Our Gilded Cages
Volume XVIII, Issue 13
Le Parisien recently reported that Paris holds the national record for the smallest housing — less than 40 square meters on average. Why are we not surprised? No wonder Parisians have flocked to their country homes or anyone’s country homes in advance of the forced confinement last week!
Believe it or not, 22 percent of Paris apartments are less than 30 square meters. That’s 323 square feet, about the average size of a living room in the U.S. About 40 percent of all Parisian homes are less than 40 square meters (430.5 square feet) and over 50 percent have less than three rooms. Dwellings in all other parts of France are more spacious, so if you want space, Paris isn’t the place.
Certain districts in Paris tend to have the smallest abodes where one out of four apartments is less than 30 square meters: the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th 10th, 11th, and 18th arrondissements. The award goes to the 2nd, however, where almost a third of the dwellings are this small. Housing in the 16th is the largest of all with only 28 percent of its housing is under 40 square meters. It is in the 16th arrondissement of Paris that housing seems the largest, with 28% of “only” housing under 40 m².
The article ends with the negative remark: “On average, the best-off in Paris remains the least well-off in France.”
Do we Parisians agree? As an American who lived in way more space than we needed, I would disagree. When I moved out of our five-bedroom, 3,000 square foot home in Los Angeles in 1994 to a “spacious” three-bedroom apartment in Paris of 1,500 square feet, I was in shock. It was a big adjustment to make…at the time. Three years later, I moved into a two-bedroom 750 square foot apartment on the other side of town and never left. Along the way, I realized that space is not what life is about. What I lacked in space, was city life — cafés, restaurants, unlimited things to do, people to meet, and a myriad of cultures that those big gilded cages in the U.S. couldn’t offer. That’s what they were to me — gilded cages.
Now, here we are in our tiny apartments confined by the government restrictions not to leave our homes unless absolutely necessary. Confinement could easily end up being the six weeks they are predicting. So, the question is, how do I feel about the lack of space now?
The truth is, not any different. The point isn’t how much space I have to roam around inside, but the lack of outdoor areas — such as a balcony, terrace, garden, etc. that would make a world of difference while the parks and cafés are shut tight, especially while the weather is so enticing. This is why it’s such an advantage to have a country home where you can feel much freer at times like this and why the Parisians “got the hell out of Dodge” while they could.
After more than a week in confinement, I’ve started a routine of taking a daily walk within the limited one-kilometer radius of home, particularly in good weather. I try to walk only on the sunny side of the street, soak up the rays for some badly needed vitamin D, breath some fresh air (void of car exhaust!) and take in a very different and very quiet Paris. Yesterday the sky was the bluest I’d ever seen. Paris was pristine and unspoiled. My goal was to reach Place des Vosges, at the edge of my radius. The park was closed and there was almost no life, with the exception of one tiny woman who I see regularly, and have for years. She’s unmistakable. I see her not only in my own neighborhood but in other parts of the city, too. I assume she is homeless and not mentally healthy from her appearance and mannerisms. She bothers no one, mutters to herself, turns in circles, carries nothing, and just keeps shuffling in one direction or another, but never appearing to go anywhere with any purpose.
I wonder about her every time I see her and especially now, as she is one of those rare creatures during confinement who isn’t confined at all. And certainly not in any tiny Paris apartment.
Would you give up your gilded cage for a tiny apartment in Paris? I know lots and lots of people who have and are not (under normal circumstances) complaining!
Note: Here’s how you can determine your one-kilometer radius.
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. For those of you at home and dreaming of a move to France, or even a property purchase, I’m at home, too, and happy to connect with you on Skype or by phone. As a special offering during this time of self-quarantining and anxiety over our futures, economic or otherwise I am offering special one-hour consultations at the reduced price of 150€ (normally a two-hour minimum for 350€) during our mandatory lockdown. We can talk about a strategy to change and enrich your life by living or investing here. To schedule your time, email contact me today!