Monday, February 06, 2006

France is best

It's encouraging to see one's chose of place to live endorsed so strongly; France comes out top in the latest Quality of Life Index published by International Living. This will come as something of a blow to some US jingoists, because this organization cannot be seen as biased twoards Europe, let alone towards France, and it's certainly not anti-American. In fact the US has come out top in their annual Index for the last 21 years !

2006 Quality of Life Index

"And the winner is…France. The loser? Iraq. No explanation necessary for the latter, but regular readers to these pages may be surprised to see France taking top honors in our annual Quality of Life Index this year. It's the first time this country has risen to first place. More than that, though, it's the first time in 21 years that any country other than the United States has come out tops in our Index. This year, the United States drops from the top spot to sixth position.

Why the United States has fallen

The United States falls from the top position it held in this Index for 21 years in a row, to take sixth place this year. Although its score hasn't dropped dramatically (its final score last year was 86, compared with 82 this year), a few points are worth making.

Its economic performance over the past year has slowed slightly, and this is reflected in our Index (it gets an Economy score of 90 this year, compared with its 92 rating last year).

... More than the current economic uncertainties, though, it is the ongoing and increasing infringements of personal freedoms in this country that account primarily for its fall from first place in our Index. While other First World countries receive the top score of 100 in our Freedom category, the U.S. gets but 92 points.

The United States remains, inarguably, the world's most convenient place to live. But, we argue, and our Survey this year maintains, that convenience is not the most important factor in determining any country's quality of life.

The world's best place to live? But France?

Well, yes…France. Good climate, unspoiled countryside, world-competitive infrastructure, plus the best health care in the world, according to the World Health Organization's ( recent study

The culture is top-notch. UNESCO has named 30 World Heritage Sites in this country (by comparison, Italy, with 40, has the most cultural and heritage sites in the world). And its capital, Paris, is arguably the world's most beautiful and romantic city on earth. France sees in excess of 70 million overseas visitors each year, making it the world's favorite destination.

And, while no one would confuse France for a bargain destination, living here needn't cost the earth. France scores 65 in our Cost of Living category, and, outside Paris, the cost of living can be relatively inexpensive."

But they have no illusions about France; they are aware of problems:

A different way of doing business

"... France scores sixth highest in our Index in the Economy category. Nightmarish bureaucracy, endless vacations, strictly regimented weekly business hours, workers who go on strike at the drop of a béret, a tax burden that accounts for 45% of GDP ... French ways are not the same as American ways. Yet, somehow, France survives, and the economy is on the up. Although it may be hard to believe the next time you're stranded at Charles de Gaulle airport because the baggage handlers are again en greve, this is the country that introduced the word "entrepreneur'' into the English language.

The world's fourth-largest exporter, France has a per-capita GNP of $26,300, and inflation stands at just 2.2%. The French economy has a lot going for it-including ultra-modern transport and communications systems...competitive energy costs...and a AAA credit rating.

As well as exports such as perfumes, cosmetics, top-quality wines, and gourmet foods, the country's traditional muscle lies in engineering and transportation. Some engineering talent has recently been lured into the glitzy world of web ventures, but the metal-bashing industries still attract top graduates.

The country now has 4,000 international corporations, accounting for 26% of French jobs, 33% of investment, and 36% of exports in the country's manufacturing sector.

Embedded at the strategic heart of the European Union, France exports almost twice as much as the United States in terms of GDP.

Major U.S. companies, such as Disney, IBM, Motorola, and Ford, have French addresses. In total, almost 2,000 North American firms have their European headquarters on French soil.

Add to all this that excellent infrastructure I mentioned already, and you can understand why we'd name France the world's best place to live. For more information on life in this country, e-mail our office in Paris at:"

In another section, on advice about moving:

Learn French

"...This is the most important piece of advice I can possibly give you. If you don't speak any French, take classes to learn some. If you already speak some French, take classes to learn some more. While Paris can be enjoyed on the surface with a vocabulary of about 10 words, living here and living well requires comfort with the language.

And speaking French will earn you new friends. IL [International Living] staffers in Paris say that most of their French friendships started with a conversation about why they speak fluent French…which turned into coffee, then dinner, then invitations to birthday parties and evenings out to meet their friends. None of this would be possible without a command, albeit imperfect, of their language.

Read up

And while you're learning the finer points of the past subjunctive tense, do some reading to learn about Paris--and if you're interested, French culture, history, geography, and philosophy. Your French friends will have studied these topics in depth during their schooling and will make discrete references to them during ordinary conversation. A good base of knowledge will keep you in the loop.

In addition to Polly Platt's classic cultural study French or Foe, one book I recently read and enjoyed was The Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne. It's an excellent overview of the history of the city from the Roman era to the present and an entertaining read."


Blogger mommy said...

Yes, absolutely....France is the best! But why is no one commenting? They are wonderful!

My daughter has an ongoing love affair with France as She is fluent, I am not, but I am trying.

Also, if this shows up as "mommy" was for her, not you!


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