owners were away on six or more weeks of French holiday, while at the same time there were thousands of couples and families wanting to visit Paris and having a very hard time finding affordable and enjoyable accommodations. In our brave new world of social media and collaborative consumption, I figured this would be a big market. True, I'm not the only one to have thought of this at roughly the same time.
I'm glad you picked up on our community spirit. What I want to offer our guests on ParisSharing is not just a place to stay, but an experience that I like to call joie de vivre à la parisienne. This is the idea that Paris is here to dazzle you, even change your life a bit. If it doesn't, then you've missed the point. But for that to happen, you have to leave the herd behind and try to live for a few days like a Parisian, next to Parisians. ParisSharing makes these experiences possible, in the best of conditions. Whether you rent a self-catering apartment or stay in a B&B, ParisSharing puts you in contact with locals or expats who will make you feel at home. We blend this grass-roots approach (real homes, real people, local products) with reliable business standards (online booking & payment, welcome books, concierge services, loyalty program, etc) to make for a terrific experience. Well, that's for our guests to tell.
If you could wave a magic wand and change the experience of every visitor to Paris, what would you want them to learn/experience?
Come on Heather, they should just hire you a tour guide! Well, come to think of it, I'm constantly trying to make what you call "the magic wand" into real services as I previously described. On a more personal note, I would like people not to focus on what they think they have to see, but rather on discovering something and following their own bliss. It's like living your own life rather than the life someone said you should live. In Paris, there's something for everyone. On a very practical level, I would advise visitors to use public bikes (with caution) or to walk, walk, walk. When you do so, visiting is no longer about going from site to site, but everything in between. And there is so much in between!
I happen to believe that the experience of either fine or home-style French cuisine is worth ten visits to the Eiffel tower. Consequently, I wish people would not have to suffer tourist-trap restaurants. With all the information we provide there is really is no excuse!
Finally, for couples in love, I would recommend that they kiss extensively, in one of the thousand public spots that Paris provides for such purposes. If you're not sure where to find them, hire a qualified tour guide or inquire on ParisSharing!
All Secrets of Paris tour clients get a special discount when booking with ParisSharing:
- $50 off all stays of at least 5 nights, plus an extra $10 for each additional night.
- For any length of stay, one colorful "culotte" of your choice from the parisienne brand "Germaine des près" OR a pair of of dark & milk chocolate tablettes from Chloe Chocolats OR a dozen postcards from the ParisSharing collection.
Just mention "Secrets of Paris" when booking as your referee, and you'll receive your discount and goodies. For any questions, contact ParisSharing at firstname.lastname@example.org