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American Woman Abroad
THE MYTH OF CHEAP LIVING ABROAD
COST OF LIVING ADVANCING ALL OVER EUROPE
RESPONSIBILITY OF THE AMERICAN INVASION
KEEPING DOWN THE COST OF LIVING ABROAD
HOW THE FRENCH LANDLORD RAISES THE RENT
ITALY AS A WINTER HOME
"PALACE HOUSEKEEPING" IN ITALY
BUYING WOOD BY THE POUND PARIS APARTMENTS
PRICES GO UP IN FRUGAL GERMANY
TIPS INCREASE HOUSEHOLD EXPENSES
LONDON FLATS AND" MANSIONS"
LIFE IN LONDON CHAMBERS
A BOUT WITH THE BRITISH WORKMEN
THE COST OF SMALL THINGS
CAFÉ-AU-LAIT WITH DINNER
"DEMORALISING AMERICAN DOLLARS"
WHY AMERICANS ARE OFTEN OVERCHARGED
MODERN VILLAS OF EUROPE
THE AMERICAN WOMAN IN THE SMALL RURAL COMMUNITY
THE AMBULANT BATH TUB
EXCUSE FOR LIVING IN EUROPE
REAL CHARM OF LIFE ABROAD
THE COST OF LIVING ABROAD
To a man is due the discovery that one can live cheaply abroad, because one can wear his, or her, old clothes. This, brought down to the last analysis, precipitates the fact that cheap living in Europe is made possible by what one goes without, and the willingness to do things abroad that one does not like to do, or will not do, at home.
No greater myth exists, in so far as its practical application to the majority of cases goes, than the belief that living abroad, which is taken to mean living in western Europe, for the American, is cheap.
The majority of Americans who try it make the excuse that it is for economical reasons, but as a matter of fact it is more likely to be a desire for a change, or from the ennuis of the servant question, or that they just want to take a rest. They have heard the usual tale of how everything costs just half of what it does at home. It is a good chance for one's children to acquire French or German or dancing or art or some other accomplishment at the same time.
Friends who have gone before may have brought back stories of heatless and waterless houses, but it is difficult to bring this fact and just what it means home to the average American housekeeper who has never been without all of the mechanical conveniences that the ingenuity of a resourceful people have been able to bring to bear on the housekeeping question.
The American woman who finds the problem of high living at home ever perplexing her, will find it duplicated in many phases on the other side of the water. It is a common assertion of late that Americans have much to do with the increased cost of living abroad, but this is probably giving them undue prominence in the foreign financial scheme of things.
In the last ten years the cost of living all over Europe has advanced sometimes as much as fifty per cent, and in some cases a hundred would not be too extravagant an estimate, and while the economic cause for this lies far beyond the circumscribed round of the tourist traveller, it is true that the high-living, high-spending traveller from America must bear the responsibility for some of the increase in prices, in so far as they affect the stranger on the Continent.
Thus it is when the American woman goes hunting in a European capital for things on the same scale as she has them at home, she will find that it costs her just as much, proportionately even more, than the same thing at home, and, to use a "shamrock" phrase, it is not the same thing either, very often not even a good imitation, while unfamiliarity with foreign household economics completes the demoralisation. The experiment is apt to be brief, and a year or two finds the family back to the delights of veranda life in some comfortable American suburb.
There is only one way to live cheaply abroad – live as the people of the country live. Not until one does this is any economy possible, or enjoyment. For most of us that is just the rub. It means making over one's tastes, habits of body and mind, and if this is to be done at all, one must begin young or be born a philosopher, and however numerous may be a woman's virtues, equanimity, under a new set of laws governing daily life, is rarely one of them.
Anywhere outside of the large city modern conveniences can rarely be found at any price, and where they are creeping in, have increased the cost of living out of all proportion to their benefits.
Take as an example a certain French town of a hundred thousand inhabitants. A few modern apartment buildings have just gone up – the most desirable in the town. An apartment of eight rooms rents for say, two thousand five hundred francs (five hundred dollars) per annum; dear enough for a provincial town. There is an elevator of a kind, but the tenant must, in addition, pay five hundred francs a year for its use, besides an extra hundred francs to have the garbage removed and something more for the lighting of the public halls, besides a "furniture" and a door and window tax. It is the European system of extras that runs up the bills. An economically inclined French family might insist on using the stairway, having been accustomed to nothing else, but, as a matter of fact, the system as outlined, is only an ingenious way of raising the rent.
Florence is one of the most popular European cities that attracts the prospective housekeeper on the other side, principally because the fact is well advertised that it has one of the largest English-speaking colonies, which alone makes for advanced prices, and then they are drawn there by the lure of Italy. Apartments are called cheap there, and five to seven rooms, at from twenty-five dollars to thirty-five dollars a month, can be gotten furnished. But the American shivers in marble halls, which the small stove or open fireplace can as readily warm as they could an ice plant, and if there is a calorifère, or any system of central heating by steam or hot water in pipes, it is but a makeshift, except only in some of the great modern hotels in which steam heat has been installed on a lavish scale. Next to the unlimited use of water nothing is considered so extravagant as heat.
Americans flock to Italy, impelled by the tradition that comes to them by way of England that Italy has a good winter climate. Northern Italy has probably the worst winter climate of all the Mediterranean countries, inasmuch as it is rainy as well as cold. All of southern Europe seems bitterly cold to the American, and the universal stone houses, always with marble, stone or tiled floors, seem like sepulchres. Frequently there are no fireplaces at all, and where they do exist are most inadequate.
What may be called "palace housekeeping" is one of the most common forms of living in Italy. As few of the Italian nobility are in sufficient funds to keep up their hereditary palaces of a thousand rooms, they are practically turning them into apartment houses, the great size of the edifices lending itself to the sheltering of several households, which after all is going back to their original purpose, wherein each member of the family when married was apportioned certain accommodations, an apartment in fact, under the paternal roof. The price for one of these palace apartments is governed by their location and the importance of the family who formerly occupied it. In Rome and Florence they command from five hundred dollars up to two and three thousand; as an additional inducement one often has the satisfaction of living under the same roof with a princely landlord.
Such a palace apartment might mean anything from ten to forty rooms, furnished with a certain amount of antique fittings, slightly moth-eaten and damaged, to be sure, but not more so than the fortunes of the family. Principally an apartment will be made up of a series of great reception rooms, with dim, cobwebby corners and much tarnished gilt and painting. The marble floors, to be properly covered in order to ward off the chill, would need the contents of a rug emporium. The bedrooms will be thrust into any dark nook, but this is one of the tenets of the old and new Italian indifference to hygiene. Frequently there is nothing to suggest plumbing, even in its most primitive form. In winter, the Italian expects an earthen scaldini filled with glowing ashes to heat a room thirty feet square, or perhaps an inefficient iron stove that radiates more coal gas than heat. One American is known who collected as many scaldini as possible, and making a circle of them and sitting in the middle, was thus able to keep fairly warm. Another with a screen shut off a small eighteen-foot corner, and, in a measure, accomplished the same thing.
An apartment in Venice is a charming experience in warm weather, but when the snow flies through the beautiful colonnades, – Oh, no! In a Venetian palace (one cannot get away from palaces in Italy) there will, likely enough, be found a garage for a motor boat under the back stairs, though it was originally built for a gondola, a species of craft which is becoming extinct before the invasion of modernity.
There are possibilities in life in Italy if one does not go there under the delusion that it is a comfortable winter resort. Even a palace is within reach of most Americans abroad, some sort of a palace at least, as might be expected of a country where a maid-of-all-work can be had for three or four dollars a month, and a butler for twenty cents a day, though the latter is nothing of the specialist that is his English prototype, for he will do anything from running the automobile to preparing the morning coffee or sweeping out the apartment.
One American couple who tried spending a winter on the shores of the Mediterranean, charmed by the novelty of life close to the soil, spent a good part of their income, and most of their time, in trying to solve the question of fire and heat. The only fuel to be had was the roots of olive trees, cut away from the living trunk and delivered in big baskets brought on the head of a sturdy southron and paid for by the pound. The local supply soon being exhausted, contributions were levied from the country round about, and before many weeks most of the able-bodied inhabitants of the little town of a thousand souls were engaged in the hunting down of a supply of burnable wood.
These Americans, naturally, it being their first wrestle with conditions abroad, insisted on keeping warm. We, who had passed this first acute stage, knew how impossible this achievement was, and had given it up long ago. It was like foraging for an army corps. Finally the mayor formally waited upon them, and said that the olive crop was in danger and the wood would have to be imported from a neighbouring commune at increased cost, whereupon the couple gave up the struggle and went back to a Paris hotel. One of the traditions of that little community to-day – the story that is told to all newcomers – is about the crazy foreigners who burnt ten dollars' worth of wood a week.
This is not what most Americans want, even though conditions may not always be so onerous, so it's either Paris or London for most of them, or Berlin, which has leaped into American favour with much vividness since the German Emperor has included so many Americans on his visiting list.
Paris as a dwelling place for Americans abroad is still in the lead, and an apartment in the "City of a Thousand and One Nights" is still the acme of enchantment and the acme of price as well.
Circling about the Bois de Boulogne, the Quartier of the aristocratic Etoile, the neighbourhood of the Champs-Elysées and about the Parc Monceau, are the highest-priced and most luxurious modern apartment houses. Built in the style of modern French Renaissance, with much sculptured ornament, they are charming to look at and much more beautiful in adornment than most things of the kind elsewhere. Inside they are bien Francaise, with an opulence of gilding, mirrors and cleverly arranged salons; they of course have the latest sanitation and bathroom installations, but prices will be quite as high as the same thing at home, if not more so, for there again will be endless array of small expenses and taxes which are always added to the rent in France. Even on this basis one may not always count on an elevator nor any general, or "central," heating system.
Just outside the gates of Paris are to be had moderate-priced apartments, in Neuilly, Passy and other suburbs, where for twenty-five dollars a month or even less, five rooms and a bath may be had, the rooms large and airy, and really far superior in arrangement to a flat at double or treble the price in America. Sometimes such an apartment may be had heated, but after a more or less inefficient fashion, which the American will be obliged to eke out by individual fires, either in a stove, or by coal or wood burned in a grate. A point to be remembered in this connection is that all household supplies, even kerosene oil for the lamps, not to say butter and eggs for the table, are considerably less in price outside the walls of Paris than within. The octroi tax is not levied outside the fortifications.
These cheaper apartments are often occupied by a better class of people than would be found in American flats of the same rental. The Continental habit of the central courtyard adds considerably to the facilities for making a satisfactory arrangement of the rooms in an apartment house. Halls and stairways are spacious and well-lighted, and, it must be confessed, they are usually better cared for than at home and the smell of food is agreeably absent from the public halls. It is possible that the hooded fireplace with which the French kitchen is usually fitted is responsible for this.
Americans who come to Paris to settle for any length of time all seem to want to live in a fashionable neighbourhood, and as near the centre of shops and life as they can. The same is true of the average French Paris household of moderate means, hence apartment life is universal. Only millionaires and the blue-blood aristocrats of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, can afford to live in houses inside the gates of Paris.
In the Etoile quarter a small, furnished apartment of four rooms, a kitchen and bathroom is not unduly dear at fifty dollars, but at this price it would be situated on the courtyard, which might prove noisy if garages for automobiles and stables for horses, at the disposal of tenants, were on the ground floor; besides a courtyard is usually a mid-day gossiping place for all the servants, and if there were no elevator, as likely enough there might not be, a constant going and coming on the stairs and through the corridors might prove a considerable disadvantage, to avoid which it might often be considered worth while to pay more. Still, the offer of such accommodation is not unusual, nor is the price nor location.
The glamour that hangs about the Latin Quarter induces many to forego fashion and the boulevards for the cheaper Rive Gauche, where the best moderate-priced apartments in Paris can be had. On the newly opened Boulevard Raspail are many modern apartment buildings that compare favourably with those on the other side of the Seine.
Cheap living in Paris means existence in the conventional old-time Parisian apartment, whether it be on the "Right" or "Left Bank," the climbing up of any number of stairs (and French stairways are designed on long lines) with no bathroom, no modem sanitary fittings worth mentioning, no dumb waiter to bring up your groceries and no steam heat, only expensive sticks of wood with which to warm up a Paris winter. The compensating feature is that a bonne à tout faire will do all the work of an eight-room apartment at forty francs a month.
The entrance door may have a vegetable shop on one side, trailing out over the sidewalk, and a laundry on the other, and a café opposite that only gets into full swing at midnight. But isn't all this the picturesque Europe that we go in search of?
The cost of living in Germany, once the most frugal country in which to make a home in the calculation of the visiting foreigner, has risen enormously in the last ten years. The increasing wealth in Germany makes for display and a luxurious style of living undreamed of in the old days even by wealthy Germans. First-class apartments in Berlin are the equal of those in Paris in price and elegance. Houses are rented on the basis of so much for each room, thus is the price of a house regulated by law beyond dickering. The housekeeper in Germany must get used to a rather irritating oversight of her domestic life by police, which rather makes one feel as if one is bonded out on good behaviour, and it behooves the American entering the field of home life in Germany to get posted as to the regulations, and observe them. They extend from the supervision of one's servants to the regulation of the hours of piano practice.
The police are Germany's real rulers, and their power is sometimes even greater, as, unlike most rulers, they come in close contact with the people. The increased cost of living has brought about the general practice of renting rooms with a German private family. This offers a solution of living on moderate lines to the stranger, and avoids the assumption of much serious responsibility. Life in a small town in Germany to-day is subject to no small extent to the advance in the cost of living, but can be made moderate enough if the lively American can stand the stagnation and deadly dulness and the rigidity of conventional social intercourse.
Dusseldorf is one of the most charming and modern of the smaller German cities. Its boulevards are as well laid out as those of Paris and are lined with spacious, attractive apartment buildings, but their rentals would certainly rise to the par of those of Berlin or Dresden.
The cost of housekeeping abroad, on the Continent in particular, is affected not a little by the drain on one's purse by the occasional, and annual, tips. In France, the domestic pourboire is an item to be reckoned with quite as much as that of rent and taxes. The concierge expects an honorarium when the tenant takes possession of the apartment, and this is not left to the tenant's caprice, but is based on a percentage of the rental, with an additional twenty to fifty francs at the jour de l'an – New Year's Day.
The first day of the new year brings a regular riot of giving of presents. Those who expect to be remembered are without end. There is the postman, the telegraph messenger, porters from the shops who may have brought your parcels during the year, the baker's boy, the milk woman, every one who has rendered the slightest service, to say nothing of the servants of the house. Every one demands a cadeau as a right, its value usually estimated on a tariff formulated by custom, and if you expect services to be rendered to proceed smoothly the coming year you meet the expected demands as nearly as your patience and pocketbook will allow. The petty graft of the pourboire is everywhere.
Compared to the Continent, prices are higher in London, where apartments of the first rank are often grouped into what are called "Mansions," while anything under this in the scale is reckoned as just a plain flat. English people are aghast when they hear one mention a thousand pounds a year as the rent of an apartment in the neighbourhood of Hyde Park or elsewhere in the aristocratic West End centring around Buckingham Palace. Such rentals are not uncommon, but do not comprehend anything at all to be compared with the modern ideas which have been incorporated lately into American apartments at a similar figure.
In spite of the advantage that the flat possesses over the house as a labour-saving proposition, the true British housekeeper would much prefer the latter. It gives one a more substantial position, for in England there is still the feeling that life in a flat is a menace to the sanctity of the home.
Life in London "chambers" has romantic associations with the old Inns of Court and ancient and somnolent city squares, where one can live in the atmosphere of dead memories and associations, features that tend to add considerable to the charm of London for the American.
Usually "chambers" are to be had at a cheap rental, but also with a few attendant disadvantages. In the Adelphi Terrace, a little backwater just off the Strand that the flood of modernising which is sweeping over London threatens annually to blot out, one can still hope to find vacant "chambers" in a house decorated by the famous Adam Brothers. Before the door, as like as not, will be found an iron standard into which the link-boys once thrust their blazing torches. The whole Adelphi region is redolent of memories of Dickens, who in his youth played about the great storage vaults that burrow under the Terrace from the Thames Embankment below. It is a quaintly interesting district. Here you may see a house once inhabited by Roger Bacon, and across the way is still visible a certain brass door-knocker which figured in one of Dickens' most famous tales. In almost any of these houses are to be found exquisitely carved marble mantels. The walls are of stone, with a dressing of wallpaper stretched over cloth, which wavers in ghostly fashion in the too-frequent currents of air, like the ancient wall-hung tapestries of a haunted castle.
From the windows of many of these houses one may look out over the Embankment Gardens and the foggy stretches of the Thames. The Royal Chapel of Savoy is a near neighbour, and ghosts, of Dickens' characters float around every corner. On a winter's day at four o'clock the muffin man, ringing his bell, still makes his round of the district. Muffins and crumpets for afternoon tea at twopence each are a pleasant interlude and quite in the spirit of this old-time atmosphere.
Hereabout one ought to be able to find five rooms, distributed over two unevenly laid floors, for five to six pounds a month, which is not out of proportion for such genuine historic associations as the rental includes. To discount this there will be a lack of water, hot and cold, except that which flows intermittently from an adapted kitchen sink, and your heat, what does not go up the chimney, is all radiated from grate fires. In these old buildings there are no elevators, no dumb waiters even, and coal, wood and everything else must be lugged up the front stairs, though plenty of willing hands are to be found, and at a small price, to do one's fetching and carrying. Ashes and garbage must be carried down to a tiny, well-like courtyard, and within the week the dustman will come along to remove it, of course demanding a tip. You may ask why, but he couldn't tell you if he would, except that it is in accordance with precedent, the thing that governs all walks of English life.
The tenants collectively contribute towards the cost of the lighting of the front hall and of the keeping of it clean, the tenants of each floor attending to their own hall.
The cost of living abroad is the cost of the small things of life, and it is their multiplicity that fritters away the time and temper of the housekeeper, more so in Britain than elsewhere. Laundry work is wretchedly done all over the British Isles and at prices quite up to the American standard, while the clothes come home of a shade that matches the London fog, and fresh curtains must be put up each week on account of this same phenomenon. Thus sighs the London housekeeper.
Sub-letting is a common practice in England, but is sometimes prolific of dire annoyance. You may arrive some day at your sub-rented flat to find the bailiff in possession. The law provides that if the original tenant fails to pay the rent, that the upper landlord can attach the belongings of whoever may be living there at the time. There may be no redress, no extenuating circumstances, and you may find yourself in the unpleasant predicament of having to pay rent twice over in order to release your belongings.
Of the smaller London flat much the same may be said as of those on the Continent. The various rooms are usually conveniently placed, and everything has not been sacrificed to the economy of space. The English still treat themselves liberally when it comes to fresh air.
An inconvenient British custom is that the outgoing tenant carries away the gas fixtures and the piping as well, and in Scotland the one moving out takes away even the grates. This of course presumes that they brought them with them when they became a tenant; still the inconvenience exists for the incomer, and worst of all, he has to contend with the plumber for a period ranging anywhere from a week to a month, which of itself is discouraging; besides there will be damaged wallpaper and chipped paint, which means the introduction of various other classes of the British workman into one's daily life for a more or less extended period.
The British workman, for whatever species of labour you have to call him in, is another one of the things that increases the cost and annoyance of living in England. He is the curse of the home and the home-maker, and in his most highly trained form, the most tyrannical labour unionist in the civilised world. He does his work in inconceivably uneconomical ways, for he is slothful and inattentive, and unabashed will ask you for a tip when he finishes, though more often you have to give him one midway in order to get him to finish, all the time running the risk that he will break an arm or a leg during the job, so that you will have to contribute towards his support pending his recovery. He will build you a house at his agreed upon price, but will ultimately send you in an additional bill for coal used in keeping himself warm while he was at work. When the British workman comes in at the door peace flies out of the window, while to get finished with him and get him out of the house usually means a process of law if the job is of any magnitude.
For the moderate consumer living is dear in England, and cheap living, like everything that is cheap in the tight little isle, is bad. One can live as well perhaps in London as anywhere, but one must be prepared to pay for it. In the last five years the necessities of food have gone up approximately one-fourth to one-third in price. One of the commonest of causes for this hoisting of prices comes from the demand for things exotic from America. Grapefruit and even bananas a few years ago were unknown in London, now every one has them and pays the price. When the menu palls, many a London housekeeper goes to Jackson's in Piccadilly for American groceries (in Paris to Prunier's), and delicacies from overseas. The American will think it worth while, but she is doubling expenses, and, though the joy may be doubled, there will be a disturbing influence brought into life abroad which was not what she presumably came over for.
Nothing inflates a foreign hotel bill so much as tampering with the menu, and the American woman abroad is the greatest of sinners in this respect; it is true, too, that she generally gets worsted in the proceedings. Anything that attempts to alter the routine menu of a hotel meal affects prices as hydrogen affects a balloon.
When an American party comes to table d'hôte at a hotel in a large country town in France and orders café-au-lait, and wonders why such a simple request creates something near a riot, and why it usually comes to be served them when they are nearly through their meal, there's a reason. The head waiter goes to the proprietor with the proposition, and this takes both of them to the kitchen, to appease the wrath of the chef who has been interrupted in the serving of a complicated dinner, and induce him to leave his sauces long enough to make the coffee and send the scullery boy to hunt up milk outside. Every one is just the least bit annoyed, but meantime the whole dining-room full of people has got interested and are still more so when the party comes to drink the concoction with their dinner. The members of the party themselves begin to wonder when they come to pay their bill, for the additional charge for the coffee will be quite a third of the total. The proprietor shrugs his shoulders and tells them that if they want to take to-morrow morning's breakfast with dinner the night before that he is willing to serve it that way, but that those who do the ordering must pay for it. This they do, and go off grumbling at the way foreigners stick Americans.
Another disregard for economy is to order a few dishes off the regular table d'hôte bill, under the impression that it will be cheaper. In such a case the plats will be served and charged for à la carte, at a price which will invariably be more than that of the regular dinner.
Are the palatial apartments and hotels which are going up in the capital cities of the Old World due to the American demand, as is so frequently claimed? Probably thirty thousand Americans live in Paris, a considerably less number in Berlin, but quite as many in London. This influx, or invasion, certainly has something to do with the demand for what the American first took to as luxuries, but soon came to consider as necessities. The lavishly convenient American way of living has had much to do with the change that has come over the European caterer to the foreigner. Now that he has learned the trick and is working on his own account, adapting it to his own needs, even though the pace be slow, it is still evident that it has come as a result of a first desire to please an American clientele.
The patriotic Frenchman dramatically points to the big hotels which have gone up in Paris during the last few years, and exclaims, "It is for you Americans that these luxurious establishments have been built; it is you who are coming here in our midst and demoralising our own people with your dollars."
There is no use in asserting that you only wish to make use of his beautiful and attractive land at a moderate expenditure of money, and that there are plenty of other Americans with the same modest desires. He will not look at it that way, perhaps he cannot be expected to, and for a fact, it is not at all improbable that the American invasion has done something towards increasing the expenses of the Frenchman's own cost of living, just as the progressive Italian is beginning to complain that the sentimental traveller refuses to regard his country in any other light than a "has-been."
It is beginning to dawn upon the American, whether living or touring abroad, that things are costing them more than the native who is doing the same thing, and bitter complaints are becoming frequent. There is some justice in this. Their demands are more exacting, for rarely, most rarely, is the American content to take things as found, and often attempts to make over existing arrangements, result in advancing the cost.
An American will pay fifty per cent more at a hotel and get no more of value than will the German or Belgian. Principally this is because she, or he, has, according to taste, sought to improve upon the menu or the service. Under such circumstances the custom of the hotel, naturally, is to cover this trouble with a blanket of higher prices. Another misleading American trait tending to bewilder the European in his effort to cater to their wants is the wrath of the American over small impositions when he seems so ready, as a rule, to pay extravagantly for real luxuries. It is in trying to reconcile these extremes that many of the troubles that hamper the free movements of the American abroad arise. The average American will pay a straight-away bill meekly enough, but when a kur-tax is added at the end, and he learns that this is a local custom for the privilege of listening to the band while stopping at some German spa, immediate resentment arises; a grumble ensues, too, when lights and attendance are charged for. Still the foreigner with lower standards goes on wondering why one is willing to spend thirty dollars on souvenirs, which he knows are of no real value, and protests at the added trifle of thirty cents. Certainly there is a growing tendency to exploit the American whose very generosity and liberality have aroused the cupidity of a people who are untrained to this easy, open-handed dealing. How often is the American seen to double some price with the remark, "that's not much," and a feeling that these "poor people have a hard time anyway." A Swiss child holds up a handful of wild raspberries to the window of a train which has stopped at a small station; she has picked them by the wayside and timidly offers them for a few cents. "Oh," says the impulsive American woman, "that's too cheap, here's a franc." The child understands the money if not the words. This is a pleasant little incident produced in the exuberance of a holiday spirit, but the lady should not complain when next she comes that way that her wild berries can only be got for a franc – it is she who has made the price.
Does the presence of Americans cause an increase in prices? Take Carlsbad, one of the most popular "cures" with Americans. Last year there were some three thousand Americans who took the "cure" there and at Marienbad, its neighbour, and another three thousand or thereabouts passed through, stopping en route long enough to take the waters in some form or another and buy some specimens of Bohemian glassware as souvenirs. They must have left in the neighbourhood of five or six hundred thousand dollars as the total of their expenditure, including mere unnecessary trifles. It is this that has given Carlsbad rank as one of the most expensive places in Europe. American visitors to foreign spas are usually of the wealthy class.
To live comfortably in a southern European climate, on the Riviera, is possible on almost any scale. A Riviera villa can be got for a year, often furnished, for the price of a month's rent of the average New York apartment. The subject is treated in extenso elsewhere, and it is not intended to refer here to that super-luxuriousness with which the gay world of Paris and St. Petersburg surrounds itself in the magnificent and often palatial villas of Beaulieu and Cap Saint Jean.
Modern villas, for rent by the season, are going up all over Europe. In some of the Belgian watering places a small villa after the old Flemish style can be had for as little as two hundred dollars for the season, and in Switzerland, modern chalets, patterned after the genuine old thing, are being erected near all the great resorts. Rentals are by no means as low as in Belgium, the cheapest being perhaps four or five times the price.
Where can one live cheaply abroad? Naturally this is more nearly possible in the small town, or in a purely country neighbourhood, but since the average American can only live happily in colonies this is usually not to be thought of. It is the exceptional person who has the courage to break away from the companionship of one's own people, and the incentive for doing so must usually be greater than the saving of a few dollars. Large numbers of Americans are going about Europe looking for "rest and quiet," but their search generally fetches them up not too far away from the divertisements of more or less populous and lively centres.
Put the average American woman into a little provincial community in a foreign country and it is like putting her in jail. Dependent upon local society for her chief entertainment the novelty of unusual surroundings soon becomes stale, whether one is living in a restored feudal castle or an adapted farmhouse that has caught one's fancy. Like the amateur gardener with his plant, she pulls herself up periodically to see if she has really taken root, and is perhaps relieved to find that the roots have not struck in, and that she can, when she will, move on to a more congenial environment without remorse.
To be happy living in a foreign land requires an absorbing occupation or remarkable inner resources in order to be able to cut adrift from a conventional home-land existence and adjust one's outlook to the viewpoint of the country.
The way, then, to live cheaply abroad is to shun the fashionable neighbourhoods, particularly those which have been made so largely by one's own people, and to take an old house, or apartment, rather than the newest that one can find. After all, for what does one go to Europe for but the old?
One should learn to walk upstairs, to patronise the ambulant bath that is brought hot to your door, the public baths, or learn the acrobatic feat of bathing in two inches of water in an exaggerated soup plate. One should not worry over the kind of entrance which the apartment house may possess, or what rank in the scale of fashion the neighbourhood may have. The actual question of surroundings does not make very much difference in Europe; one's social status is not reckoned or recognised by her geographical location, and anyway, the temporary sojourner should be glad to put it all down to the credit of new experiences.
What really hides behind this excuse of the search abroad for an economical style of living is first of all a feeling that there should be an excuse for one's peripatetic vagaries. A money consideration can always be understood, but the pivotal motive is the same as that which induces one to turn from a noisy street into a garden of old-fashioned flowers. The charm of a more tranquil life, with simpler pleasures, is an attraction which will often serve as a temporary excuse for one's not remaining amid their altogether too-practical home civilisation.
It is for the American woman abroad to cherish this great market of charm and fascination, and above all not spoil it by introducing the extravagant modernities from which she is trying to escape.