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Brussels under attack: What you should know

If you somehow haven’t heard yet, ISIS (Daesh) terrorists carried out bombings at Brussels International Airport and a metro station downtown near the EU HQ on March 22. There are thought to be 34+ deaths and 200+ injured, with those tolls probably to rise as forensics teams struggle to identify victims.

Flights have been canceled in and out of Brussels, as well as Eurostar trains. Brussels metro system is also shut down. Contact your travel company for information on your individual plans. Belgian authorities are calling for vigilance.

You can see up-to-date coverage on media including France 24, BBC, NY Times, Economist, Flanders News (local) and CNN. I also recommend following the news on Twitter. For those of you who are American, I suggested registering for the US State Department travel alerts & warnings and their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The UK’s Foreign Ministry has a similar service, as does Australia.  Belgium’s Foreign Ministry and that of France are also great resources.

In addition to social  media outreach, diplomatic letters of support were sent the world over including from the US and France.

My thoughts and prayers with the families and victims of Brussels. I personally have over 20 friends there and luckily they are accounted for. I’ve been there several times and each time the Belgian people are very welcoming. My heart goes out to you.

 

 

FranceBelgiumSolidarity2016

France facing significant strikes this week, will impact train travel

French labor unions and student groups are on strike around France right now thru March 10th. This is impacting travel throughout the country. Make sure to check SNCF’s time tracking website for updates to train schedules as well as the Paris transit system RATP.

France24 has great coverage of this here and the US State Department has issued the travel warning below for expats.

Bon courage, les amies, les amis.

SNCF_strike_March2016

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Strikes in France on March 8-10, 2016

On March 8 -10, 2016, members of several unions and student groups plan both strikes and protests all across France. These protests and strike actions are likely to make travel and/or local transport (including movement by private vehicle or taxi) difficult.

Nationwide, the unions that represent 70% of SNCF employees have called on their employees to strike; local media report that this is the first time since June 2013 that the four biggest unions have been unified in their intention to strike, suggesting that the participation rate could be very high and disruption accordingly significant.

In Paris, unions representing local transport authority RATP will also be striking, leading to possible slowdowns on the Metro, buses, and RER.

In separate actions, several groups plan to converge on the Place de la République in Paris at 2 pm from various assembly points across the city to protest the government’s consideration of reforms to the labor laws.

Unions have called on their members to meet around Paris metro station ‘Ecole Militaire’ to march on the MEDEF headquarters in the 7th arrondissement on avenue Bosquet. From there, they intend to head to the Labor Ministry on rue de Grenelle before heading for the Place de la République.

Student and young people’s groups have called on their participants to gather at Place de la Nation in the east of the city before marching to République.

Please note that the actual strike plans filed by the transport workers’ unions designate a start of the action at 8 pm Tuesday night, March 8, and a finish Thursday morning, March 10, at about 8 am.

Please consult various sources of local information for updates, including local TV stations and websites (to include BFMTV, Le Parisien, and France24), as well as:

RATP – Paris local transport system – for information on metros, buses, and RER lines:

http://www.ratp.fr/informer/trafic/trafic.php

Transilien – for Paris region transport:

http://www.transilien.com/info-trafic/temps-reel

SNCF – for national and regional rail travel:
http://www.sncf.com/fr/horaires-info-trafic

Twitter feeds for particular metro and/or RER line(s) are always very helpful, as are the Twitter feeds of the Paris Prefecture de Police (@prefpolice) and Aéroports de Paris (@AeroportsParis), which also provides information on traffic conditions to/from CDG and Orly airports.

The Embassy reminds U.S. citizens that demonstrations and large events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational. Avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations. Large public gatherings can affect all major incoming arteries to the city in which they occur. Demonstrations in one city have the potential to lead to additional public rallies or demonstrations in other locations around the city and country.

We strongly encourage U.S. citizens to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. U.S. citizens are therefore urged to access local media to stay abreast of developments, avoid demonstrations, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.

For further information:

  • Contact the U.S. Embassy in France, located at 4, Avenue Gabriel, Paris,
    +33 (1) 43 12 22 22, 9:00am – 6:00pmMonday through Friday.
    After-hours emergency number for U.S. citizens is +33 (1) 43 12 22 22.
  • Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

France encouraging foreign entrepreneurs with French Tech Ticket

French startup & tech entrepreneur & influencer Roxanne Varza recently covered France’s announcement that it will be creating a more attractive business climate for foreign entrepreneurs in France.

Hollande_France_FTT_visa

March 2, 2016 by Roxanne Varza
FRANCE OPENS ITS DOOR TO FOREIGN ENTREPRENEURS

Today, was a big day for foreign entrepreneurs in France – who were received by the President at Elysée Palace. They are still few but the population is starting to grow. Especially now that La French Tech (France’s national program to promote and support its local tech entrepreneurs) has successfully launched a program specifically designed for foreign entrepreneurs called the French Tech Ticket.


#FTTicket by numbers

50 teams from over 1,000 applicants were selected for the first edition of the program. They represent 23 different countries. And let me tell you, their projects are incredible. Startups from Israel, the US, India, Russia, Chile and more have come to France to develop projects that concern everything from diamond-based water purification to construction robots. When I met the startups in February, I was literally blown away. Seeing these entrepreneurs confirmed a long-held belief of mine; France is actually insanely attractive to foreign entrepreneurs.

Not so easy?

France may not have a reputation for being the easiest country to do business in – but that reputation is dramatically changing. The government is striving to make radical changes and is really listening to the needs of the local ecosystem. Today’s event was proof to me that the administration is willing to make a difference. Obviously it’s even harder when once is a foreigner in France – which is why the French Tech Ticket’s approach is really spot-on. The 1-year program places entrepreneurs in various French incubators, provides financial support of up to 25,000 Euros, mentoring, tax breaks for the selected teams and more. It’s a really great first step in the right direction.

Foreigners, welcome to France.

Every year I am contacted by people around the world who want to come to France but they don’t know how to do it. Well, it’s about to get a LOT easier. People who want to launch startups, work in companies and whathaveyou – there are visas and programs that will come out within the next year for you. Just wait and see.

More to be done.

There is still a lot more that we can improve but I am truly excited to see that the government is finally paying attention to such an important topic – and acting on it. People seem to always think that French startups are, well, French. Not anymore. France is really going global.

France extends “State of Emergency” procedures thru May 26

In the wake of last November’s terrorist attacks in France, the mood has somewhat shifted in that people are more cautious as it pertains to security threats. But by and large it is still the charming, beautiful country with a progressive outlook that we know and love. You should still visit, go out and plan to travel, study and/or work there.

But you should also be aware that the French government is stepping up its security efforts around the country. It has recently extended its official “State of Emergency” to allow for its security apparatus to have extended ability to implement measures. You can read the notice from the US Embassy in Paris below.

This should not deter your travel or moving plans, but they may impact timing for planes and trains. An informed traveler is a smart traveler.

United States Embassy Paris, France

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Security Situation in France

March 1, 2016

The U.S. Embassy in France informs U.S. citizens that the government of France has extended the State of Emergency through May 26, 2016, which allows the government to prevent the circulation of individuals and to create zones of protection. Attacks in Europe by terror groups and from persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis are possible.

Local authorities have reinforced security measures throughout the communes in the Ile de France region. These allow for:

  • house arrest of any person whose activities are deemed dangerous,
  • the closure of theaters and meeting places,
  • the surrender of weapons, and
  • the possibility of administrative house searches.

The French Government has decided to re-establish border controls when needed and movement may be restricted in some areas. Travelers should:

  • expect delays at airports and train stations due to heightened security measures.
  • expect increased security at both border checkpoints and toll booths, due to strengthened border controls,
  • contact transport companies for the latest information and to arrive at airports and train stations early.

The U.S. Embassy reminds U.S. citizens of our Worldwide Caution. Travelers should exercise particular caution during festivals or events, including Easter and similar religious celebrations. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowded places. U.S. visitors or residents in France should be aware of their local security situation, and take appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities. Specific safety concerns should be addressed to French law enforcement authorities who have responsibility for the safety and security of all visitors to France.

For further information:

Categories: American, France, Paris, security, travel Tags:

Learn more about voting abroad at a Grenoble event March 2nd

France-Etats Unis Grenoble, an association for expats and French people alike living in the Grenoble area, is helping host an info session by Democrats Abroad in the historic city center of Grenoble. Information voting abroad will be abundant. Be sure to attend!

You can download a ballot, instructions and learn more as well as on their website.

Global Presidential Primary
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Café de la Table Ronde
7 Place Saint André, Grenoble
6-9 pm (GMT+1)

Gretchen Pascalis
Chair, Democrats Abroad Rhone-Alps
Vice President, France Etats-Unis Grenoble

See more about the local Rhone-Alps chapter of Democrats Abroad:

On the web
On Facebook
Join us on Meetup

Grenoble_Primary_Event_March2_2016

Categories: American, elections, US politics, voting Tags:

Paris under attack: What you should do

November 14th, 2015 No comments

Like all of you, I’m deeply saddened and troubled by the still-unfolding coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris.

Stay up to date via my Twitter channel @AmExpatFrance. I also recommend following France 24 and BFM TV, Agence France Presse, in addition to CNN.

For US citizens and expats abroad, please make sure to pay special attention to this message from the US Embassy I received earlier today. I also pasted info from the French Interior Ministry for an emergency number they have set up (in French). Please also keep up to date from the French National Police Twitter account here.

I advise you to contact your airlines and keep abreast of the news and travel alerts if you’re slated to travel to or from France in the coming days. At the moment, the country’s borders are closed. If I have any major updates, I’ll post to my Twitter feed. Best to stay indoors for now.

God Bless Paris.

U.S. Embassy Paris
Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Attacks in Paris
November 13, 2015

The U.S. Embassy in Paris is aware of multiple explosions in Paris and urges U.S. citizens to heed local authorities and maintain security awareness. The situation is still developing.

For further information:

· See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and France Country Specific Information.
· Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
· Contact the U.S. Embassy in Paris, located at 2 Avenue Gabriel
75008 Paris, at +(33)(1) 43-12-22-22 or by email at Citizeninfo@state.gov. After-hours emergency number for U.S. citizens is +(33)(1) 43-12-22-22.

· Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

· Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Attaques simultanées à Paris
14 novembre 2015

Communiqué de presse de la Cellule Interministérielle de Crise du 14 novembre 2015

La préfecture de Police met en place un numéro vert d’information au public :
0800 40 60 05
Mesures recommandées:
Les personnes qui se trouvent à leur domicile, chez des proches ou dans des locaux professionnels en IDF, doivent éviter de sortir sauf nécessité absolue.

France investing in its start-ups, launches new visa

The Economist recently had an interesting piece on multiple initiatives (by government and private venture capital investment alike) to encourage a blossoming of start-ups that Paris has not seen in years.

How this impacts you as potential or current expats: “Axelle Lemaire, the (Canadian-born) minister visiting NUMA, has launched a “tech visa” for foreign entrepreneurs.”

To learn more about this visa and the overall project to support French tech start-ups, you can peruse La French Tech.

Also of note: France is embarking on a “Come Back Home” campaign abroad to try to convince accomplished French expats to return to their homeland to help take the start-up economy to the next level.

I’ve included the Economist text below. Have any of my readers attended recent events in France (both Paris and other cities) related to start-up and tech investment?

Reinventing Paris
Start-up city

A capital seen as a museum develops new pockets of high-tech modernity
Jun 13th 2015 | PARIS | From the print edition

THE café is organic, the décor industrial loft-style and the furniture artfully mismatched. This is NUMA, a digital hub in Paris, where facial hair is abundant and ties are non-existent. Perhaps it is insouciance, ignorance or quiet concentration, but when a government minister turns up, nobody notices. A new generation is trying to reinvent how Paris behaves and looks.

It may not be Berlin or London, but something is taking place in the capital’s fringes and deserted industrial spaces. A city with more beauty and heritage than most, Paris is trying to shrug off its staid image. Scarcely a week goes by without an event devoted to start-ups in a converted dock or warehouse in an unfashionable area. On Paris’s eastern edge, Xavier Niel, an entrepreneur who heads a €12 billion ($13.5 billion) communications group, is building a start-up incubator with floor space equivalent to four football pitches. In the first quarter of 2015 a Paris venture-capital firm was joint-top investor in European technology start-ups, with two German companies, according to CB Insights, an American research group.

“There has been a transformation of mentalities in France,” says Mr Niel, who urges young people to take risks, think big and break conventions. “Entrepreneurship is a state of mind” reads a banner at NUMA, also home to Google’s Paris campus. The outlook is anti-hierarchical and anti-conformist. “Our force is cultural chaos,” says Frédéric Oru, a co-director. Another NUMA executive adds: “It’s not very French.”

One reason for change is that the young are no longer drawn to corporate life. Unemployment among graduates is 10%, and one in five of those who create new businesses are jobless. But some just want to do their own thing, away from the strict hierarchies of corporate France. A quarter of recent graduates of HEC, the top business school, have started their own company, up from one in ten a decade ago.

Second, successful entrepreneurs and investors now show what is possible. Mr Niel, who also built a software-development school in Paris, is one. Sigfox, a start-up that runs a cellular network for connected objects, pulled off the third-biggest European tech deal in the first quarter of 2015 when it raised $115m. BlaBlaCar, Europe’s biggest car-sharing service, raised over €100m last year. Incubators with names like TheFamily have grown. Facebook is opening a research centre on artificial intelligence in Paris.

Third, the Socialist government, which once whacked entrepreneurs with taxes, has changed. Instead of lamenting the loss of fine brains, it hopes to lure in foreign ones. Axelle Lemaire, the (Canadian-born) minister visiting NUMA, has launched a “tech visa” for foreign entrepreneurs. A public-investment fund, BPI France, is promoting start-ups. Early efforts to back incubators met “indifference and scepticism”, recalls Jean-Louis Missika, a deputy to the Socialist mayor, because “that wasn’t the image of Paris.” City Hall now wants to show that Paris is not just a living museum.

It is odd that the city lost its reputation for innovation. From avant-garde art to industrial engineering, it used to push the boundaries. The 1878 Paris World’s Fair showcased electric light; in 1889, the Eiffel Tower became the world’s tallest man-made structure. More recently, the urge to preserve has stifled innovation. Yet Paris is learning to reconcile history and modernity. On the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, a park, an elegant glass-and-steel structure designed by Frank Gehry for the Louis Vuitton art collection has met with admiration. Slowly, almost despite itself, Paris is rediscovering an innovative spirit.

Commerce on dimanche: Should France expand Sunday store hours?

February 13th, 2015 No comments

Bonjour! I hope your new year is off to a great start.

As many veteran and new expats alike know, stores and shops in France tend to be closed or have limited hours on Sundays – especially outside of big cities. How many times have you needed groceries after 7pm on Sunday only to have to wait until Monday? This is not the experience in all stores – but it is often the case outside of Paris.

According to The Washington Post, France is currently debating whether or not to increase the number of Sundays shops can be open per year.

It is perhaps a surprising move from the French Socialist Party, but not as surprising knowing that the French presidential cabinet has appointed in recent months more conservative, business-friendly ministers like Macron who are cozying up to capitalism.

What are your thoughts? Feel free to share and post comments!

Bon weekend à tous !

France may finally allow more shops to open on Sunday
By Rick Noack
February 12, 2015

Baker Stéphane Cazenave is said to produce France’s best baguettes. However, according to French law, he can only produce those baguettes six days a week.

Cazenave had ignored that rule because demand for his baguettes was so high that he was able to employ 22 people seven days a week. Instead of being applauded, Cazenave now faces a lawsuit. “People see me like a thug just because I asked to work,” he told France Television. “Working shouldn’t be a crime in France.”

It might seem strange to Americans, but French businesses are often closed on Sundays in most parts of the country and are only allowed to open five times a year that day. Despite the French tradition of separating religion and state, labor unions and Catholic lobbies have so far succeeded in defending Sunday as a sacred ‘day of rest’ for the entire country.

This, however, could change. To many French, the current debate about allowing more businesses to open on Sundays is of a fundamental nature: Should the country become more commercial and capitalistic?

French President François Hollande believes so. He shocked many when he recently announced he would pursue a law known under the name of France’s economy minister Emmanuel Macron. The initiative aims to liberalize the country’s bureaucratic economy. For Hollande, a lot is at stake: Having so far been unable to decrease unemployment and boost growth, his popularity has sunk dramatically.

The law — pursued by a leftist Socialist Party government — is supposed to end a variety of monopolies and allow more competition, but its most contentious proposal is to allow stores and businesses to open more often. According to the draft, they could soon operate on 12 instead of five Sundays a year. Cities could decide on their own whether they would implement the rule, and there are exceptions in areas, such as in Paris.

One of the 2012 election promises of Hollande had been to keep Sunday a day of rest. Hence, breaking with this promise has been interpreted by some in France as a sign of governmental despair with an uncertain economic impact.

Critics are outraged. “It is a moment of truth speaking to the one question that truly matters: What kind of society do we want to live in?” former French employment minister Martine Aubry asked in an op-ed in Le Monde in December.

“Does the political left have nothing else to offer as a societal model than a Sunday stroll to the mall and the accumulation of consumer goods? Sunday should be a time set aside for oneself and for others,” Aubry argued.

Without actually naming it, Aubry implied what she did not want France to become: a country with a 7-days a week consumption culture as it is common in the United States. France is not the only country in which shopping is limited on Sundays: Germany, for instance, has upheld similar regulations.

When France’s economy surprisingly started to grow slightly at the end of 2014, it was mainly due to domestic consumption. Allowing consumers to spend money seven days a week instead of only six could boost the country’s outlook, some said.

Others, however, are more skeptical. “The bill is a ‘catch-all’ text that does not address France’s serious structural issues,” Emmanuel Martin, Director of the Paris-based Institute for Economic Studies-Europe, told The Washington Post. “France’s issues are structural: a bloated government administration both at the central and local level which generates inefficient regulations, inefficient spending and of course then, higher growth-killing taxation.”

Even though Martin is not convinced of the law, he acknowledged it does sometimes feel like something from another era. “For sure, it feels weird to see shops closed in a major shopping street of Paris — one the most beautiful cities of the world,” Martin said.

Halloween in Paris

October 30th, 2014 No comments

Bonjour ! With Halloween tomorrow, I wanted to share some tips on where you may be able to buy or rent costumes in the Paris area.

Some costume shops (both physical and online) in Paris include:

Viva Fiesta

Sommier Gerard (site has links to other costume shops in Paris area)

Cotillon Moderne

Some more information can be found here:

-About.com has an interesting background on Halloween in France.

-The Local has a feature called “Eight Halloween events not to miss in Paris”

Enjoy !

U.S. Absentee Voting Deadline Oct. 6 + Lyon Consular update

For American citizens living abroad who wish to vote in the November 2014 US Elections, the absentee voting deadline is October 6th. Please find all relevant information here from the State Department.

Also, as of October 1st, 2014, the American Presence Post (APP) in Lyon is no longer accepting applications for U.S. passports and birth registrations, Social Security numbers and other federal benefits, and it will no longer provide notarial services. More information is available here.

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