Saturday, August 21, 2010

old world / new world: storage

Jean-Marc and I gave our notice for November 1 and we are currently looking for a place to live that is a bit bigger than what we have and a little closer to where we both work. At the moment I drive 28 km each way to work and Jean-Marc drives 25 km each way - and with gas being 1.35€/litre, it adds up to a lot of money spent on commuting!

One thing I have noticed in our search thus far is the lack of storage in every apartment and house. The French do not build closets into their rooms; they would rather have wooden armoires, which I personally find to be cumbersome and imposing, especially in small rooms. This means that you can find places to live where there is not one single place to hang jackets, store linen or hide a vacuum cleaner!

Another shock is the lack of kitchen. There is a "kitchen" but more often than not it only includes a sink with a cabinet below. There are no fancy schmacy things like countertops, shelves, cabinets, stove and fridge; indeed, renters must move in with their own kitchen appliances and furniture. Only if you are lucky enough to spot the words cuisine américaine will you find a real kitchen. I find this to be ironic, considering how much the French place importance on good cooking.

Since there are no communal laundry rooms, you also have to travel with your own washing machine, which will usually end up in the bathroom or the kitchen. Bathrooms are also lacking in storage units and towel bars. To top it all off, none of the lights are ever "finished" and all light fixtures are just bare lightbulbs hanging from a wire. I don't understand why, in this modern world of cheap and neutral light fixtures, the landlords don't make an effort to present a more finished apartment. Haven't they seen the 5€ pendant lamps at IKEA? Surely they could get a little extra money for the effort, based on what everybody else is proposing!

I am finding it difficult to come across rentals that have everything I'm looking for. One big disappointment for me is the lack of charm in the majority of what I see. It could be that it is exaggerated in the area around Angers and not true for all of France. More often than not, owners opt for white ceramic tile EVERYWHERE for flooring material. What's wrong with hardwood? Well, I guess they think you can't wash it. Personally, white tile in living areas gives me the heebie-jeebies (almost as much as compact fluorescent lights) and I can't imagine putting it anywhere outside of a bathroom and maybe a kitchen. A bedroom? A living room? I can assure you that it is used everywhere.

So maybe it's a pie-in-the-sky dream to find an affordable, charming stone house in a village de caractère where the original materials speak for themselves, or maybe a tranquil city apartment with big windows and wood floors, but we're going to keep on searching until the right thing turns up.

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