Business with a French twist

August 2013, Paris

Less than two years ago, France lost its top-credit rating. There are fears that S&P might further downgrade it to a simple AA. Government debt is 90% of the GDP, and unemployment – still over 10%. Creativity helps in these conditions. The French may be talkative and we may think they spend too much time in cafés, but that is not necessarily unproductive business. They have a flair for things that can be fun and work at the same time. Their joie de vivre need not be reason for bankruptcy.

During the five days that I was there, I saw more artists and writers making money while having fun than I would normally see in a month in London. Terrance, our ‘American friend in Paris’, spends most of his time at Café de Flore, and earns his living by showing Paris around to brainy tourists. The young intelligentsia get together at La Belle Hortense, a book-bar with expensive wines and free books in Le Marais. Students shop at Mona Lisait – a cheap bookstore chain that one can find in all the trendy areas. And if you can’t afford the clothes and the champagne in Montparnasse, you can always stop at L’Academie de la Bière on the same glorious road.

We take our time in France, says le garcon with a smile. He couldn’t possibly make more than 1,000 euro a month, but he seems happier than most white-collar colleagues I know in the City.