Monaco has a strong local culture, and it's fantastic
“We’re not France, we’re not Italy,” says Antoine Duprat, the bar chief at Brasserie Monaco. “We’re Monaco. We have our own rules and that’s how we like it.”
Though the country has just 40,000 residents -- only a fifth of whom are citizens -- one might think its culture would be hard to define. But it’s stronger than you’d imagine. Some might mistake the attitude as a monied snobbishness, but it’s more an inner confidence that comes from living on a rock, surrounded by another country, and still managing to maintain your identity. Because Monégasque citizenship is almost impossible to get without marrying into it (mere residency is a lot simpler), you don’t notice much of a rift between natives and immigrants.
The prince and his government take care of the few citizens they have; Monégasque people have special, subsidized housing that’s often nicer than what wealthy foreigners own. “The nicest public housing in the world,” is how Kiabski described it to me.
Because they’re so well taken care of, native Monégasque don’t mind being outnumbered nearly 10-to-1 when each morning 40,000 commuters pour into the city from French towns. And since nearly nobody is from there and the natives are accepting, everyone in Monaco seems to get along.
Since my first trip to Monaco, I’ve seen a dozen other countries in Europe, each of course with its own distinct personality. But Monaco holds a place in my heart for showing me the character of the entire continent in such a tiny place. It was the perfect first look to give Europe a look, and as it’s only a few hours' train ride from cities like Barcelona and Madrid -- who’ve seen crazy cheap airfares this year -- it should absolutely be on a traveler’s agenda. While your friends back home might mistakenly think a trip to Monaco means you’ve decided to spend like some sort of Powerball winner, they don’t need to know they’re wrong. You can literally be homeless and unemployed and look just as impressive.