July 2014 - Holidays in Paris
A little holiday in France is always welcome when some of friends are getting married :) After three years, I was quite amazed by the changes performed by the city of Paris and the improvements they were trying to do around the infrastructure. Some suburbs were completely changed (ex: Montrouge, Chatillon...). And some of inner ring suburbs that used to be bad (ex: Bobigny, St Denis) are now being popular with white collars as they are more affordable, yet still close to Paris. I guess the bottom line is 'Is there a metro station?'
After seven years, I guess Paris feels less and less like home, even though my family still remains there. It is not easy to see my parents ageing while living very far away. Plus I have started to invest in Australia more than in France (ie work, retirement, studies...). I am fortunate enough to have parents who are wishing me a better future. Hence they encourage me to stay down under. Still, the time I am not spending with them is time I will not get back. The best compromise we found was for me to call as often as I could (ideally everyday), come as often as I can afford (once or twice per year) and send regular little attentions through the mail (not automated transfers! duh!). I tried to tell them than I could send someone to help them at home for cleaning and nursing, but they refuse. I believe that accepting it, would also mean they reckon they are too old and they are reaching a point of no return, so I can see why they are refusing.
While looking at the situation in France, I was talking with some former expats, who decided to relocate to France. Their feedback was unanimous: I would lose in money, career and worklife balance. Salaries have not increased in the past three years and the cost of living has still gone up. Hence they all feel that they lost 10% in their purchasing power. One couple said you could break even if you come back with kids, as French citizens are entitled to allowances and subsidies from the state for child care and related services.
Regarding owning a property, things appear harder in France than in Australia. Despite record low interest rates, banks are still reluctant to grant home loans to quality applications (ie couple on stable contracts, with 20% deposit and less than 33% debt with the new home loan). Plus you cannot redraw on the equity to expand or deposit on another property. I haven't look precisely in the tax area, as it comes secondary in my mind if no one is willing to finance you. But the other aspect was the mentality around ownership. It looks like that it is not that well perceived to try to achieve financial freedom. Owning a single property is already putting you on the 'rich' niche in some people eyes (Hum .. No! You're mostly in debt). And it is bad to be rich in a socialist country, or even for trying... I find it a bit hypocrite when people wouldn't spit on money if they were suddenly rich!
Another random item was the education level in high school. My mother was a primary school teacher, my cousin is a biology high school teacher, a friend of mine is a geography high school teacher and my Sydney bestie mother is also a school teacher. They all confirm that now pupils do not know how to write proper sentences at 15... I mean 15 years old !! And they cannot write essays with proper subject-verb-complement. One said that punctuation was not even understood properly after primary school. I am like 'What the f*?'. My mother already warned me at the time, because parents refuse their children to resit one year and would prefer to let them pass without the necessary knowledge. Hence a lot of pupils pass their year without actually learning the required curriculum... It is quite scary. How do you prepare these kids to uni?
Overall, people are depressed and do not think their future is going to be better, short or long term. They tend to think that it is as good as it can get. But it doesn't stop my Australian friends to think that Paris could still be a very romantic city to live in :)