I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but everything is smaller in Europe. Compared to the USA that is. I can’t speak for the rest of the world. And really, all I know is urban life in France. But it’s a lot smaller. Cars, apartments, grocery aisles, meal portions, just about everything except prices.
One of the first things that all friends and family who come to visit notice is the tiny size of elevators here. In the cities (both Paris and Marseille), elevators are not built with the claustrophobic in mind. Many elevators are built for 2-3 people. And I don’t mean just in weight, but literally you’re not squishing more than 3 people in there. There’s certainly no attendant, and elevator music is out of the question. Pure functionality to get you from the bottom to the top or vice-versa. One elevator I rode in (which takes the cake for smallest to date) I backed into and was immediately touching all 3 walls, the back and both sides. As the door closed and the smell of cold steel hit my nose, I realized that had I done a few more pushups that day (ok, maybe any at all), I’d be touching all 4 walls for the ride up. I took the stairs down.
We have yet to move any furniture into an apartment (still waiting on that crate in the ocean...). Because of the minute elevators and equally small stairwells, we’ve often wondered about how people move furniture into their apartments. Ever joked about tossing a mattress through a second story window? We joke no more. A couple days ago I walked out onto our street and saw a moving van parked in front of the next building. Next to the moving van was a pickup truck with a fancy little contraption in it. It was like an extendable ladder conveyor belt. It shot up to the fourth floor, where it was hooked onto a balcony railing, and furniture rode right up. Amazing! I want one of those! Was the first time I’d seen anything like it, and I mostly thought it a novelty.
Then tonight as I read with my son before bed, I opened a book of his that has pages of different life scenes with questions and vocabulary accompanying (all in French, which puts us on about the same reading level). The scene we opened to was a typical city block: roundabout with flowers, garbage truck completing pickups, pizzas being sold out of the back of a van, dog doing his business on the sidewalk, and... a crane hoisting a couch up through a third floor window! It really is the only way to get furniture into an apartment, and the children’s book proves it. So simple, so practical. Or, you know, they could just put in bigger elevators and doors...