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 !
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).
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.”
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.
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) (email@example.com)
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:
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…
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.
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.
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.
The new President of the French-American Chamber of Commerce (FACC), Elsa Berry, was recently interviewed by French business daily Les Echos on Franco-American business relations.
You can read the article and more on the FACC Chicago website (excerpt below describing the article, with link to article at bottom, in French):
Les Echos Speaks to Ms. Elsa Berry Concerning French-American Relations
Elsa Berry, nouvelle présidente de la Chambre de commerce franco-américaine, souhaite favoriser un accroissement des relations entre les Etats-Unis et la France. Ces relations sont déjà basées sur la coopération, y compris politique et militaire. Pourtant, selon Elsa Berry, “Il existe de multiples opportunités de communication et d’échanges.” Vous pouvez dècouvrir les objectifs annoncés de la présidente de la Chambre de commerce franco-américaine dans cet entretien publié le 6 juin dans Les Echos.
Read the full article in Les Echos here.
I guess Friday the 13th is bad luck at times….
Just to give you a heads up, there will be some disruptions on the Paris RER suburban lines this Friday (metro, bus, and tram lines should not be affected).
Trafic normal sur l’ensemble des lignes RATP et Transilien SNCF.
A noter, vendredi 13 mai, une manifestation sur la voie publique, pour plus d’infos, cliquer sur Manifestations.
Prévisions à 24 heures pour le vendredi 13 mai 2011 :
A la suite des préavis des syndicats CGT, FO, SUD, et UNSA pour la journée du vendredi 13 mai, la RATP prévoit un trafic :
Métro : Trafic normal.
Le service sera renforcé sur les lignes 1, 4, 6 et 14 du métro.
RER A zone RATP : 1 train sur 4.
Interconnexion maintenue à Nanterre-Préfecture.
La SNCF prévoit 1 train sur 2 entre Nanterre-Préfecture et Cergy / Poissy.
RER B zone RATP :
La RATP prévoit 1 train toutes les demi-heures aux heures de pointe
entre Denfert-Rochereau et Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse / Robinson.
Tous les trains auront pour départ et terminus Denfert-Rochereau.
L’interconnexion à Gare du Nord avec la SNCF ne sera pas assurée.
La SNCF prévoit 1 train sur 2 entre Gare du Nord et Aéroport Charles de Gaulle / Mitry-Claye.
Bus et Tramway : Trafic normal.
Communiqué de presse version PDF, cliquer ici.
La RATP met à la disposition de ses voyageurs
un numéro vert : 0 800 15 11 11 et pour les téléphones mobiles : wap.ratp.fr
This fantastic, rather long article by The Economist (April 20, 2011 print edition),“Reforming Gloomy France”, profiles the country’s current pessimistic mood, economy, prospects for growth and entrepreneurial start-up spirit that is motiving many today. It speaks about how the French state of mind is hard to pinpoint and also hope for the future. Excellent read. These are only excerpts below. You can read the full article at the link above, and I’ve made it available for download.
Reforming gloomy France
The French are feeling morose about their future. The thrusting energy of their digital entrepreneurs suggests they should not
Apr 20th 2011 | PARIS | from the print edition
BEHIND the bustling terrace cafés and bright municipal blooms of springtime, France today is not a happy place. Tense, fearful and beset by self-doubt, the French seem in a state of defiant hostility: towards their president, political parties, Islam, immigrants, the euro, globalisation, business bosses and more. Such is France’s despondency that its people face “burnout”, said the national ombudsman recently; previously, he had described the nation as “psychologically exhausted”.
It is a sign of French disgruntlement that the publishing sensation of the past six months has been “Indignez-vous!” (“Time for Outrage!”), a pamphlet by a 93-year-old urging his fellow countrymen to revolt. Indeed, the French currently rank among the world’s most pessimistic. Only 15% told a global poll that they expect things to get better in 2011, a far smaller percentage than of Germans or even Afghans and Iraqis (see chart 1)…
…The French seem simply to doubt their politicians’ ability to do much to improve anything. The economy is emerging only slowly from the recession, with GDP growth this year forecast to reach 1.7%, compared with 2.5% in Germany. Joblessness, at 9.6%, is high, and even more so for the under-25s. Although the government has embarked on fiscal consolidation, public finances remain under strain, with a deficit of 7.7% last year. Ordinary working people keep hearing that their high-tax, high-spending model provides them with one of the world’s most generous social systems; yet even the middle class feels a squeeze at the end of each month.
The upshot is a fatalistic France that seems to have set its sights on little better than controlled decline: a middling economic power, whose people cling to their social model and curse globalisation, while failing to get to grips with either. Considering what they hear from politicians, this attitude is perhaps not surprising. The Socialist Party promises, with a straight face, to restore retirement at 60 (the age was recently raised to 62) and urges greater European protectionism as a response to globalisation. Ms Le Pen vows to withdraw France from the euro and put back border controls. Mr Sarkozy’s political day-trip of choice is to a metal-bashing factory—although only 13% of jobs are in industry—where he surrounds himself with workers in overalls and hard hats, telling them they need to be protected from globalisation and other ills.
One conclusion from all this is that France and its politicians are irredeemably conservative. Indeed, France often seems to be in semi-permanent revolt, arms crossed and heels dug in against change. Only last autumn, unions and oil workers led weeks of strikes and blockades in protest at Mr Sarkozy’s modest raising of the minimum retirement age. On a single day, up to 3.5m protesters took to the streets; petrol pumps ran dry across the country. “Why France is impossible to reform”, lamented L’Express, a news-magazine….
…But if the French really are so allergic to change, how come the pension reform not only went through but has now been accepted, even forgotten? Only weeks after the new law reached the statute books in November, the matter did not rank among the nation’s top ten subjects of conversation, according to a poll for Paris-Match. France seemed to go through a painful spasm of rebellion, then to shrug it all off and resume business as usual. “We were able to demonstrate to the French people that there are things that a government just has to do,” argues Christine Lagarde, France’s finance minister. “For once, the government did not give in to the street.”…
…By holding firm, and ignoring charges of political deafness, Mr Sarkozy appealed over the heads of those on the streets to the silent majority. He took a bet that this invisible France would quietly back change, and prevail over the rest. For, in reality, two halves of the country co-exist. One half, mostly, but not only, in the public-sector, is led by hard-talking trade unionists promising to prolong benefits for privileged “insiders” and entrench rigid labour laws. The other half, mostly found in the more dynamic, private sector, is plugged into global markets and just as despairing of its strike-happy fellow countrymen as anybody else.
This is the France that does not go on strike, that defies disruptions to struggle into work, and whose voice is seldom heard. It is found among the 92% of workers who do not belong to a union. It is the small traders and artisans who are up before dawn scrubbing their shop-front windows. It is the workforce whose productivity per hour worked is higher than that in Germany and Britain, and which helped to make France the world’s third highest destination for foreign direct investment in 2010. It is the third of private-sector employees who work for a foreign firm. It is France’s leading global companies—Vivendi, L’Oréal, Michelin, LVMH—which busily reap the benefits of globalisation, a force that the French say they deplore.
This voiceless France, more adaptable and forward-looking, seldom permeates the national conversation. Yet a glance at the France behind the headlines hints at a picture that is a lot less glum. Shops are full, markets busy and consumer spending is buoyant. Property prices are up. The French have snapped up the iPad and 20m, or nearly a third of the population, are on Facebook. The French may moan about their country, their bureaucrats and their politicians, but they seem happy with their individual situation. Though only 17% of young people told one recent poll that their country’s future was promising, a massive 83% said that they were satisfied with their own lives.