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The Tip of the French Cultural Iceberg

Still battling jet lag, I am writing you from the famous Fisherman’s Wharf, where I have eaten cracked crab at almost every meal and marveled at San Francisco’s beautiful landscape and Victorian architecture. It’s no wonder that there are about 60,000 French living here in the Bay Area — it’s about as “close to home” as a Frenchman can get living in the good ol’ U.S. of A. We were lucky to have several of the French community with us during the weekend at the Living and Investing in France Conference.

San Francisco is also the strongest Francophile community in the States with the oldest Alliance Française ( in the country dating to pre-1900 as the official center of French language and culture in San Francisco. It is one of 1,085 Alliances that have been established in 138 countries around the world. The new Director, Gregory Douet-Lasne and Board Member Keith Maillard, spoke on the advantages of learning French BEFORE you come to France and how to make language learning easier and faster. If you live in the Bay area, you may want to become a member and take part in their many cultural events.

Carole Granade of the San Francisco French-American Chamber of Commerce ( also made a presentation to the attendees, as a show of support by the Bay Area association to assist those who are interested in doing business in France. She invited everyone to attend the 24th Beaujolais and Beyond Festival, on Saturday, November 19th, at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Visit the site for more information and to purchase your ticket.

Berkeley resident and Bay Area thespian Leonard Pitt, author of Paris Disparu, expounded Saturday evening on the pros and cons of Haussmann’s broad brush strokes to straighten Paris streets, create long and beautiful vistas and improve the city’s circulation, while attendees downed chocolate mousse after a sumptuous dinner at the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf. Pitt is passionate about Paris before and after…”passion” being a word we discussed early on as to why Paris is the world’s most romantic city. Even he will agree that Paris is just as beautiful after Haussmann as before…just that Haussmann’s broad strokes could have been a little more refined and delicate.

Doug Johnson of HiFX Currency Brokers (/frenchproperty/insider/currencyonlineconvertor.html), also a resident of San Francisco, closed the sessions yesterday with good advice on how to transfer funds from dollars to euros at the least exchange expense and with total elimination of risk. This one tip alone easily pays for the cost of attending conferences of this nature. Not long ago, when I transferred a sum via HiFX, the U.S. bank made the mistake of sending it directly to the French bank rather than via HiFX — costing several hundred dollars in rate difference, a percentage of about 3%! Ouch! I learned then how valuable it is to use a broker rather than a commercial bank.

Ruth Mastron, co-author of “Au Contraire: Figuring Out the French” (, opened the conference on Friday afternoon with eye-opening culture crossing tips, including the tip of the cultural iceberg — the only portion we see until we immerse ourselves in the culture. Beware of how much is below the surface too!

Today was the last day of the conference — where our team of John Howell, his French attorney Sebastien Oddos, French Pr

operty Insider’s Yolanda Robins, GE Moneybank’s Philippe Vasseur and I wrapped up the three-day-long event with a Q and A panel for any last-minute leftover questions.

Attendee Mary Scott had one final question — “So, why is it that French women don’t get fat?” she asked of Philippe and Sebastien to which I asked her, “Why ask them? How would they know?” Her husband, Jim, being the punster extraordinaire then piped in, “Why not? She always asks me, being the thin French woman I am!”

Roar!…guess you had to be there. In fact, that’s what they all said… the conference — “…far exceeded expectations…,” “…the most informative conference I have ever attended…,” “…a weekend well spent both in terms of time and money.”

A la prochaine…from New York City…








Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. The Invest in France Seminar is just two days away, but you can still sign-up online now or come to the Harvard Club Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m. to register — walk-ins are welcome!

New York, October 26, 2005

Or contact Schuyler Hoffman, Conference Coordinator, at [email protected] or call Pacific Time


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