Whether American or Iranian, Italian or Mexican, Algerian or Swedish, Nigerian or Japanese, to the French bureaucratic system you can all be classified as this:
The scorn of society, the eyesore of everything that is wonderful about France, the only thing that separates France from perfection: all immigrants.
So why does it still hit me as an atrocious surprise the fact that I cannot find an apartment in this city. It’s not even like the city is so overpopulated that there is quite literally no more housing. On the contrary, most buildings are empty and just resting , waiting, being passed down from generation to generation.
When I was looking for a place to live in Davis after my freshman year, I remember I searched on Craigslist for anything suitable to my student budget, I contacted the person, we met a day after and two days later I was signing the lease in the office. And for the whole year I had no problems, no late payment, no risk of having to sell my kidney to make a payment, no requirement for a collateral.
In Davis, it was all so efficient, simplified, and worked like a Swiss clock. It didn’t even cross my naive mind that the system of renting an apartment could ever be butchered into a hell of meaningless thick stacks of papers. But I hadn’t lived in France yet.
It’s a system rendered almost inaccessible to outsiders, even if you are a member of the EU. It’s impossible to play by its rules and win unless you cheat and attack from behind.
It plays mind games with you, it makes you feel worthless, and by day 5 of desperately looking for an apartment, a room, a cupboard, it makes that piss-stained bench on the metro platform scream « home sweet home »
I still remember the happier me, the me of 7 days ago, when I woke in the morning, happy to be perusing through Craigslist, leboncoin or Appartager for a fun flatmate in an excellent part of town for a reasonable price of 500 euros. Day 2: I had already set up an apointment to see a nice two bedroom by the Canal Saint Martin, one of my favorite parts of Paris. I thought to myself « I got this in the sack. It’s mine! » and I was already imagining me and my future roomate frolicking through the Buttes Chaumont on a warm spring day, picnic baskset, wine and baguette in hand.
The meeting went well. We laughed, we talked, we shared a cup of tea. And before leaving, she promised me she would let me know by tomorrow.
The call came. It was a resounding No. Sorry. « I need your pay stubs » she said. « But I don’t have pay stubs. I babysit for a living. But I can pay you! » « The landlord requires pay stubs. And for you to make 3 times as much as the rent. And if not you, you need a guarant that can co-sign, but only if s/he makes 5 times more than the rent. » And suddenly my morale, my image of the picnic basket, and the wine, and the baguette, all went down the toilet.
Day 3 I mourned the loss of something that never was.
Day 4 I decided to get back on my feet, go online, peruse for anything that resembled something I like. Or something that I could get used to. Or anything that would accept me without all this ruckus of financial statements that were completely useless. I have money! Why don’t you want it!
So I vigorously posted announcements, here and there, selling myself like a desperate, worn out, battered hooker. Nothing.
I bombarded people looking for flatmates, with promises of a good conversation, laughter, food, MONEY! Nothing.
And then it became Day 5. And then it became day 6, and then it became day 7….At first it was an obsession, I was refreshing my inbox every 5 minutes. But slowly, the voice of reason inside of me told me to stop obsessing for this forbidden paradise, which it had begun with the ambition of attaining a beautiful apartment by the Canal and it became a satisfaction for a basement cardboard box for 800 euros.
Paris can only be seen as the beautiful, chic, romantic capital of the world because its pretentious inhabitants still hold on to the disillusion that they are the most important beings in this universe. And nobody here has really cared much for the fact that they lost their Standard and Poor’s triple A rating. I can hear their malicious laughter from their balconies « It’s an American company. How can we even pretend to care of what THEY think? »
Dear Paris, you are holding onto a glory that perished 92 years ago.