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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 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:

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.

France’s 2014 census kicks off

January 15th, 2014 No comments
"Gathering today's stats to build tomorrow's future."

“Gathering today’s stats to build tomorrow’s future.”

The French government’s national census for 2014 started January 14th.

The news channel BFMTV has more information here (in French).

I’ve summed up the basics below.

There is also a (French) FAQ guide on the official Insee census site here.

The census allows the government to determine the population of France’s communes (villages, towns, cities), as well as key statistics associated with more than 350 different legislative and regulatory codes related to citizen issues (size of municipal government, budget, how many pharmacies per town…).

About 9 million French households will be concerned this year, as since 2004 the national census has functioned on a rolling basis every year. This means that a household that is part of a sample of the population will on average be surveyed a maximum of once every 5 years. (Before then historically, the census was carried out on a larger scale every 8-9 years nationally).

It is being carried out by 23,000 census agents recruited through different town halls, distributing surveys through the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (L’Insee). These agents will have ID cards with a French flag.

They will be distributing 2 kinds of papers:
1) une “feuille de logement” – “Residential property sheet” which will collect info on the person’s property (house, apartment, condo…).

2) un “bulletin individuel” – “Individual ballot” which each person at the residency will fill out regarding their individual profiles.
Here’s the timing:

For villages/smaller towns: This year’s census starts today January 14 through February 15 for the 7,135 communes of France with fewer than 10,000 residents.

For larger towns/cities: The census goes from January 14 to February 22 for the 983 towns and cities that have more than 10,000 residents, as well as in the Antilles and French Guiana.

For Réunion: The census goes from January 22 to March 8.

Paper and Web versions
Those taking the census can fill out the papers and give them directly to the census agents, or bring them to their local town hall as well as l’Insee. They can also opt for the web version on the aforementioned site www.le-recensement-et-moi.fr for 412 different communes where that option is available. (In 2015, all communes will be available to access the web version).

U.S. Embassy France important update for citizens

November 17th, 2013 No comments

I wanted to let my readers know that the U.S. Embassy in France recently posted this update regarding its citizen services in its offices outside of Paris. It will affect particularly those near the cities of Rennes, Bordeaux and Toulouse. Please visit their website for more information.

U.S. Embassy
Paris, France

Effective January 1, 2014, American Presence Posts (APPs) in Rennes, Bordeaux and Toulouse will no longer accept applications for U.S. passports and birth registrations, Social Security numbers or other federal benefits, or provide notarial services. After January 1, 2014 passport and birth registration applications and notarial services for U.S. citizens in those consular districts can be scheduled at either the U.S. Embassy in Paris or at the U.S. Consulate General in Marseille. Please contact the Federal Benefits Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Paris for information on applications for Social Security numbers and other federal benefits.

The U.S. Mission to France will schedule periodic visits by consular officers to provide routine services to American citizens in the districts of APP Rennes, Bordeaux and Toulouse. We will publicize these visits to citizens actively listed in our Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP), so please ensure that you are signed up in order to receive notices about such services as well as other messages from the U.S. Government. U.S. citizens can enroll online at https://travelregistration.state.gov.

NYT: How France is confronting change

August 27th, 2013 2 comments

The New York Times had a piece the other day talking about the French economy and political system and its confrontation with social realities. “A Proud Nation Ponders How to Halt Its Slow Decline”.

This is certainly not a new theme. Indeed, in my travels and living in France, I often heard the refrain “France changes not by evolution, but by revolution.” It echoes perhaps true today, with a political system that sees its citizens protest in the streets in an attempt to get their voices heard – it’s the French equivalent of citizen lobbying and activism that can come off as much more noticeable than activist efforts through citizen groups like NGO’s in the US.

It’s an insightful read, no matter where you stand in the political spectrum.

Here are the first few excerpts:

The New York Times
Steven Erlanger
August 24, 2013
Memo from France – A Proud Nation Ponders How to Halt Its Slow Decline

“For decades, Europeans have agonized over the power and role of Germany — the so-called German question — given its importance to European stability and prosperity.

Today, however, Europe is talking about “the French question”: can the Socialist government of President François Hollande pull France out of its slow decline and prevent it from slipping permanently into Europe’s second tier?

At stake is whether a social democratic system that for decades prided itself on being the model for providing a stable and high standard of living for its citizens can survive the combination of globalization, an aging population and the acute fiscal shocks of recent years…”

Reflecting on France’s “malaise”

I hope you all had a very good Bastille Day!
As for me, I’m in a Parisian jazz outfit here in Chicago called Keops. We played the Bastille Day celebration at the Daley Plaza. It was a lot of fun.

As France celebrated its Bastille Day, it’s perhaps an opportune time to reflect on what the modern French Republic means, and the attitudes of its citizens.

Roger Cohen of the New York Times penned a poignant, if somewhat controversial, column the other day in reflection about France’s national attitudes. Excerpts below, but it’s worth the full read as these quotes could be taken out of context.

While I witnessed this feeling of “malaise” that seemed to permeate the national consciousness, I also had friends there who were positive people and looked for the bright side of the problem. There are problem solvers in the country, like any country. And the French also have a well-known “joie de vivre”. So I’m afraid Cohen’s column paints a picture that may be too dark. Nonetheless, when comparing France to the US, there is more optimism in general in the US. But in Cohen’s view, a French person would just paint this as blind ignorance.

Do you agree with his analysis?

“…Tell a Frenchman what a glorious day it is and he will respond that it won’t last. Tell him how good the heat feels and he will say it portends a storm. I recently asked in a French hotel how long it would take for a coffee to reach my room. The brusque retort: “The time it takes to make it.”

This surliness is more a fierce form of realism than a sign of malaise. It is a bitter wisdom. It is a nod to Hobbes’s view that the life of man is, on the whole, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Nothing surprises, nothing shocks (especially in the realm of marriage and sex), and nothing, really, disappoints. Far from morose, the French attitude has a bracing frankness. No nation has a more emphatic shrug. No nation is the object of so much romanticism yet so unromantic itself. No nation internalizes as completely the notion that in the end we are all dead.

Now, it is true that France lives with high unemployment in a depressed euro zone; that it is more vassal than partner to Germany these days; that it is chronically divided between a world-class private sector and a vast state sector of grumpy functionaries; that its universalist illusions have faded as its power diminishes; and that its welfare state is unaffordable.

Still, moroseness is a foible in a country with superb medicine, good education, immense beauty, the only wine worth drinking, an army that does the business in Mali, strong families and the earthy wisdom of “la France profonde.”

Malaise and ennui are to France what can-do is to America: A badge of honor…”

US Tax deadline April 15, and June 17 for US expats abroad

Just a friendly reminder that the April 15th tax deadline is fast approaching with our friends at the IRS. Americans living abroad have until June 17th to file their returns, but still any taxes owed to the US government that are outstanding must be paid by April 15th.

For those in France, the US Embassy Paris has a page dedicated to taxation resources, including many links to IRS and forms (like the 2555-EZ form for Foreign Earned Income Tax Exclusion). As the article stipulates, if you’re American and work and reside outside the US, you may be able to exclude up to $95,100 USD annually in foreign income. Check out the links above for further information.

AARO has some views on taxation of Americans abroad, worth the read.

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