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June's Après-Midi, June 13th
At every Après-Midi, a guest speaker of note will come to talk about a topic of interest and then open the floor for questions and discussion.
William Jordan, American Diplomat in Paris
"The Secret Life of an American Diplomat in Paris" -- what it's like to represent the U.S. in the City of Light, warts and all
William Jordan is a Foreign Service diplomat who served for 30 years (1981-2011) as a political officer specializing in the Arab world and France. His overseas assignments included Arab nations as Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Syria, Jordan and Algeria, and his responsibilities included reporting and analyzing foreign policy trends (especially as they related to the United States), as well as internal politics, including the rise of radical Islamist forces.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
...and the second Tuesday of every month 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Upstairs at Café de la Mairie, on the corner of rue des Archives and rue de Bretagne, 3rd. Métro Lines 9, 3 et 11, stations Temple, République or Arts et Métiers Costs nothing except whatever you drink!
What's to like and what's not to like about Paris (or France for that matter)?
It's the old game. Make two columns. The header at the top of one is LIKE; the header at the top of the other is DON'T LIKE. Then, start to make the list under each. When you're satisfied you've exhausted them both, add up how many LIKES you have compared to DON'T LIKES. Which column wins the game, at least in quantity?
Everyone's list will be different, with some overlap, for sure. I started with the DON'T LIKES. That was easiest because the list wasn't very long -- certainly not as long as the LIKES!
Now that smoking is only allowed outside the restaurants and cafés, it is true that one can take respite inside, but what if you want to enjoy the beautiful weather (which doesn't happen often enough -- one of my other DON'T LIKES), and sit outside at any café only to be choking on second-hand smoke?
If we could get the French to give up their cigarettes I'd be forever grateful, but it seems they are smoking more than ever, even if they aren't. You might be surprised to discover, that in 2014, France ranked 61st in the list of number of cigarettes smoked per adult per year, with 1022.88 compared to the U.S. with 1083.41 making it 57th and ahead of France! (Wikipedia.org)
In a recent article by The Local titled "The French and smoking: Is France really 'Europe's chimney," smoking has declined by a whopping 60% since "Gérard Depardieu was born" (in 1948). Still, France has an image of being smokey in spite of the numbers. It might not surprise you that the young smoke more in France than in the U.K. -- 29% of all students compared to 20% in the U.K., but E-cigarettes are seriously popular with one million French regularly vapor puffing thanks to their addiction and love of nicotine.
So, why is smoke still bugging me? Maybe it's just that I'm less used to it than I was when everyone was smoking, both inside and outside? Still, it's on the top of the list of DON'T LIKES.
There is less of it on the sidewalks now than there has been in the past, but it's still there and quite honestly, it still grosses me out. I've gotten very good at looking far ahead on the path, rather than down, and spotting it out of the corner of my eye -- what Schuyler Hoffman calls the poop eye -- so I haven't stepped directly in poop for a very long time. It isn't fun when you do, and you should just see when a parent has to clean off their kid's shoes or their pram rolls right over it!
When I see it, I can't help but first think of what kind of dog made the pile, based on the size of the poop, and then I think of the owner, who for one reason or another, didn't bother to pick up after their adorable canine.
Yes, there is a fine for not picking up after your pooch, to the tune of 68€ and sometimes more in other parts of France, but it hasn't completely done the trick. People are still loathe to clean up after themselves. For one thing, there's no telling how vigilant the authorities are in actually catching and fining anyone. I doubt they do much -- this must be a task that is beneath the average law enforcement officer! I've certainly never seen it in action.
Last year a Frenchman tried to find backing for a new smartphone app that could map out the poop for the street cleaners to find. He calls it "Bye Bye Crottoir." I think that's one reason the doggy owners don't bother picking it up -- as in their minds they rationalize that it gives someone a job...to pick up what they left behind!
The problem for me is that it's not just the dogs we have to blame for our soiled sidewalks. People (mostly men, of course) piss on the streets even more than their dogs poop on the sidewalks, and that's almost worse, because of the lovely odor of human piss. I have witnessed mothers teaching their sons how to piss in the streets, so it starts young to mark one's territory like their pets. I have witnessed lots of men, too, who make no effort to hide their bodily function. Then we have to step over the streams of piss flowing down the sidewalks.
Sorry guys, but this grosses me out even more than a poor puppy who has little choice. You should really know better.
I write this as I sit at a café out in the full sun enjoying gloriously warm beautiful weather in the City of Light...and light and bright it is...at this moment. How rare is that? We can go weeks on end without such a break in the clouds and rarely is a blue sky really blue -- more like pale gray is the norm.
But one doesn't come to Paris for the weather. We all know that. Some people love the cool gray atmosphere, like those who come from Seattle or Vancouver, but I'm a lizard and sun-child who spent a good bit of time in Southern California, so I need every ray I can get, otherwise depression sets in.
The answer? Time spent in the south of France, which I gladly do. So, finally I figured out how to overcome the Paris blues: leave Paris (but never for too long).
From the Archives Nationales
4. French administration
OMG. Ask any American to tell you a story that involves French administration and you'll hear a flood of them. Try getting your long-stay visa? Or picking up a registered letter at the post office? Or starting a business and worse yet, running one? Or opening a bank account? Or filing your income taxes? Or getting a driver's license? Or buying a property? Etc., etc., etc.
Truth is that in some cases, it's improved greatly and in others it's worsened. Still, you can expect a mountain of papers and documents to complete you never imagined could even exist.
Newly elected President Emmanuel Macron promises to reform some of the heavy administration and regulations to loosen up the sluggish economy, but I seriously doubt paperwork will go away with it. While our Notaire (property attorney) now uses an electronic system so that a buyer's signature is done once, rather than on each page of the "Acte de Vente" (deed), I've noticed the number of pages of the document has doubled in the last few years with even more regulations added to the existing regulations of what it must include. The dossiers just get larger and thicker, regardless of our attempt at a paperless society.
Yesterday, I helped one of my colleagues open a bank account. She used to run a credit union in the U.S. and she just chuckled as she signed one paper after another in order to have the right to deposit her money into the bank. It took about an hour. She was thinking how easy it is to open an account in any U.S. bank. All you need is your social security number and money. I joked that the French banks don't care about your money -- only your ability to become a client of their other services: loans, insurance, etc. Our bank officer told us that a client with too much money in their bank (huh? what is that? too much money?) costs the bank money to accommodate as the bank earns less on the client's money than they pay out.
I never did get my head around that one. Do they seriously not understand how to use someone else's money to make money? I learn something new every day.
The French culture sees the glass as half empty as we see the glass half full. This is a result of our legal systems being diametrically opposed: English law is based on what's forbidden vs Napoleonic Code which is based on what's allowed.
Think about it. English law (the American system) sets out what rules we shouldn't break...and then everything else is possible. The French system sets out what rules to follow...and so nothing outside of following those rules is possible. This fundamental difference is the primary yin to the yang in our cultures and changes everything!
Even though I get it, I still don't like it. The answer to just about anything is "no" first, when we expect to hear "yes." If you read the French subtitles at an English-language film, the positive expression is almost always turned negative, such as: "Yes, that's fine" becomes "Pourquoi pas?" (Why not?"). "That's great" becomes "pas mal" ("not bad"). "Hold on" become "ne quittez pas" ("don't go away"). And so on and so forth.
Here's a great example just to confuse you: "Ce n'est pas terrible" is not "that's not terrible or bad." Nope, it means "it's terrific!" But it can also mean "it's not so great or "it's nothing special." "Terrible" when used in the negative becomes positive, but obviously not in all cases. Confused? I am. I just don't get it, so I just don't use it. The point is that this negative way of looking at life is just not what I had in mind.
Uh oh. Notice how I've crossed over to the other side!? Isn't this too negative and just what I DON'T LIKE?
That's the list. It isn't very long. So, what are the LIKES? Too many to count, especially if I were to expand on the subcategories, but let's take a stab at it:
1. Esthetic beauty (just about everywhere, even in every shop window) 2. Art and culture (overwhelming in everyday life, and very important to their sensory and sensual perception) 3. Cuisine (this list alone is pretty long) 4. Architecture (Haussmannian, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, contemporary...love it all) 5. Pristine landscape (have never seen another country manicured so perfectly) 6. Comportment (originally a French word for good behavior) 7. Morality (open about sex, pacifist and non-violent, serious about fairness -- "égality") 8. Transportation and infrastructure (go almost anywhere anytime on inexpensive public transport) 9. Health care (top quality, caring and virtually free) 10. Education (top quality, highly academic and free) 11. Café culture (living outside of your little bubble by being in and among your fellow residents) 12. Social benefits (unemployment, retirement, child care, etc.)
And the list goes on. Make your own list and see where it takes you. If the LIKES outnumber the DON'T LIKES, then maybe you should be living here (if you aren't already)!
P.S. Today is the last day to register for the North American Expat Financial Forum! Hosted by Dunhill Financial and the Adrian Leeds Group and sponsored by Moneycorp Currency Specialists and Caye International bank, the event is free!* Plus, stay for dinner with us at Chez Jenny!
Tuesday, May 30, 2017 4 to 8 p.m. Chez Jenny, Paris, France
Please note that in place of Amaury de Monclin of Bluesky Finance, Kim Bingham, Head of International Markets at La Centrale de Financement and Taux Privé, Groupe Artemis - Financière Pinault, will be presenting “The 101 Course on Financing Your French Property.”
*Attendies must be 18 years of age and older, must reserve in advance. Seating is limited, so reservations will be taken on a first come-first serve basis. To reserve your place at the conference email firstname.lastname@example.org!
P.P.S. We've had a change in plans for our upcoming Après Midi Tuesday, June 13th! William Jordan will be speaking about "The Secret Life of an American Diplomat in Paris" -- what it's like to represent the U.S. in the City of Light, warts and all. William Jordan is a Foreign Service diplomat who served for 30 years (1981-2011) as a political officer specializing in the Arab world and France. His talks are always fascinating! From 3 to 5 p.m. at Café de la Mairie. For more information, visit our Après Midi page. Don't miss it!
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