France’s most populous cities, in order, are Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Nice—and London? According to the BBC, London is now the sixth-largest city in France, as measured by the population of French citizens living within city limits. The British capital’s French population of around 400,000 is large enough to send a representative of the city to the National Assembly next month.The reasons for the exodus would sound familiar to past waves of immigrants to England and America. Though many French expats are nostalgic for home, the economic and personal benefits of living in England are hard to ignore:
Being in London and speaking English gives her access to a wider client base — Malika sees the city as a gateway to globalisation and also relishes freedom from French bureaucracy.“With a new venture in Paris you always think first of what is going to go wrong. I find the system much easier here — you don’t have so many rules and so much paperwork.” . . .Marine Schepens, who works for a fashionable advertising agency, says UK companies are more prepared to give young people a chance because it is easier to terminate their contracts than in France.
This is particularly true for France’s sizable immigrant and minority population, who have found that racism and discrimination in France have made advancement all but impossible. England, by contrast, continues to provide opportunities. An interview with a Moroccan-French immigrant in London illustrates the point:
“Because of your name you will be discriminated against [in France], because of your skin colour, and even the address on your CV can stop you from getting a job,” he says.“As for your skills and competencies — none of that counts in France if you don’t fit in the box — so I left,” he adds.Hamid now advises many French companies on how to diversify their workforce and he lectures at Sciences Po, one of the country’s most prestigious universities.But he says that in the early days it was much easier to get someone to pick up the phone, if he called from London than from Paris.
In recent years, it has become fashionable to doubt the continued significance of the Anglosphere. But Anglo-American culture, which values innovation, industry, and economic and social openness, continues to be a magnet for immigrants, and there is every reason to believe that it will retain that status well into the 21st century.