The French in London

I’ve heard people remark that Chicago is the second largest Polish city in the world, what with all the Polish Americans that live there.  This article points out that London, incidentally, is ‘France’s’ sixth largest city, with a French population of between 300,000 and 400,000.  The only cities in France that are larger are as follows: Paris, Marseilles, Lyon, Toulouse and Nice.

So why the deluge of French onto the shores of England?  Simple: jobs and opportunity.  Many young French workers, particularly in the technology and creative industries find it easier to find jobs in England than in France.  They find it easier to locate the jobs, and the UK offers them more flexibility than France otherwise would.  The sectors in which they compete are also more established in London than they are in say, Paris, and it’s a better bet, overall, for the young creative class.

And there’s also a racial component to it.  French nationals of foreign backgrounds find themselves curiously unable to get jobs in France from time to time.  Occasionally, they end up changing an Arab first name to something more French sounding, and all of a sudden, they begin getting requests for interviews.  That’s not the case in the UK.  London, at least for the past 250 years, has been much more of a global and cosmopolitan city than has Paris, or anywhere else in France.  And, as a result, they’re much more comfortable with people who have last names that sound funny to English ears.

This French brain drain to England is probably what best illustrates the economic conundrums France faces.  France has never gotten over the idea that they are not the center of the universe.  It actually has parallels to what happened in Michigan.  Prosperity breeds arrogance, which breeds complacency, which leads to a decline.  In today’s world, you can rest on your laurels for about as long as it takes for the new guy to start nipping at your heels, which these days, isn’t very long.  The antidote: constant innovation and lots and lots of very hard work.


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