The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris- #7 Rejection of New Materialism
When the guidance councilor in Paris first told me about the family I would be living with I was pleasantly surprised. Famille Chic was a well respected aristocratic family with an apartment in the desirable 16th arrondissement and a country house in Brittany. I would be living with Monsieur Chic, Madame Chic and their 23 year old son. Apparently Madame Chic liked to take in foreign exchange students because all but one of her children were grown and living elsewhere and she liked the company. Plus Famille Chic liked to learn about other cultures. On a side note, the councilor told me that I was assigned to one of the wealthiest families in the program.
I was intrigued. Famille Chic sounded right up my alley- I did enjoy the finer things in life… this was going to be a match made in heaven! In the taxi ride on the way to my new home I imagined what their swanky 16th arrondissement apartment would look like. I envisioned plush sofas, flat screen TVs, my own en-suite bathroom (done up in marble, of course) a state of the art kitchen… as you can see I let my imagination run away with me…
Famille Chic’s apartment couldn’t have been further from what I imagined. It was magnificent- but not in the sort of nouveau riche way I envisioned. They did not have any flat screen TVs- just one (tiny) regular television that sat out of the way in their living room. They did not have any plush sofas- just a few comfortable antique chairs- perfect for socializing in or reading a book. There was no massive entertainment system- they had an old record player that was used every night to play classical music. There were no en-suite bathrooms- they had one small bathroom for the four of us to share (!). It was purely functional and had no luxurious qualities to it. Same with the kitchen. The kitchen was small, out of the way and purely functional. And we all know about the closet situation…
I came to learn that in France there is not an obsession with what is called new materialism. They are not a society that constantly consumes- going on shopping binges looking for the next gadget, the next upgrade, the latest thing (which probably accounts to why their homes are so enviably clutter-free).
Famille Chic had absolutely no interest in ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. For example, they had one car between the three of them (and it was a very modest and nondescript car- not flashy at all). They spent their money on the things that were important to them- high quality food, excellent wine and well made clothing.
And, of course, I am only speculating here but I would be willing to bet that Famille Chic had not a trace of debt…
I found Famille Chic’s utter rejection of new materialism so refreshing. Their restraint as consumers, admirable. To live well- to live within your means and to not be seduced by a material world. They were not bogged down by stuff and as a result lived a clean, clutter-free existence and lived very well indeed. Now that is what I call prospering.
Won’t you stay tuned for #6?
La Défense, the modern business district of Paris, is pictured above.
My book, Lessons from Madame Chic: The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris will be published by Simon & Schuster and re-released in the fall of 2012.