Making Their Dreams Come True
The fifth Living in France conference started Friday morning early with a special private tour of the Hôtel de Ville led by official guide Madame Marie-France Bennett, whose impeccable English, extensive knowledge of the history of the building and Paris and caustic wit charmed us all while we were enthralled with the magnificence of the building. The city hall crew was preparing for an elegant diplomatic luncheon and we couldn’t help but notice the understated white table cloths, simple flatware and gilded chairs. We all dreamed of being invited, but our seats back at the Home Plazza Bastille awaited us.
The participants busily took notes through a long and intensive day of presenters. Laurent Queige eloquently welcomed them to the City of Light; Polly Platt warned that it would be easier if the French had bones in their noses so we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking they are like us just; Jean Taquet explained the arduous procedures for acquiring the right visas and how to look at the law from a less American point of view; Al Stewart pep-talked us into how to get a job in France in spite of the obstacles; Laurent Ginet explained the complicated and expensive tax system and Sam Okoshken encouraged the entrepreneurs among us that opening a business wasn’t as difficult as one might think.
At one point, one serious would-be French resident said, “You realize you just scared us into thinking that moving here is impossible!” To which we replied, “Mais non! We are all examples of how it IS possible!” and “Don’t worry, we’re giving you the tools to make it easier, faster and simpler so you won’t have to jump the hurdles we did!”
That evening, over cocktails and dinner at Chez Jenny, Thirza Vallois expounded on Paris past, present and future, arrondissement by arrondissement. No one denies that her command of the history of Paris is mind-boggling.
Saturday’s series of lecturers concentrated on property issues. John Howell opened with his fast-paced and informative lecture on the legal issues of buying property in France and a complete explanation of the French Leaseback “scheme” (the British term for what we might call a “program.” Jocelyn Carnegie gave us the naked truth about property prices in Paris and how the averages reported by the Chambre de Notaires are 30% to 50% less than the true market; Porter Scott offered up his ideas of the best way to redecorate and prepare an apartment for profitable rental and Derek Bush showed us his finest renovation projects. David Anderson and Stéphane Denner from two lending institutions explained their mortgage packages for Expats with creative solutions not heard of Stateside and Frédéric Fauchereau en lightened us on inexpensive insurance for our health, home and car. It was a lot to take in, but the questions from the participants showed their earnest and determination to move to France.
Sunday got off on the right foot with an eye-opening talk from Peter Zipper about setting up a structure that protects your money in off-shore banking and Marie-Elisabeth Crochard ensured everyone that French COULD be learned as long as you didn’t expect too much of yourself too soon. Before lunch, we broke into round-table discussions where anyone could ask any of us anything they wanted. I believe that it was at that time they were able to “close the circle” — tie the loose ends together and create the “big” picture for how one might set out on their new journey in life in France.
The conference ended over lunch in the lovely glass-roofed dining room at the Home Plazza Bastille (a discrete hotel in an unassuming location partly designed by Gustave Eiffel himself) with everyone discussing how they’re going to apply what they learned to their dream to move to France, exchanging business cards and contact information, vowing to see us again soon. Comments we heard were: “The conference exceeded my most optimistic expectations”…”Now I’m ready to take the plunge and come for the three-month dip”…”I learned a lot!”…and “I would never have been able to do this on my own.”
Schuyler Hoffman and I agreed, while walking home towing the rolling cart stacked with leftover supplies, the computer and projector, that once again we felt the personal reward and satisfaction of having helped so many people realize their dreams. We’re already looking forward to when we can do it again — the next one in Washington, DC in September.
We also made so many wonderful new friends — and knowing we’ll see many of these folks again — but maybe the next time as residents of Paris.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]
P.S. A special thank you goes to our volunteers — Sibel Pinto who backed up our every need all through a long, long Friday and Yolanda Robins, a past conference participant who never once said “I can’t,” was always ten steps ahead of us and exhibited administrative skills we all wish we had or could hire and of course, Schuyler Hoffman, the backbone of the conference management for his impeccable organizational talents and the ability to keep me stress free through all of it.
P.P.S. Later today, the city (and of course, us!) will be taking to the streets for Fête de la Musique (see http://www.fetedelamusique.c
ulture.fr for all the details)