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Parisian Apartment. Part Trois. La Concierge.

This is one aspect of Parisian living that you don’t want to mess around with. The despised yet somewhat venerable concierge. Apartment buildings in Paris often have someone living in the building who is the overseer/guardian/concierge. She’s kind of the boss of your building. Most likely, she’s a total B*tch. Why? Because she can. What can you do about it? Nothing. I have, however, had a few concierge that are sweet and act as overprotective grandmothers.

I found this funny article  about 19th-century concierge:"If you entered through the double door of the carriage entrance that lead through the front portion of the apartment building to the courtyard and somewhere, usually tucked near the steps, you found a cramped dwelling illuminated by the second-rate light of the vestibule. In this badly-ventilated cubicle there lived the Parisian Concierge. Although considered the lowest of the low on the social scale, she wielded a considerable power over the tenants. The concierge loge was the hub of a spider’s net, its threads reached not only into every apartment in the building but extending out in the street. The tenants were well-advised to remain on her good side. Failing that, their mail could go astray, and their reputation be tarnished by malicious gossip through the neighborhood. Her eagle-eye noticed all the comings and goings, especially past ten o’clock in the evening, when the main door was locked and late comers must ring the bell."


"Unavoidable as well as indispensable, she supplemented her meager wages by performing all kind of services for the tenants and often pocketed bribes for keeping secrets. To be at the mercy of a coarse uneducated woman necessarily created resentment. No creature has been more mocked and maligned in literature. Caricatures of the era picture her as a repulsive harridan, either sickeningly self-ingratiating or loftily dismissive, depending on the importance of the tenant.
In fact, the concierge’s lot was not an easy one. Representing the landlord, she had the unpleasant task of extracting past-due rent, evicting non-paying tenants and bear the brunt of their anger. At the approach of the term, her vigilance redoubled, as insolvent tenants tended to slip away. In the old tenements, her quarters–often a single room without running water and ventilation–were nothing more than a stinking cramped hole lacking in privacy. At the beck and call of others every hour of the day, she often had to get up at night to unlock the door. In addition to collecting rent, distributing the mail, cleaning the courtyard, hallway, and the stairs, she scrubbed and cleaned for tenants who could not afford a maid. Running errands, passing on messages, and other innumerable petty services were rewarded by tips, scrapes of food from festive tables, and the occasional discarded piece of clothing. The most profitable day was that of Saint Sylvestre (Dec. 31) when the voluntary–but obligatory!–gratuity was expected.

The repulsive solitary old woman was of course a cliché. The post was often filled by a middle-aged couple. Since the only financial advantage was a free lodging and one per cent of the rental income, the husband had to have an outside job. Scarcely visible, he remained in the shade of the concierge lore."   –

 There is a great book regarding concierge called The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
"The Elegance of the Hedgehog (French: L'Élégance du hérisson) is a novel by the French novelist and professor of philosophy Muriel Barbery. The book follows events in the life of a concierge, Renée Michel, whose deliberately concealed intelligence is uncovered by an unstable but intellectually precocious girl named Paloma Josse. Paloma is the daughter of an upper-class family living in the upscale Parisian apartment building where Renée works.
Featuring a number of erudite characters, The Elegance of the Hedgehog is full of allusions to literary works, music, films, and paintings. It incorporates themes relating to philosophy, class consciousness, and personal conflict." Wikipedia

When you are apartment hunting, it’s best to sort of interview with the concierge. If she doesn’t like you and you don’t like her… Keep looking. This is not the apartment for you. If you do, however, feel a good rapport with the concierge, you are in luck. Stay tuned for Parisian Apartment Part Quatre. L’ascenseur.



  1. I loved that book - there is something soo Parisian about the author. If you haven't already you should read her other book as well as she seems to be able to tap into the Parisian psyche.

  2. I know that I am wrong but to me La Concierge = Crazy Cat Lady.

  3. I loved, loved, loved The Elegance of the Hedgehog. It is a fabulous book - for a thinking person (so much of what is published today is utter trash. Can't people use adverbs properly anymore???).
    Prayers for you today & always,
    Michelle from