“We’re getting a lot of calls from high earners who are asking whether they should get out of France.” —Paris-based tax expert, as told to The New York Times.
“What irritates me about France today is how the taste for work, for effort, has been completely lost.” —London-based French private equity worker, as told to Reuters.
It’s been a bad summer for French millionaires. It’s not just that its neighbors to the south are slowing sinking into the Mediterranean—as far as that goes, the sooner the better, Credit Agricole shareholders might not be blamed for thinking. A far bigger concern for our fine French friends is socialist president Françoise Hollande’s plan to impose a 75 percent income tax on anyone earning more than 1 million euros a year—which populist program set off a flurry of phone calls to accountants and realtors in Brussels, Zurich and London as journalists set about finding new homes for the Les Riches.
Well, a tax haven is a relative proposition—we’ve wondered in the past whether a tougher British tax regime chased a certain novelist and his American heiress wife to Cobble Hill—and despite hand-wringing over whether New York’s own millionaire’s tax might occasion an exodus of Manhattan’s financiers out of this city’s jurisdiction, The Observer would like to take the occasion to roll out a welcome mat.
Oh, we may not be able to offer Chunnel trips home for the weekend. But we’ve got French food, French schools, French neighborhoods—not to mention our very own French soccer star and French party scene.
Maybe more important is this—who else but a New Yorker can tolerate a Frenchman?
Ten days ago, this correspondent attended the wedding of the son of an organic winemaker in southwest France. When we arrived at the family’s centuries-old farmhouse, overlooking a hillside covered with grapes and sunflower fields, we just about choked at the vista. “What an amazing place to live,” we told the doyenne. “I know,” she said flatly. We speak no French, and as our host was at the moment disinclined to continue the conversation in English, we couldn’t express our sympathy for her position. Not that we cared, being similarly convinced that our four-room apartment under an elevated subway platform is more or less the only place in the universe worth living.
So indeed, convert your euros, buy our townhouses, seduce our women, seek new environs in which to air your disdain. But. Allow us to stipulate a few rules:
Indulge our French. You’re dodging a 75 percent income tax here, and this is part of the price: if we’re going to suffer your indecipherable English, avoid the impulse to haughtiness when a New Yorker greets you in your native tongue.
The occasional street-corner make-out session can lighten up the daily rat race for passersby, but try to limit the PDA.
Just eat the french fries, okay? None of this, “They’re not even French” business. Likewise “French kissing,” French twists, French Lick, whatever that is, and any other misappropriations.
Feel free to complain about the baguettes (admittedly terrible), gun violence, our health care system, James Dolan, Mayor Bloomberg, Times trend stories, the police department (on second thought, maybe the whole DSK thing is a little too fresh), the rents, traffic, taxi drivers, tourists.
On the other hand, we’d prefer if you bite your tongues when it comes to baseball (not boring), foreign policy (not your place), the subway system (it runs, mostly, 24-7), Ed Koch (just delete his emails), the occasional urban stench (or at least, mix in a shower first), or American attitudes toward sex (don’t knock it til you’ve tried it).
Pick up after your dog.
Don’t force feed the pigeons.