The other day I was sitting at lunch listening to some French and American expat friends talking about the business climate here in France. It was fascinating to hear. They talked about how rigid the situation is, how difficult it is to start a business in France, and how hard it is to get a job if you don’t have the right connections. They spoke about how so much depends on going to the right schools, and cultivating the right social connections within a tightly-circumscribed elite.
At one point I said, “Didn’t y’all have a revolution to do away with this kind of thing?” Everybody laughed, but the point was made.
The next day, a European friend who lived and worked in America some years back said, “You really do have such an advantage in America. In France, it’s awful. When we moved back to Paris from Asia in the 1990s, I thought it would be easy to get a job. I speak five languages, including French, and had significant international business experience. That didn’t count for anything. People didn’t know what to do with me. I didn’t fit into their French boxes. It took me a year and a half to find something.”
This afternoon I spent some time with an American-born friend who is now a French citizen, and is married to a Frenchman. She’s been here for 20 years. She and her husband moved back to Paris last year after some years abroad, in which he worked for a French multinational, and she told me that she’s having a hell of a time getting a job. Why? Same thing: if you’re not in the network, you are out of luck.
Being here in France, and having this kind of conversation over and over with discouraged French people, has given Francophile me a new appreciation for what we have in America, despite our problems (especially our discouraging political class), and why ours is still a land of opportunity like no other. I wrote a piece about it for the November issue of TAC. I hope you’ll subscribe to the magazine to read it. You’ll also get terrific pieces like Glenn Arbery’s recent reported essay on a traditional farmer in upstate New York, and what he learned about community when his barn burned down. TAC subscribers also got the jump on Patrick Deneen’s October cover piece reconsidering Allan Bloom’s conservative bestseller “The Closing Of The American Mind.”
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