Ghetto Fabulous

Les Rita Mitsouko’s “Au Fond du Couloir” sums up the experience of trying to get anywhere—literally or figuratively–in France. The lyrics of bouncy song are instructions for getting into someone’s apartment from the street. Roughly translated into English, here are a couple of verses

You’ve dreamed of coming
Take the stairs
Climb to the third level
And then veer right

The second door on the left
Ignore that one
Continue on, don’t slow down
Don’t stop even if you get lost

There it is! The elevator
Beside the fire extinguisher!
Turn there and
Proceed alongside the pipe

I have to listen to this song to not go insane as I attempt to buy a mattress from IKEA, ask the bank to issue me a working Carte Bleu, and beg the insurance company to respond to a claim. (All efforts failed yesterday, during which time I sat at home waiting for a DHL package to arrive, which of course didn’t, though I got an email today saying they “attempted.”).

This time, for the first time, it has added up to me wanting to give up on France. My view of the country I have loved for so long is sliding from the crown jewel of Europe to just another failed system akin to Greece. Sadly, most of my friends agree. The New York Times explains that the perfect storm of bad leadership, refusal to innovate, and broken economic policy is dragging France into the gutter. This is a double shame because they country has so much to bank on. Clean water. Farmland. Prestigious luxury products. And consistent immigration, which brings energetic young people and new ideas to this ossified land. (Despite doomsday predictions by right-wing bigots, it has been found to be, overall, good for the economy. Paris is the #1 tourist destination on Earth. Yet customer service remains, largely, laughingly bad.

Expats, how are you coping with France’s decline? I’m so tempted to check out.

5 Responses to “Ghetto Fabulous”

  1. Comment by clbtx | 07/23/13 at 1:44 pm

    I find career options so limited here, particularly if you’re not French and work for a French company. There is hardly any upward mobility if you’re not part of the “grandes ecoles” circles. And, compared to the UK and US, the salaries so low, I can no longer ignore the financial impact of staying here much longer. I mean, I do want to retire some day, and not just on what a government pension would be, assuming those still exist in 20+ years. So, for those reasons, I’ve started to look elsewhere for my next career option. It makes me sad, but I can’t afford to stay here any more.

  2. Comment by J. Bes | 07/23/13 at 2:14 pm

    My husband who is French and I have decided after three years of me living here, enough is enough. We are heading on out!!! This country is just unfriendly and NOTHING goes right. I have spent the most depressing years of my life here and have many expat friends who say the same and are looking for a way out! I don’t blame you. There are so many places on earth to live where you can have a comforting and smooth experience. If you have the opportunity, why stay here?

  3. Comment by Connie | 07/23/13 at 10:01 pm

    I’ve lived in France for several long periods in my life — since 1966 — and now that I’m ready to retire, I’m planning to leave the US for France. It would be impossible for me to live on my combined US social security/French retirement income where I’ve been in recent years, 20 miles from San Francisco. Rent in small-town France is about half what it is in California, and health insurance will remain out of sight until I qualify for Medicare, at age 65 still some time off. Since I’m a legal resident in France, I’m in the system and qualify for various small benefits that really add up. What with affordable public swimming pools, community-based events and classes offered, I’m looking forward to a good last chapter in France. That said, if I were in the middle of my career, France would not be the best choice, too many blocks to advancement.

  4. Comment by Jennifer | 07/24/13 at 3:11 pm

    I think it all depends on where you live and what your lifestyle/life situation is. I have lived in the South of France for 20 years, raising children, tending my veggie patch, being active in serveral associations and giving cooking classes. My husband has a good, stable job. We have a nice quality of life in beautiful surroundings. We can eat local produce and meat, with no worries of consuming massive amounts os GMO’s every day as North Americans pretty much do. I have teenagers and I have always told them that they should go study and work elsewhere when they’re older. They have dual French Canadian citizenship which opens huge doors for them. I accept that they will want to leave, but I have decided that for me, happiness lies here in this malfunctioning but beautiful country that still has some basic principles that are very important to me. So, I can understand why ambitious, city dwellers would want to leave France. It is a depressing place for entrepreneurs and those “on the way up”. But for my lifestyle, and those living a simpler, more rural life, I couldn’t imagine living in a nicer place.

  5. Comment by Charlie | 07/25/13 at 4:40 pm

    I agree with you. I have lived here in France for 8 years and I can no longer deal with the national obsession with the word “non”. No matter what small thing you are trying to accomplish, first you are met with “That is not possible”. Then the discussion starts, and the begging, and finally if you are very lucky you end up at OK. It’s just become too frustrating a place to do business. I have started to process of moving back to the US. I do this with great sadness. I love France and the French people, but the time has come.

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