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The Parisian Agency and the luxury of family

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In the first episode of the French reality TV show The Parisian Agency: Exclusive Properties, there’s a scene in which the four Kretz family brothers — Martin, 31, Valentin, 29, Louis, 25, and Raphael, 16 — are huddled around the computer in their Paris living room, laughing as Martin taps away at the keyboard on an online dating site for seniors. They are setting up a profile for their 87-year-old grandmother, Majo, who’s sitting a few feet away smiling wryly and cracking her own jokes at her cheeky grandsons. The living room is also the family’s home office, where the three adult brothers work alongside their parents, Olivier and Sandrine, in their luxury real estate business.

I have a secret love for interior design and architecture, so when the show popped up on my Netflix homepage, I couldn’t resist tuning in. The Kretzes sell gorgeous and incredibly expensive properties across France and Europe. But within a couple of episodes I realised I was getting hooked on something else besides the gleaming marble countertops and chevron-patterned parquet flooring. It seemed to me that the real luxury depicted in the show was the safe and openly loving home environment, where each of the family members were committed to one another in work, in play, in challenges and in growth.

In episode after episode, we see examples of the Kretz family showing up for one another in a variety of circumstances, acknowledging each other’s strengths and assisting with each other’s weaknesses. Louis struggles with self-confidence but feels able to ask Martin for practical help. Valentin pays extra attention to making sure Raphael pushes himself in school, feeling extra responsibility for his little brother’s achievements. Olivier, the father, calls out everyone for getting too comfortable, arranging a day off for family team-building with a coach, where they begin by each naming one small goal they have for self-improvement.

What is so refreshing about this series is that it highlights the behaviour between family members that helps to build a healthy family system

It’s not a perfect family. They raise their voices at each other and at times it can feel as if the pressure to remain part of the collective means sacrificing individual desires, or neglecting their own growing families. But what is so refreshing about this series is that it highlights the behaviour that helps to build a healthy family system. And it’s a portrayal of family that seems rare in popular culture, where recent hit shows such as Succession mine dysfunction for drama and entertainment.

Granted, family-run businesses with little separation between personal and professional life are not the norm for most of us. But in the past year and a half, I imagine that we have all had unexpected experiences that have caused us to reconsider our own family systems and dynamics. Some of us were thrown back into the families we were raised with. Some were distanced from our families for extended periods of time. Others were reminded of our lack of family support systems.

As wide-ranging as our experiences were with our families, the recognitions were perhaps as equally wide-ranging. Maybe some of us realised there were issues that couldn’t be swept under the rug any longer. Maybe some of us felt moved to heal broken connections. Maybe some of us were finally able or willing to hear truths about ourselves in the context of our families.

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The funny thing about human relationships is that expressing love and care can be as difficult and painful as expressing hurt and frustration, based on how people are raised. Our families are where we first learn to relate to others, learn to forge our self-perceptions, and establish our most deeply rooted working narratives about the world and our place in it. And nothing throws you back to the behaviours associated with those learnings than encountering your family members.

The Parisian Agency is, in subtle and undramatic ways, a reminder that some of the basic elements of what makes a healthy family are demonstrated in the daily ways people choose to behave. They play out in how we speak to one another, make room and time for one another, anticipate each other’s needs, and prioritise our own needs when necessary. As we choose each day to give and receive grace, choose to work together, choose to challenge one another towards growth, no matter how incremental, we ultimately choose to recognise that a supportive, safe, loving and committed family, whether born into or chosen, is actually the most priceless luxury one could possess.

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