The gardien/gardienne is the gentleman or lady who often lives in the Loge (the ground floor apartment of older style Parisian buildings, often adjacent to the entrance foyer) and takes care of cleaning common parts of your building, post and delivery of parcels. This apartment comes with their job and allows them to survey all the comings and goings of the building. To this day, many are of Portuguese origin as this was the role they adapted to and became known for as tides of immigrants arrived in France after WWII.
Make no mistake, they are a good person to have on your side whether you are a tenant or an owner! They generally know all the important information about your building, its inhabitants and the neighbourhood. Like anyone, getting to know them, striking up a friendly relationship and even a little present now and again will make your life 100% easier.
Don’t call them the “concierge”, it’s not very politically correct – and its usage has died out.
The gardien is the gateway to receiving your post. If you’ve recently moved to France you may be surprised to realise that letters are not addressed to an apartment number, they have only the building number and the tenant’s (or owner’s) name. This is where your relationship to the gardien is important, as it is they who distribute the mail for all the building, and if they are not kept abreast of who is living in each apartment and therefore don’t recognise the name on the address, letters and parcels may be given back to the postman to return to La Poste.
Unfortunately, many buildings are now getting rid of gardiens because they are expensive and it means the building charges are higher for the owners. Until then though, they will occupy a pivotal role in the daily life of Parisian apartment living, and their stories and character are part of what makes inhabiting this city so unique.