Feeling the ‘joie de vivre' – but paying for it, too!

June 1st, 2016 11:50 PM

By Southern Star Team

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BONJOUR from cool and cloudy France. When I came out to buy a place here ten years ago, the summer temperatures were 40 degrees C. Never came near that since, not even close. Must be global warming.

France is an amazing country in lots of ways. I am in rural France Profonde. The wildlife is astonishing, owls in the chimney, deer in the field, squirrels, wild boar, snakes and thousands of birds. Dragonfly and large noisy frogs occupy the local pond, alongside moorhens and ducks. Add in the crickets and the cacophony can be bewitching. Utterly delightful. The skies seem huge here, and somehow closer to you.

However, you must speak French and there is a local patois that needs practice.

Once you go shopping, though, you encounter the French Economy. I dropped into my local Intermarche supermarket this morning for one or two items and ran into the dreaded queues that bedevil their retail and public systems. 

There can be three or four trolleys in front of you and a serious shortage of working tills. And no one seems to mind. The 35-hour week has something to do with this, as has the retirement age of 62. And while you try to contain your impatience, people take ages to pay. They are still paying by cheque at the cashpoints. Imagine. So that slows the whole thing down.

Apparently over 50% of workers in France are in the public service. Figure that one out, do the math as they say. Taxes are very high as a result, and starting a business is a bureaucratic and taxation nightmare. Try firing someone. Jobs are for life and les droits are extensive. Lots of strikes. The black economy thrives as a result. Everyone looks for cash, s’il vous plait (silver plate) for jobs around the house. The French government know this, and have built in a 21% loss assumption for the tax total. The health service is free and supposedly very good, but costs the taxpayer a fortune.

Unemployment is high (10%) and the economy is stagnant, but it is a great place for un étranger to live. The food, wine, transport and general technology infrastructure are top class. You get what you pay for.


Owen’s new short book for start-ups and business teachers, ‘How to be an Enterpriser’, is available at

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