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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.

Reflecting on different expat mentalities in France

December 4th, 2013 1 comment

Last week there was an interesting op-ed in the New York Times. It can be found here, and I’ve pasted the article below. It’s a reflection by expat author Pamela Druckerman on her experience living in France and how she has done well but also struggled to fully adapt to her adopted country and especially Paris.

She has some interesting insights and in particular outlines what she believes are the three main angles American expats in Paris usually take: “fantastists”, “denialists” and “authentic” experience searchers. (Bold face sentence below in article is my emphasis).

Personally I relate a bit more to the “authentic” searcher group.

What is your angle? Do you agree, and as an expat from a country besides the US – are there alternate approaches?

Contributing Op-Ed Writer
An American Neurotic in Paris
By PAMELA DRUCKERMAN
Published: November 27, 2013

PARIS — A few years back I took the ultimate expatriate plunge: I started doing psychotherapy in French. I figured that, as part of the deal, I’d get free one-on-one French lessons. And I hoped that if I revealed my innermost thoughts in French, I might finally feel like an ordinary Parisian — or at least like an ordinary Parisian neurotic.

I soon realized this was a doomed enterprise. Each week I’d manage to vaguely sketch out my feelings and describe the major characters in my life. But it was hard to free associate when I was worried about conjugating verbs correctly. Sometimes I’d just trail off, saying, “Never mind, everything’s fine.”

I’m aware that there are worse things to be than an American in Paris. You could be, for example, a Congolese in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But as I spend my 10th Thanksgiving here, permit me a moment of reflection. Because Thanksgiving prompts the question that expatriates everywhere face: Shouldn’t I be going home?

The Americans in Paris tend to fall into three categories. There are the fantasists — people nourished by Hemingway and Sartre, who are enthralled with the idea of living here. The moneyed version of this person lives as close as possible to the Eiffel Tower. The Bohemian version teaches English or tends bar, to finance his true vocation: being in France.

Then there are the denialists — often here for a spouse’s job — who cope with living in Paris by pretending they’re not in Paris. They tap into a parallel universe of Anglophone schools, babysitters and house painters, and get their French news from CNN.

Finally there are people like me, who study France and then describe it to the folks back home. We’re determined to have an “authentic” French experience. And yet, by mining every encounter for its anthropological significance, we keep our distance, too.

No matter how familiar Paris becomes, something always reminds me that I don’t belong. The other evening, as I chastised the lady who had cut in line at the supermarket, I realized she was grinning at me — amused by my accent. During conversations in French, I often have the sensation that someone is hitting my head. When surrounded by Parisians, I feel 40 percent fatter, and half as funny. Even my shrink eventually took pity and offered to do the sessions in English. (It turns out she’s fluent.)

The question of whether to stay is especially resonant for Americans in Paris, because many feel that they live here by accident. Not many foreigners move to Paris for their dream job. Many do it on a romantic whim. Expatriates often say that they came for six months, but ended up staying for 15 years. And no one is quite sure where the time went. It’s as if Paris is a vortex that lulls you with its hot croissants and grand boulevards. One morning, you wake up middle-aged — still speaking mediocre French.

I wasn’t sure how long I’d live here, but I did expect my stay to follow a certain expatriate narrative: You arrive; you struggle to understand the place; you finally crack the codes and are transformed; you triumphantly return home, with a halo of foreign wisdom and your stylish bilingual children in tow.

But 10 years on, I’ve gone way off that script. Those stylish children threaten to mutiny if I even mention the possibility of moving. I’ve got a French mortgage, and I’m on the French equivalent of the P.T.A. It’s like being a stranger in a very familiar land. I haven’t cracked the codes, but I no longer feel entirely out of sync: When the whole country goes into mourning after a beloved singer or actor dies, these days I actually know who the guy was.

Sometimes I yearn to be in a place where I don’t just know more or less what people are saying, but know exactly what they mean. But I’m no longer fully in sync with America either. Do people there really eat Cronuts, go on juice fasts and work at treadmill desks?

The thought of becoming an ordinary American again scares me. We expatriates don’t like to admit it, but being foreign makes us feel special. Just cooking pancakes on Sunday morning is an intercultural event. I imagine being back in the United States and falling in with a drone army of people who think and talk just like me — the same politics, the same references to summer camp and ’70s television.

But the fact is, those drones are my people. I end up gravitating toward them in Paris, too. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in 10 years is that I’m American to the core. It’s not just my urge to eat turkey in late November. It’s my certainty that I have an authentic self, which must be expressed. It’s being so averse to idleness that I multitask even when I’m having my head shrunk. And it’s my strange confidence that, whether I stay or go, everything will be fine.

Pamela Druckerman is the author of “Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.

Bastille Day 2012

Happy Bastille Day everyone! Joyeux 14 juillet tout le monde !

How did you celebrate today? Feel free to post in the comments section your favorite places to celebrate, no matter which country or city.

I myself am in Washington DC today and among several spots to revel in the celebration, Bistrot du Coin is a local favorite.

In the spirit of transatlantic relations, this NY Times piece is interesting.

Vive la France !

Lyon’s Fête des Lumières this weekend

December 9th, 2011 No comments

The annual Fête des Lumières in the wonderful city of Lyon, France takes place this weekend. I’ve been the past four years and will be there again this weekend, along with millions of other visitors (in addition to the local Lyon area population of 1.8 million or so).

For more information on this great event, check out This French Life, The Daily Mail UK’s great article, and of course the official site.

Enjoy!

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.”

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)

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…

How long is the average French lunch break? 22 minutes

October 11th, 2011 6 comments

This just in…taken from the Local’s website.

How long do your lunches last during the work day?

French lunch breaks fall to just 22 minutes
Published: 29 Sep 2011 10:51 GMT+1
Despite the widely-held view that French workers while away long lunch hours over three-course lunches with wine, a new survey shows that most grab lunch in just over 20 minutes.

A survey by insurance company Malakoff Médéric found the shortening of the lunch break has been dramatic. While workers twenty years ago took 1 hour and 30 minutes at lunchtime, the average has now fallen to just 22 minutes.

“The lunch break has become the flexible part of the working day,” said Anne-Sophie Godon of Malakoff Médéric, reported Le Figaro. “The content of the day has become more dense, while the distance between home and work has tended to get longer. Given this, workers have no other choice than to trim their lunch break.”

The way workers eat is also changing. Just one in ten now go outside to restaurants and around one in five eat in the company canteen. Almost a third of workers go home at lunchtime and 14 percent reach for a sandwich, up 2 percent over two years.

Doctors believe that rapid eating can have negative effects.

“When we eat quickly, we don’t have the time to feel satisfied,” Doctor Patrick Serog told Le Figaro. “When we eat in front of a computer, it’s even worse: we don’t pay attention to what we’re eating. The result is a tendency to snack in the afternoon.”

“Taking a proper break of about three-quarters of an hour is the best,” said fellow doctor Odile Renard. “Without this break, stress can accumulate.”

A final incentive to get out of the office and into a restaurant or canteen could come from a survey conducted by job site Monster, which found that the average office can contain 400 times more germs than a toilet seat.

Honoring France’s historical commitment to America

Renown scholar and author David McCullough wrote a nice piece in the New York Times to celebrate Bastille Day and honor France. It addresses France’s historical contributions to America, from the Revolutionary War to other efforts that have defined the US today. It highlights our similarities and encourages recognition of France among Americans. Great article. Although as an expat I can get frustrated with some details of life here, I join McCullough in saying “Vive la France!”.

Article below. Enjoy.

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Vive la Similarité
By DAVID McCULLOUGH
Published: July 13, 2011

THE recent arrest in New York of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then the head of the International Monetary Fund, has caused some people to question the American-French relationship. Though we will probably never see a Bastille Day when French flags fly along Main Street and strains of “La Marseillaise” fill the airwaves, July 14 would not go so largely unobserved here were we better served by memory. For the ties that bind America and France are more important and infinitely more interesting than most of us know.

Consider that the war that gave birth to the nation, our war for independence, would almost certainly have failed had it not been for heavy French financial backing and military support, on both land and sea. At the crucial surrender of the British at Yorktown, for example, the French army under General Rochambeau was nearly as large as our own commanded by Washington. The British commander, Cornwallis, was left with no escape and no choice but to surrender only because a French fleet sailed into the Chesapeake Bay at exactly the right moment.

The all-important treaty ending the Revolutionary War, wherein King George III recognized the United States to be “free, sovereign and independent,” was signed in Paris. The plan for our new capital city on the Potomac was designed by a French engineer, Pierre Charles L’Enfant. The first great statue of our first president was the work of a French sculptor, Jean-Antoine Houdon. The first major study of us as a people, “Democracy in America,” was written by a French historian, Alexis de Tocqueville. Published in 1835, it remains one of the wisest books ever written about us.

To be sure, our relations with France have not always been smooth. Tensions over a diplomatic snafu called the “XYZ Affair” led, in 1798, to an actual but undeclared shooting war at sea that could have flared into full-scale war had it not been for the level-headed judgment of President John Adams.

But the rewards of our ties with France have far exceeded any difficulties there have been. With the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France, the size of the country was more than doubled. The Statue of Liberty, one of our most treasured symbols, was a gift from France.

No less conspicuous are the number of French names all across the map of America — cities and states, rivers and lakes: Baton Rouge, Des Moines, New Orleans, St. Louis, Terre Haute, Louisiana, Vermont, the Au Sable River, Lake Champlain. And then there are colleges and universities like Lafayette, Duquesne, Marquette, Notre Dame.

More than nine million of us are of French descent. Over a million American students are taking French, making it, after Spanish, the most commonly studied foreign language in our schools.

Times continue to change, yet we remain conspicuously fond of all manner of things French. We deck ourselves out in French fashions, French lace, French cuffs, spend small fortunes on French perfume and French luggage. We love French doors, French cheeses. We’ve made French fries a national staple, and in time-honored tradition raise glasses of French Champagne at important celebrations.

For well over 200 years, our most gifted American writers, artists, architects, composers, musicians and dancers have flocked to Paris to study and work, nearly always to their benefit and ours. John Singleton Copley, James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, Edward Hopper, James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Richard Wright, Louis Gottschalk and Louis Armstrong, Cole Porter, Isadora Duncan and Josephine Baker, and, of course, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The list goes on and on.

Especially for American women and for African-Americans, Paris provided an atmosphere of freedom and of acceptance such as they had never experienced.

Less well known but of great importance were the hundreds of young Americans who went to study medicine in France in the 19th century, when Paris was the medical capital of the world and who brought home ideas and skills that would transform American medicine and medical education.

And there is a further reason France should hold a prominent place in our memories and in our hearts. More American history has unfolded in France and more Americans are buried there than in any other country but our own.

During World War I more than two million American soldiers served “Over There.” In World War II another generation of American soldiers numbering more than 800,000 served in France. In all, more than 60,000 Americans are buried in French soil, at Meuse-Argonne, Normandy and nine other cemeteries. At the Meuse-Argonne, the largest, lie fully 14,246 American dead. The grave markers are a sight never to be forgotten.

Though I love France and greatly value the friends I have made there, I am not an overboard Francophile. But as an American I think it is well past time to get back to respect and affection between our countries, on all fronts and with all possible good will.

For my part this Bastille Day, I intend to raise a glass or two of Veuve Clicquot in a heartfelt toast: “Vive la France!”

David McCullough, a winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, is the author, most recently, of “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 18, 2011
An Op-Ed article on Thursday, about America’s ties with France, incorrectly described the size of General Rochambeau’s forces during the siege of Yorktown in 1781. While the combined forces of the French outnumbered those of Washington, Rochambeau himself commanded fewer soldiers than Washington, not more.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on July 14, 2011, on page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Vive la Similarité.

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