Viva la France: 9 things I've learned from 72 hrs of work in France.

Okay, I've written before how bad I think Brexit is.   Brexit is incomprehensibly stupid and the word "Brexit" is one of those words that should never exit -a bit like fleek, or fam, or any of those other crappy words.   Yeah, old man me, but making "Britain's Exit" turn into "Brexit" is just......retarded.

For the last couple of days I've been working out of our French office due to being required to meet and greet, discuss, learn and work with one of our European teams.  Everyday when I'm working, I'm logged into a EU-US business system and I see my European colleagues (and now we've met face to face) friends working, doing, chatting, discussing, exchanging, logging in and out of WebEx meetings and so on.  The EU collaboration........works.

Yep, I was there, and I loved it!
So my thoughts from the last couple of days (no real order or work specific).

1)  Eurostar and SNCF/TGV

Eurostar is pretty much one of the best examples of UK/FR co-operation along with Concord, working on CERN and ESA.  I've been travelling between London and Paris (then TGV to Strasbourg)  and it shows what can be done to move people at ~300kph under the sea and across big distances.  It may be a bit slower than cheap air travel, but the experience is smooth, relaxed and does what's expected.   Door to door will be hours longer, but the experience was cool.  Seats, power, (questionable WiFi!), comfort, quick transitions through customs........

2) France must have a lot of lung cancer 

The UK now is so anti-smoking, to work in a EU state where the regulation is behind where the UK is is a little bit like a trip back in time.  I don't think I've experienced tobacco smoke like that for around 12 years.  I know it's ingrained into (French) EU culture with the la tabac shop as much as patisseries and baguettes and the French would likely reluctantly finally bend to UK style smoking laws, but the step change for a UK'er is huge.  For any infrequent UK visitor to France, it's noticeable.  The romantic notion of the Parisian girl, elegantly smoking a long cigarette is often what's drawn in Art Deco illustrations of sophistication - to the 2019 Brit, it as dated as a typewriter and very alien.  My children will think even more so, never experiencing smoking inside buildings and curbed in open public spaces.

3) Transport.   

Strasbourg transport is highly mobile city - by foot, bike or scooter; by tram or bus.  It's fantastic for it with a passion for meeting and moving.   Bikes are functional - it's not the show bike, it's the do bike and theirs no shame in just getting from A to B on whatever wheels are there.  The culture if "it's a short distance, I'll take the car" just doesn't appear to be there.   For my trips around, 4Euro 50c for 24hr unlimited urban travel by CTC card covered everything I'd need and everything is a brief walk from frequent bus or tram stop.

Thinking of cars, where are the EV's??   I know I'm pro electric vehicles but I was surprised that the most electric I saw was a few hybrid cars.  EV's are becoming more common in more affluent areas and spilling out into surrounding areas, so I half judge a regions technological embrace by how frequently I see a Tesla, a hybrid, Leaf, i3 etc, but don't think I saw anything more advanced than a Prius.  Do the French snear at EV's or just have problems getting hold of them?

4) Strikes, unions and work ethics

Culturally, there's a number of differences.   This spill back into to my work life with how to judge what each EU state views or thinks on a project I'm working on.  The French organise in a very different way - the union is strong, social justice is a hot topic and they're not backwards at coming forwards.   The work ethic is strong - just strong in a different way to the British strong.......or Spanish strong.....None are right or wrong, just a 2 different sides of the same square.

5) Coffee

Europe does good coffee, cheap, and available.   Go to any small patisserie and they'll do a coffee better than any Starsmucks or Cafe Dreerio.  Small, strong, bitter, add what you want but always start with a good coffee.  The chains are there, and running/walking past them they are getting footfall.   They will be looking at their French share of market and so on and having big corporate plans into how to get more of it and so on, but as a consumer, the none-US chain coffee shops had far more personality, more them to me curb side appeal and interest.  Which leads on to......

6) Food.  Food is good.   Really good.  

I mean, there's plenty of it, plenty of choice, and good choice.  There are regional specials, independents, locals, bistros, cafes, patisseries with everything from really good fresh coistonts through to the most exquisite cakes and truffles to butchers and restaurants with the rarest, bloodiest cuts of beef and expertly cooks rue's and sources on perfectly cooked ducks.  With only 72 hours to do what I needed to do, that's around 6,000 calories (more if counting the running) to try and find flavours.  It was fantastic - a massive thank you to Cedric, Emilie, Manuel and Izabelle for the food choices at the major meals   There's choices of breads, cheeses, chocolates, macaroons and you could walk around a city street and find a different flavour every time you looked (and you'd need the walking and bike to stop yourself ballooning).  But portion sizes are manageable.   Yes there will be meal deals and so on, but a portion is a suitable portion and not a "go large for 20c more!" trash bucket.  And while I'm at it.......

7) Americans can fuck off.   

In a "for fuck sake, all that good food and McDonalds..........."  Europe and European states have very clear cultural and historic identities.   The push and expansion of American brands and culture of mass produced, low value and high margin rubbish erodes what's there.   Just like my coffee comments.   The UK has the tie of a common(!) language so US culture take little effort to infiltrate the UK shores - personally (and I know the irony working for a US based company), I don't like the amount of US culture in the UK.   I like it even less when I see it in other EU countries.  So as an extension of that.........

8) French, never stop speaking french.

I apologies for 12 year old me dicking about in French lessons and thinking it was pointless because my lack of French made me feel 11 again.  I want to make sure my kids learn and if that means learning with them, so be it.   In France, there will be 80 million native French speakers.  That's at least 80 million people wanting French language content so French media is not going to die out. Good!  Keep it as a weapon to stop the US cultural invasion.  Something in French just look and sound better - even if I can only just pick through it - but it's what gives France it's identity. 

9)  Why on Earth would we want to split away from the EU?

I've always been pro-EU, while being pro-UK.  Britain is my homeland and has it's identity, strengths and problems.  France has it's identity, strengths and problems.   So does Spain, Italy, Belgium..........  Putting all those counties together means their collective strengths outweigh their collective weaknesses and competition or threats from Asia, Russia, the America's and so on can be worked on together and trade within the EU benefits all of the EU states.  Any single EU state weakness doesn't make the whole system fall.  It's not perfect, there is give and take and compromise which NIMBY'ers and UKIP'ers will always object to but leaving the pact means that our weaknesses have no support.  Our strengths are no longer reflective of the all, just of our own.   I do not want a United States of Europe and I can never imagine a time when this would ever happen - each individual state is to proud, historic, individualistic and unique to ever come together in a United States ideal.

72 hours in France - I've loved it.   I have more EU travel planned with work in the coming months and I've always had an interest in exploring more of Europe.   Past 72hrs in UK Brexit politics may have been messed up, but Europe isn't.

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