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French technological innovation and efficiency for cutting costs

November 25th, 2011 2 comments

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving, and for those celebrating this weekend (comme moi), enjoy the festivities!

The Economist has an interesting piece in this week’s issue that talks about the newly automated line 1 of the Paris metro system which was completely outfitted with new technology and revamped to make it driverless.

Besides having better and more service during rush hour and a lower risk of accidents (automated line 14, which I take quite often, has had no accidents since its launch in 1998), the modernization of services also results in a welcome side effect for many: these automated lines will not be affected by the occasional public transport worker strikes since there are no drivers (see excerpt below).

What is your view on technology and innovation in France? Do you think labor costs are too high and discourages employers from hiring more often?

“…Strict labour laws, costly payroll charges and erratic strikes seem to make French firms especially keen on technology. Supermarkets, for instance, have enthusiastically adopted self-checkout tills. “All French hypermarkets have adopted this strategy over the past few years,” says Alexis Lecanuet at Accenture, a consultancy. The idea is to speed up queues at peak times for impatient non-technophobes carrying light baskets. But it also cuts costs. “Self-checkout has worked better in countries where labour is expensive,” says Serguei Netessine, a professor at INSEAD, a business school.

France excels at high-tech services: credit-card operated petrol stations, touch-screen fast-food counters, automatic car-washing. Two years ago, McDonalds pioneered the use of touch-screen, credit-card-based ordering in its French fast-food restaurants. Eléphant Bleu, a self-service high-pressure car-washing chain, has 472 outlets in France, and is expanding. All this in a country where the labour code runs to over 3,300 pages, an employer pays an average of 39% in payroll taxes, and unemployment is at 10%. Spot the connection.”

Thanksgiving in France: where to celebrate (15 cities)

November 22nd, 2011 1 comment

NB: full disclosure – I have no vested interest in any of the listed restaurants or bars, except I do write on occasion for My American Market and Bonjour Paris. Just spreading the word!

Just because you’re in France doesn’t mean you have to do without Thanksgiving. In fact, I know several of my French friends (in their 20’s) who will celebrate it because they love the holiday.

There are places all over the country to feast with family and/or friends, usually hosted by restaurants or organizations with expatriate roots.

The great website Bonjour Paris has a listing of some places to go. I’ve included Karen’s recommendations below and organized the listings according to city. Thanks to the American Clubs of France, too.

Of course if you have recommendations, please feel free to leave them in the comments section. Many of these require reservations, so call to see or RSVP email in advance. Others like The Great Canadian and WOS Bar do not require reservations, but it’s better to show up earlier.

For those in the Paris area interested in making recipes, you can check out:

The Real McCoy (49, avenue Bosquet 75007 Paris) and McCoy Café (194, rue de Grenelle 75007 Paris)
Thanksgiving Paris (20, rue Saint Paul 75004 Paris)

-You can also buy products online at MyAmericanMarket.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Paris
American Church in Paris
Thurs. Nov. 24, 12:15pm
Sat. Nov. 26, 7:30pm
65 quai d’Orsay, 75007 Paris

France-Etats Unis Paris IDF
Thurs. Nov. 24 (more info on website above)

American Club of Paris
Thanksgiving Gala Dinner : American chef Diane Anthonissen
Fri. Nov. 25, 7pm (members only)

Bistrot Le Saint-Martin
Thurs. Nov. 24, Fri. Nov. 25, Sat. Nov. 26
25 Rue Louis Blanc 75010 PARIS

Joe Allen’s
Thurs. Nov. 24 (call for time, reservation)
30 rue Pierre Lescot 75001 Paris

Le Ralph’s (Ralph Lauren’s Paris restaurant)
Thurs. Nov. 24, 6:30pm AND 9:30pm (filling up fast)
173 Boulevard St Germain 75006 Paris

Breakfast in America
Fully booked but you can sign up for waiting list

Kat’s American Diner
(usually has Thanksgiving, call them for information)

The Great Canadian
Thurs. Nov. 24, 7pm.
25 Quai Grands Augustins 75006 Paris, France

The WOS Bar
Thurs. Nov. 24 (call them for time, number on website above)
184 Rue Saint Jacques, 75005 Paris

First Avenue (Thanksgiving “after work”)
Thurs. Nov. 24, 7pm-midnight
119 Boulevard Pereire, 75017 Paris PARIS

Kay Bourgine quartet – Thanksgiving Dinner : Concert & Potluck
Thurs. Nov. 24, 9pm
Café Universel, 267 rue St. Jacques 75005 Paris

Lyon
American Club of Lyon – Thanksgiving Dinner
Sat. Nov. 26, 6:30pm
L’Espace Brasserie, 26, Place Bellecour – 69002 Lyon

Marseille and Aix-en-Provence
France-Etats Unis Marseille
Fri. Nov. 25, 7:30pm
Yachting Club Pointe Rouge (info on website above)

Anglo-American Group of Provence
Sun. Nov. 27, 4pm
(contact for details)

Grenoble
France-Etats Unis Grenoble
Sun. Nov. 27, 1-5pm at L’ATRIUM
1 ter rue de Moulin, Le Fontanil
(info and RSVP info on their site under “Calendar”)

Pumpkins restaurant
33 rue d’Alembert 38000 Grenoble
(not sure but they usually organize a dinner)

Tours
France-Etats Unis Tours
Sat. Dec. 3, 7:30pm
St. Cyr

Nantes
France-Etats Unis Nantes
Thurs. Nov. 24, 7:30pm
« Le Hublot » 3 Rue Albert Londres – 44000 Nantes

Toulouse
Americans in Toulouse
members only, but contact for information

Strasbourg
Americans in Alsace
They hosted an event last year, contact them

Lille
American Club of Lille
They hosted an event last year, contact them

Bordeaux
Association Bordeaux-USA – Traditional THANKSGIVING DINNER
Thurs. Nov. 24, 7pm
38 Allees d’Orleans, (Place des Quinconces) 33000 Bordeaux

Monaco/Nice/Cannes
The American Club Riviera
Thurs. Nov. 24, 7pm
7 Avenue Gustav V, 06000 Nice

Rennes
Institut Franco-Américain
Thurs. Nov. 24, 7:45pm
7, quai Chateaubriand – BP 90446 – 35104 – Rennes

Caen
France-Etats Unis Caen
Thurs. Nov. 24, 8pm
Restaurant Inter Administratif – 6, boulevard Aristide Briand – Caen

Biarritz
France-Etats Unis Biarritz
Sat. Nov. 26, 8pm
Hôtel du Palais

Talk on US Elections at the American Library in Paris tonight Nov. 22

November 22nd, 2011 No comments

The University of Notre Dame Alumni Club of France and the American Library in Paris have organized an event tonight at the American Library, entitled “The US Presidential Campaign Ahead” with a talk given by Dr. Steven Ekovich from the American University of Paris. The event starts at 7:30pm. Information below. Promises to be interesting!

Notre Dame Club of France @ The Library: The US Presidential Campaign Ahead
Tue 22 November 2011 19h30
@The American Library in Paris ( 10, rue du Général Camou, 75007 Paris)

Description

The US Presidential Campaign Ahead: A second term or a new president?

Political scientist Dr. Steven Ekovich of the American University of Paris assesses President Obama’s prospects for re-election, the evolution of the American electorate since 2008, the role of the Tea Party and the Democratic left in shaping the 2012 debate, and the horse race for the Republican presidential nomination.

About Dr. Steven Ekovich

Dr. Steven Ekovich is currently an associate professor in the American University of Paris’ International and Comparative Politics Department. Previously, he was associate professor at the École Polytechnique (1984-2000). Ekovich also lectured and consulted abroad during this time, visiting almost 30 countries in Europe and Africa.

Ekovich graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a B.A. in Philosophy and History (1975), an M.A. in History (1979) and a Ph.D. in History (1984). He has also done graduate work at the University of Chicago and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris.

The American Library in Paris is a focal point for exceptional programs and performances designed to inspire, inform and enrich the community. These programs which are free and open to the public are presented @The Library in conjunction with organizations such as the Notre Dame Club of France.

Why do the French often have a difficult relationship with work?

November 21st, 2011 7 comments

The Economist has an interesting business column that recently addressed the relationship that French workers have with their jobs. Over the past years, people abroad have heard of disgruntled factory workers “boss-napping”, holding different kinds of strikes and working 35 hour weeks. These are stereotypes, and most French workers are at the office more than 35 hours. In fact average work time for full-time employees is 41 hours) and all employees taken into account, 39.4 hours. I know I work more than that!

According to several studies, France has one of the world’s most productive work forces. As recent as 2009, they had the world’s most productive work force (description of productivity).

This site has some benefits of doing business in France, as well as some challenges.

Incidentally it appears that often management teams at many French companies are responsible in part for this unhealthy relationship, as many directors come from a few grandes écoles (elite schools) and thus career advancement can be hindered within companies that retain top-down power structures with a few elite at the reins.

However, the article (below with some boldfaced parts) cites companies such as Danone which has been refreshingly open to basing promotions on skills rather than which elite school an employee attended. Other companies cited are Alcatel-Lucent and Schneider Electric.

What do you think? Do you agree, disagree? What is your experience working in a French company with French workers?

Schumpeter
The French way of work

Managers must shoulder some of the blame for France’s troubled relationship with work
Nov 19th 2011 | from the print edition

EVERY year, Sophie de Menthon, a French entrepreneur, holds an event called J’aime ma boîte (I love my firm) in Paris. The idea is to counter the notion that the French don’t like work. Employees are enticed to make lip dubs (a video of them lip-synching to music, if you need to ask), massage each other, vote for the nicest colleague, arrange for the accountant to swap jobs with the secretary and other stunts to celebrate their firm.

The much-mocked campaign has not had much luck. In 2007 a national strike interrupted the festivities, and in 2009 a series of suicides at France Télécom spoilt the atmosphere. This year employees showed less love for their boîte than ever before. Only 64% of those polled liked their company, down from 79% in 2005.

A truer reflection of work attitudes came this summer when French workers covered office windows with huge pictures made up of Post-it notes. Employees at GDF-Suez, a utility, stuck thousands of them to the windows of its HQ near Paris to represent Tintin, a comic-strip hero. Société Générale’s bankers responded with a picture of Asterix and Obelix across six storeys. A few employers cracked down on the time-wasting, but most did not dare.

Many outsiders conclude that French workers are simply lazy. “Absolument Dé-bor-dée!” (“Absolutely Snowed Under”), a book which came out last year, described how state employees compete to do nothing at work. Another title in this bestselling genre on avoiding toil, “Bonjour Paresse” (“Hello Laziness”) by Corinne Maier, an economist, explained how she got away with doing nothing at EDF, another utility.

In fact studies suggest that the problem with French employees is less that they are work-shy, than that they are poorly managed. According to a report on national competitiveness by the World Economic Forum, the French rank and file has a much stronger work ethic than American, British or Dutch employees. They find great satisfaction in their work, but register profound discontent with the way their firms are run.

Two-fifths of employees, according to a 2010 study by BVA, a polling firm, actively dislike their firm’s top managers. France ranks last out of ten countries for workers’ opinion of company management, according to a report from 2007. Whereas two-thirds of American, British and German employees say they have friendly relations with their line manager, fewer than a third of French workers say the same. Many employees, in short, agree with Ms Maier, who recommends that chief executives be guillotined to the tune of “La Carmagnole”, a revolutionary song.

If French work attitudes are out of the ordinary, French management methods are also unusual. The vast majority of chief executives of big firms hail from one of a handful of grandes écoles, such as École Polytechnique, an elite science school. Through what is known as parachutage, they can arrive suddenly from the top ranks of the civil service. Air France KLM, for example, announced unexpectedly last month that its new chief executive would be Alexandre de Juniac, formerly chief of staff to Christine Lagarde when she was France’s finance minister.

Although the grandes écoles are superbly meritocratic—candidates compete against each other in a series of gruelling exams—their dominance of corporate hierarchies makes workplaces much less so. At a big French bank recently, a manager promoted an executive, only to be reproached by a furious rival who said he should have been given the job because he had done better in the final exams at the same grande école.

As Thomas Philippon, a French economist, pointed out in “Le Capitalisme d’Héritiers”, a 2007 book, too many big French companies rely on educational and governmental elites rather than promoting internally according to performance on the job. In the country’s many family firms, too, opportunity for promotion is limited for non-family members. This overall lack of upward mobility, argues Mr Philippon, contributes largely to ordinary French cadres’ dissatisfaction with corporate life. A study of seven leading economies by TNS Sofres in 2007 showed that France is unique in that middle management as well as the lower-level workforce is largely disengaged from their companies.

For those farther down the ladder, French companies are hierarchical, holding no truck with Anglo-Saxon notions of “empowerment”. And bosses are more distant than ever. A big change in French management, says Jean-Pierre Basilien of Entreprise & Personnel, a Paris research centre, is that industrial managers now seldom rise through the ranks. Fifteen years ago a leading graduate would have worked in factories before moving to headquarters. Now many come up via finance or strategy.

From the ranks

There are important exceptions. Danone, a food-products firm, is one. It has made a big effort to promote people solely on competence, says Charles-Henri Besseyre des Horts, a professor at HEC, a business school which is one of the elite grandes écoles. The 2006 merger of Alcatel, a French telecoms-equipment firm, and Lucent, an American one, created a less hierarchical group. Alcatel-Lucent even encourages teleworking, uncommon in France because it means trusting workers not to goof off. Jean-Pascal Tricoire, chief executive of Schneider Electric, an ambitious energy-management firm, came up from the ranks.

French companies have particular reason to worry now about their bad boss-worker relations. An important factor in the growing gap in industrial competitiveness between France and Germany, said a recent study by Coe-Rexecode, an economic-research centre, is that German bosses and employees are better than French ones at working together. French bosses badly need to follow in the footsteps of Danone and other modernisers. If they try and fail, then at least they can blame the workers.

Pew poll reveals Americans more chauvinistic than the French

November 18th, 2011 No comments

NB: This post is not intended to spark cultural tensions but give cultural insight. Of course, surveys are not perfect measurements, but they can provide perspective. I’m just sharing an interesting article here for cultural awareness, not to criticize the US or France.

The French have a reputation for being quite chauvinistic, but my time living here has showed me that they are not any more arrogant than my fellow Americans. In fact, the recent Pew Research Center survey, called the “The American-Western European Values Gap”, reveals quite the contrary.

Responding to the statement “Our people are not perfect but our culture is superior to others”, only 27% of French think French culture is better than all others. For the US, that number was 49%.

What could this say about Americans? I think overall we are less informed about world events and different cultures than European nations, and it shows in the numbers. So I believe this attitude is based on lack of experience abroad and lack of cultural perspective. That’s just my opinion though, not Pew’s conclusions. What do you think?

Another interesting statistic is that in foreign affairs, there is more isolationism in the US than in France:

52% of Americans polled said the US “should deal with its own problems”, 39% said the US “should help other countries”.

For the French, these numbers were 57% and 43%, respectively.

More from The Local website below, with a link to the survey here.

Poll finds French not so chauvinistic after all
Published: 18 Nov 2011 10:15 GMT+1

France’s reputation for chauvinism took a hit on Thursday from an opinion poll that revealed that only 27 percent of its people think French culture is better than all others.

In fact, 73 percent of French respondents to the ongoing Pew Research Center survey of US and European attitudes disagreed that “our culture is superior to others,” the polling institute reported.

Forty-nine percent of Americans believed US culture was the best, even if “our people are not perfect,” followed by Germans at 47 percent, Spaniards at 44 percent and Britons at 32 percent.

But, when set against past surveys, it appears “Americans are now far less likely to say that their culture is better than others; six-in-ten Americans held this belief in 2002 and 55 percent did so in 2007,” the pollsters said.

“Belief in cultural superiority has declined among Americans across age, gender and education groups.”

Americans were most likely to consider freedom to pursue life’s goals is most important (58 percent), while Germans were most likely to view success in life as being determined “by forces outside our control” (72 percent).

Pew based its findings from random telephone interviews in March and April with about 1,000 respondents in each country (Britain, France, Germany, Spain and the United States) with 3.5-4.5 percent margins of error.

The entire survey appears on its website, www.pewglobal.org.

AFP (fr) (news@thelocal.fr)

French week ‘Semaine Française’ in New Orleans Nov 17-20

November 17th, 2011 No comments

This week the French Consulate in New Orleans is organizing a “Semaine Française” to celebrate Franco-American friendship and ties. Excerpts from Embassy website below. See the sites for more information. Vive la France! Vive l’Amérique!

The Consulate General of France in New Orleans, Louisiana, in partnership with local institutions and sponsors, offers the first edition of the Semaine Française. More than 20 multidisciplinary events will be held in New Orleans during 4 days to celebrate the French-American relationship and strengthen the ties between France and Louisiana.

From Thursday the 17th of November to Sunday the 20th, business, educational and cultural thematic will be highlighted by these events, a large majority of which are free and open to all. Semaine Française is presented under the high auspices of his Excellency the Ambassador of France to the United States Mr. Francois Delattre.

Semaine Française will propose:

-Regional cooperation will be underlined by the signing of a memorandum of agreement between port of new orleans and Port of Guadeloupe, followed by a trade summit on the impact of the Panama Canal expansion with French and American perspectives. Officials from both New Orleans and Guadeloupe will attend this event, as well as his Excellency the Ambassador of France to the United States François Delattre.

-A business symposium will be held on the 18th of November at Tulane University. Three seminars will adress the issues of energy, coastal sustainability and transportation. Professionals in these fields such as the CEO of Areva Jacques Besnainou and nuclear cousellor to the French Embassy in Washington D.C Cyril Pinel will participate to these seminars.

-A French education fair will gather all the Louisiana institutions offering French studies and classes on the 19th of November. A roundtable discusssion with Louisiana State Representatives and a panel of university professors will deal with the state of the French language in Louisiana, followed by a networking cocktail with the alumni of the Teaching Assistant Program in France and professionals.

-Several cultural events will be held during Semaine Française in New Orleans. The Beaujolais Nouveau will be celebrated through a festival and French DJ after-party; culinary cooking demonstrations will be offered by Guadeloupean chef Joel Kichenin at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum; a concert by the Gypsy swing trio and a screening of French film « Le Herisson »by Mona Achache in cooperation with the New Orleans Museum of Art and the New Orleans Film Society. Painting and sculpture exhibitions of French artists living in New Orleans will be organized in several galleries. A photo exhibit on the theme « What makes Louisiana French »will take place at the historic New Orleans Collection. And more…

Semaine Française is presented by the Consulate General of France in New Orleans, the French-American chamber of Commerce-Gulf Coast Chapter, the Alliance francaise of New Orleans and the forum francophone des affaires. Semaine Française benefits from the support of all the French and French-American organizations in New Orleans and has partnered with most of the city’s institutions including the city of New Orleans, the Council for the Development Of French language In Louisiana (CODOFIL) the Port of New Orleans and Tulane University.

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé ! Wine bar hop tonight in Paris

November 17th, 2011 No comments

If you’re in France today, you’ll see signs in many bars and restaurants windows touting the message “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!” in some variation (“The New Beaujolais region vintage has arrived!”).

For those of you who are not familiar with Beaujolais Nouveau, here is a little background on the wine and the event. This site also provides some insight (as well as the picture above, merci).

There are soirées all over the world to celebrate this annual event. One of my favorite places in Washington D.C. is Bistrot du Coin. I believe the French Embassy in D.C. and its Consulates have events as well.

My friend Miss Vicky Wine is hosting a wine bar hop tonight in Paris with Le Petit Ballon to celebrate the arrival of the 2011 vintage. You can find more information and RSVP on this Facebook event. Here is the itinerary, and more information on this site (in French). Have a good time tonight!

Again in innovation, French companies score high marks

November 16th, 2011 No comments

It must be innovation week…

In another poll on innovation (Thomson Reuters Top 100 Global Innovators), France has 11 companies on the list (the 3rd most behind Japan with 27 and America with 40). The brilliant chaps over at The Economist have a nice article on this, below here for easy reading (France boldfaced for emphasis on my part).

Where innovation lies
Nov 16th 2011, 16:54 by The Economist online

Where are the world’s most innovative companies and what do they do?

Companies that make semiconductors and other electronic components are collectively the most innovative industry, according to an analysis of patents carried out by Thomson Reuters, an information-services provider. Its “Top 100 Global Innovators” report rates companies by the proportion of their patent applications that are granted; the number of “quadrilateral” patents (those granted in China, Europe, Japan and America); how often patents are cited by other companies; and whether patents relate to new techniques or inventions or are refinements of existing ones. This approach is intended to overcome the limitations of using the number of patents filed or granted as a measure of innovation. Of the 100 companies in the list, which is not ranked and relates to patent activity from 2005-2010, 40 are from America, 27 from Japan and 11 from France. No Chinese companies qualified. The report says this “underscores the fact that although China is leading the world in patent volume, quantity does not equate to influence and quality.”

France has 9 cities in Top 100 Global Innovation Cities ranking

November 15th, 2011 No comments

France’s strong tradition of research and innovation, as well as growing FDI and domestic investment in pharma, nanotechnology, cleantech, biotech, and other innovative sectors seem to be gaining worldwide recognition.

In the latest rankings of Innovation Cities released by the company 2thinknow, the United States has 23 cities in the Top 100, Germany has 16 and France has 9, making it third among countries in the poll. One of my favorite cities, Lyon, even makes it in the Global Top 10. Congrats to Lyon! The following French cities are in the Top 100:

#3 Paris
#8 Lyon
#27 Strasbourg
#37 Nantes
#39 Marseille
#41 Bordeaux
#44 Toulouse
#63 Montpellier
#96 Reims

After the Top 100 but within the overall ranking of 331 benchmark cities, France has several other cities featured within Europe: Nice, Lille, Cannes, Rennes. Although I’m personally surprised that Grenoble, a city known for its research and nanotechnology, is nowhere to be found…

G20, Paris newspaper bombing, Madame Le Pen goes to Washington

November 8th, 2011 No comments

In the latest issue of Bonjour Paris news, I have an article that talks about these subjects. You can read it all here.

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