MEET PAULETTE “CONCIERGE PARISIENNE”

Share Button

E xpatriates Magazine met former concierge Paulette to find out more about her profession and life in a cosmopolitan Parisian building.   Paulette, 83, is now retired, but for over 27 years she worked as a concierge in an apartment building in central Paris. This little-known profession is now becoming a thing of the past with the arrival of digital door codes and video cameras, but at one time it was an integral part of life in Paris.  Paulette’s parents were concierges, and although she initially trained as a seamstress, working in one of the many textile workshops in the Sentier area of Paris, when her father died she took over his role in a Parisian apartment building.

Can you describe your job?
A typical working day started very early for me, around 6 o’clock. You have to be available to the tenants whenever they need you. It’s a job where people trust you with important things for them – signing for their recorded deliveries, keeping their keys, relaying messages… I knew they needed me. Throughout the day I would distribute the post, take and deliver messages for people, clean and maintain the communal parts of the building – staircases, courtyard, entrance hall etc. open the doors to the electrical, gas, and pest control companies, change light bulbs, and generally run errands for people in the building when they needed me. I would put the bins out (5 big heavy bins) at 6pm and bring them in again at about 7pm. After that I could say that my working day was mainly finished, but throughout the evening and even sometimes the night, the tenants could knock at my door if they needed something.

As a concierge accommodation comes with the job.  What was your accommodation like?
I lived in a “loge” in the entrance hall. The loge was 22m2. I had my bed, a table, a wardrobe, and a small kitchen area. I used the kitchen sink for washing. It was an old building and there were “toilettes turques” in the courtyard, but when I got older the owners installed indoor facilities for me. The building had an inner courtyard which I loved, where I kept my plants, and where I used to sit in the summer.

There were 14 apartments in the building and whilst there were more French people than foreigners, the non-French tenants were as much a part of the spirit of the building as the French.

How did you manage to communicate with the foreign tenants?
Oh we always managed to understand each other whatever the language, by hand signs and saying things over and over again. Foreigners always make themselves understood you know, and they smile a lot.

What were the expatriate inhabitants of the building like?
Well there was quite a mix of different ages and nationalities that came and went over the years. I liked the Americans. They were very demanding, but always very polite and kind and clean. The Yugoslavian tenants were also very welcoming and friendly as were the Polish. The Germans were friendly, but they kept their distance. The English tenants I had were a bit eccentric, and the Italians could be difficult. Whatever you did for them they would always ask for more and they were often quite noisy.

I know the foreigners didn’t like the French very much, because the French are rude. It’s true, in Paris we are rude to people. I don’t know why. It’s just like that. I think the foreigners had a better time than the French though. They always seemed to be doing something, going out, having visitors and always celebrating something!

What did you like best about the job?
The fact that I was always surrounded by other people. Over the years you come to feel as if you’re a part of their lives. You see families grow up. The tenants used to look in on me to make sure I was alright. Sometimes they would give me little gifts. A Yugoslavian artist who lived in the building once painted a portrait of me. The tenants would send me post cards from their travels, and they gave lots of gifts for me and my pets.

Paulette

What did you find the most difficult?
Just before I retired I found the work harder. I couldn’t clean so much, and taking the bins out was difficult because sometimes they were very heavy. Also, people would come in at all hours of the night, turn on the lights in the entrance, and slam the doors. My “loge” was just in the entrance hall. It was difficult to get a full night’s sleep.

Now you’re retired it must be nice to get more rest.
Yes, but I miss Paris and being part of other people’s lives. You get to know all kinds of things about people in your building.  I have lots of stories I could tell about my tenants – it’s normal, I’m a concierge after all!

Interview and translation by Cathy Taylor

Rotating Ads

Place your ad here

Going out

Who the hell is Sugar Sammy? – That moment your wife tells you you’re going to see a French-speaking comedy in Paris

GOING OUT
Anglophones in Paris are fortunate to be able to enjoy a thriving English-speaking comedy scene, with regular stand-up nights across the city. Personally, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing most of these and have even [...]

Community News

COMMUNITY NEWS

360€ for 50 Hours Tuition!!! The Newest French Language School in Paris offers the most accessible rates

French language classes at Centre Zenith in the 20th arrondissement began on October 18th 2018. Founded by Sourav Choudhury, Centre Zenith brings experienced and native French speakers to the classroom where courses are explained with […]

Random Stories

Cover features

Just for Fun

interviews

Health

Family

Living

LIFE

Grumpy in Paris – 5 ways to beat the upcoming ‘winter blues’

Living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world has its many perks. A wealth of galleries, museums, delicious food, beautiful walks and a melodic language under no matter what context. But all pros have their cons and one of the lesser points of Paris these days is the ‘rentrée effect’ where people have come back from their holidays, said goodbye to summer and are now waiting for winter (even though we’ve only just hit autumn). Here are some ways to beat those winter blues and enjoy the colder season ahead … […]

Education

EDUCATION

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS & RESEARCHERS: GET ANSWERS TO THEIR QUESTIONS AND PAPERWORK IN ONE SINGLE PLACE! WELCOME DESK PARIS 2018

FOR THE 16TH CONSECUTIVE YEAR, THE CITÉ INTERNATIONALE UNIVERSITAIRE DE PARIS HAS SET UP A MULTI-SERVICE WELCOME AREA FOR FOREIGN STUDENTS AND RESEARCHERS, FROM THE END OF AUGUST THROUGH NOVEMBER, WITH THE SUPPORT OF THE CITY […]

COMMUNITY NEWS

Non-Profit – The Paris Institute for Critical Thinking begin university quality courses in English

Paris is hard to beat for its cultural and intellectual vibrancy. But the city’s English-speaking inhabitants – whether from France or abroad — do not have many opportunities to employ the language in sophisticated intellectual […]

Use our IG hashtag #expatriatesmagazine - We print our favourites

Something is wrong.
Instagram token error.

Random Listing

  • Court-Certified Translations
    We provide court-certified translations of your documents for French authorities. marriage/ birth certificates etc., from all countries. 48 hrs delivery. simple quick reliable easy process.[Read more]