Why is life in Paris so expensive

The madness of the Parisian housing market can also be seen in the luscious stubbornness of the realtors. Support a small family in their search for a rental apartment? Five out of seven brokerage offices asked cancel. Tenants are not worthwhile, realtors only help buyers. The friendly gentleman, who finally makes an exception, seems as if he is only so eager because he has not really noticed that all the dams around him have been broken. He has been sitting in the same small office for 30 years, he only uses the computer in an emergency, and there are two rows of files on the shelves around him. He mediates on a sympathy basis. "Ah, I'm sorry, Madame, unfortunately nothing is moving here at the moment" - it will be a few minutes before he takes his pen out of his jacket pocket and starts taking notes. "Aha, three rooms, like sunny, aha, aha." Then another quarter of an hour in which he examines the play performed in front of him.

The title of the chamber play: Family is looking for a hostel and is not too good for anything. Unclear at what moment the broker decides that he wants to take on a role in it. But at some point he confesses the truth: Paradise is hidden in the many piles of paper on his desk. A small house with an apple tree in front of the window. He just waited to see who he offered it to and when. Working as a broker in Paris does not mean that you broker housing. It means you have a secret treasure that everyone is looking for.

It's too narrow, too cold, too expensive

Paradise, that becomes clear before moving in, is of course not paradise. Some of the things the landlady promises to do on the tour include repairing the doorbell, removing mold from the bedroom windows, and putting a few boards over the washing machine. There is one of the few wall surfaces that have not yet been used in this house. As in so many Parisian apartments, the entire city is reflected in this house: It's way too narrow, and it's old in exactly the way that looks beautiful on the outside and crumbles on the inside.

How complicated it is to live in Europe's favorite museum is not only evident in your own four walls. It is not easy even for the most powerful. If you visit the Élysée Palace, you will be confronted on the one hand with an impressive abundance of gold leaf. But on the other hand, it doesn't take a very critical look to see the cracks in the walls and to notice how employees gather around electric fan heaters because the windows are as old as they are leaking. During a visit to the Foreign Ministry, the German-French friendship was celebrated once again, everyone had just finished the joint photo session when the Berlin officials began to grumble softly. "It always looks great here, but in the end we all have a cold again," said one to the other. They were surrounded by marble, meter-high mirrors and crystal chandeliers. But what use is all the pomp if you are afraid of drafts?

Back to the little house with the apple tree. A house in Paris? For rent? Admittedly: great luck. And yet you can still see many of these houses. They stand in all the little niches that Georges-Eugène Haussmann spared. In the mid-19th century, Haussmann began to lay out the great boulevards that many see immediately when they think of Paris. But Paris is not just made up of bourgeois apartments, lines of sight laid out with imperial mission awareness and sidewalks that are so wide that they can easily accommodate a street café. Small villages have survived on its edges. The old Paris of the workers, with cobblestones and sometimes even gardens. The house with the apple tree in question was built 200 years ago, until 50 years ago the toilet was still a wooden shed in the inner courtyard. "My parents lived very modestly here," the landlady likes to say. Today she demands an absolutely immodest rent and still doesn't want to give up the old times completely: She moved the toilet into the house, but it wasn't enough for a washbasin. But no false luxury, after all, there is the sink in the kitchen.

It is as if the landlady wants to prove two recent studies. On the one hand, that of the business magazine Economist, which lists Paris (along with Hong Kong and Singapore) as the most expensive city in the world. On the other hand, there is the Mercer study to evaluate quality of life. Paris ranks there: well. One does not know. Only the first 25 list positions are displayed online, and there are places like Vienna, Zurich and Auckland. Cities in which a tree has already been seen. On the other hand, nobody comes to Paris for the parks or the nature. Everything you can love here is made of stone, glass or gold. Or from alcohol and cheese. Whereby it is important that you pull the belt with the latter. Not only are the apartments small, metro seats and coffee tables are also narrow. This closes the circle on rents: Self-control is supported by the fact that by the end of the month at the latest there is no more money to buy beautiful-looking tartlets for seven euros each. If you put the Economist and the Mercer study side by side, one could say about life in Paris: You can hardly afford it, but at least it is arduous.

With which, one last time, the apple tree house has to be mentioned. Because the narrowness in Paris leads to two kinds of madness. On the one hand, turning the real estate market completely free. One of the most popular Parisian hobbies is to stop in front of the showcases of the realtor offices on a Sunday stroll and read the offers to each other. "Did you see that? 30 square meters for half a million." "No! Oh God. Really." The other form of madness that arises from the lack of space in this seamlessly built-up city affects the individual. Paris can drive you crazy. It was a warm summer's day when the landlady of the apple tree house discovered that a grille had to be in front of the window. Because six months after moving in she hadn't been able to fix the bell and the window on the ground floor faces the street and serves as a contact center with the outside world, the grille shouldn't be too bulky so that every guest can continue knocking on the window. But the addition of a couple of iron bars seemed appropriate since the neighbor dropped the pane.

The neighbour's loss of reality had long taken a friendly to happy course. As soon as the sun shone he sat on the sidewalk in front of his house and sang to himself. Quiet for the first few weeks, then louder and louder. The singing turned into a curse. Above all, small dogs that innocently walked past him triggered great aggression in him. One night - as far as we know there was no dog around - he threw a stone. The pane that broke was his own. He had thrown from the living room in the direction of the street. Maybe it helped. In any case, he soon began to greet them in a friendly manner again. And the landlady bought a grille.

Water damage? This can be used to justify any delay

To save money, she asked her husband to do the assembly. Everyone was a big surprise when the grille was screwed tight and the shutters between the pane and the iron bars could no longer be opened. A window like this is not only important for knocking on the door, sometimes it should also let light through. The landlady's husband said a lot of words that one cannot learn in French class and agreed to try a second time, this time with the shutters open so that it would not matter if something went wrong with the folding rule.

In situations like this, it is useful to have learned the penultimate lesson in Parisian life: you need friends who recommend a good craftsman. The latter are just as scarce as the living space. So it's almost more important to have friends with whom you can get upset about bad craftsmen. It would be fairer to grumble about the authorities who are rotting prehistoric pipes under the city. Any delay in Paris can be justified with "I'm sorry, I had water damage". Quarterly too, which is absolutely within the limits of what is credible.

The final lesson is this: one should portray life in Paris as negatively as possible. On the one hand, this gives you the aura of a fighter against all odds in everyday life. On the other hand, you don't get into the embarrassment of having to explain why you love the city so much despite everything. You just have to moan and nag so much that nobody gets the idea that you can be happy. And then you are secretly after all.

In this series, the SZ reports on the subject of living in major cities around the world. The following texts have been published so far: Rome (August 17/18, 2019), Madrid (September 7/8, 2019), Tokyo (September 21/22, 2019), Istanbul (October 12/13, 2019) 2019), Tel Aviv (2nd / 3rd November 2019), Bern (16th / 17th November 2019), Beijing (30/11/1/12/2019), Cape Town (21/22 December 2019) 2019) and Lisbon (11/12/01/2020).