Reporting in Monaco, you come to realise very quickly that you are not only in a different country, but that this country is a town, and above all, a village.
All the Prince’s subjects – the Monégasques -know each other, or at least each other’s family history. Mind you, they are not that many: 8,837 (December 2013) out of a population of 36,950 to be precise. Yes, that’s right: those who call themselves “Monégasques” are a minority in their own land. Let me explain.
Monégasques were born Monégasques. It’s the blood line that matters. Of course, there are exceptions, for example, you can ask for Monégasque citizenship after 10 years of being married to a Monégasque. Or if you’ve done something special for the principality, the Prince might consider offering it to you as a special favour.
Of course, other residents have been living in Monaco for generations. They are of French or Italian descent but do not have citizenship. They are called “les enfants du pays” – “the children of the country”. And then you have the rich foreigners.
For you do need to be rich to afford a flat in Monaco. A two-bedroom-flat with a sea view is about 5,000 euros per month to rent. It’s not even a big flat: 67 square metres! Sure, Monaco is small – less than a square mile – and there are never enough properties on offer to match the demand. So does that mean that all the Monégasques are rich?
Well, the answer is no. But, as subjects of the Prince, they are his responsibility. So, the State subsidises housing for the Monégasques throughout the Principality, so that they can stay in Monaco, their country. Imagine Monaco without Monégasques? It takes a people to make a State. But if everyone who lived in Monaco had Monégasque citizenship and a housing subsidy? Well, the country would go bust.
I came to meet all sorts of Monégasques: rich ones, middle-class ones, and the rest. And whatever their social background, how proud they are of their country! At the same time, they welcome you to their land, take you on board, and try to make you understand their world, their way of seeing things. So, my advice is: if you go to Monaco some day, do try to have a chat with the people of the Prince. For what better way of discovering a country than through the eyes of its people?