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Starting your first business in France? Here are the steps, and some great tips (colestreet.com)
111 points by wesselkooyman 1655 days ago | hide | past | web | 99 comments | favorite



Amazing summary, I will bookmark this even though I am french.

With my co-founders, we've been looking to chose a bank and an accountant to officially start the company for some time now, and have been baffled by how much the banks charge charge for little to no service. The same holds true for accountants, although to a lesser degree as we're at the very beginning.

Also, debating about the 'statuts' has been a real pain. However, this is the only part in all this process that is of actual use, since it forces the founders to agree on a lot of important ownership and processes issues from the start.


0. Hop on a train and do it in London instead?

Is that realistic, especially if you're unsure of success and don't want to go through all the bureaucracy?


I read in the Evening Standard yesterday (can't find the link, dammit) that London is now France's 6th biggest city by number of French people.

//edit// Found it:

http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/bienvenue-mo...

Later, Afflelou returns to the subject of French taxes. “It’s like saying all talent is the same,” he says. “Like saying Beckham is the same as any old footballer. Now the young French, not even the ones with money, they want to come here because they have no future there. That’s the real pity: they are discouraged from being entrepreneurs. It is not good for the image of France. London is now France’s sixth biggest city.”

He looks pensive for a moment, then looks up: “Soon maybe it will be the fifth!”


If one week at most of bureaucracy is enough to stop your success, then you're not very likely to meet success anyway, since much bigger challenges await down the road :-)


With the current British government angling to leave the EU at present, that's a decision that might have unpleasant consequences in a few years for any French entrepreneur that tried this, even assuming it's practical now.


The UK government is not angling to leave the EU. The tory party (largest but not majority party) has promised, if elected in 2015, a referendum on EU membership in 2017. This was done in an attempt to head off the rising UK Independence Party and shut up some of their right-wing back-bench MPs. The same party (and both other major parties) will be pushing to stay in with the vote. But the rise in popularity for UKIP is not rooted in a dislike of the EU (although there is some, some of which is misinformed), but in issues with mass immigration - the EU enforces free movement between any EU nation (Polish population went from almost nothing to close to 1% in the years following their accession to the EU in 2004). By 2017 Bulgaria and Romania will have already completed accession. Without any prospect of stemming immigration, and the fact that the costs/benefits of EU membership will have to be actually debated, the UK is not going to vote to leave the EU.

But coming back to the point; do you even need to hop on a train? (what can not be done by post?. assuming this was a suggestion to incorporate in the UK and not to base there). Regardless, even in a worst case scenario (which really, isn't going to happen), there is five years before anything changes, which would still make sense for the benefits to a startup IMO (if you still exist in 5 years, the cost of a man-week then will be much lower in 5 years). I'm not sure what the 'second best EU country to incorporate in' is, but it's surely not France.

In short, the idea to use EU free trade to avoid the French issues is surely a good decision.


I think it is wider than just mass immigration. There is also the whole course of closer political union that the EU is determined upon which is wildly unpopular in the UK.


Sure, the referendum is just a political ploy. But it might pass.... EU membership isn't up for voting in any other EU country.


Even if Britain leaves the EU, is it really likely that they will leave the EEC?

The French entrepreneur cares about free trade, not much else. And I can't see Britain or Europe shutting down trade, regardless of whether Britain sticks around or leaves.


My understanding is that the EEC merged into the EC which then became the EU - so I don't think the UK has the option to stay part of the EEC and leave the EU.

Certainly EEC isn't a term that you here very often these days.

NB Perhaps you mean EFTA rather than the EEC?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Free_Trade_Association


Yes, the EEC/EC was officially abolished with the Lisbon treaty in 2009 (though it was mostly merged into the EU even before then). However, it's still possible for non-EU members to be part of the EU's common market via the EEA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Economic_Area).

EEA membership is pretty close to de-facto EU membership, though, including legislative harmonization on almost everything except agriculture/fisheries (which is what suits Norway about it), and a "voluntary" contribution that de-facto replaces EU dues. Would that satisfy UK politicians' reasons for pulling out of the EU, if they still had to pay dues and harmonize most of their legislation anyway, only without getting a vote in return? It's not clear to me they would join the EEA under those terms. And in the other direction, there's a lot of uncertainty over what they'd even have the option to join, since there's a real possibility some EU members would veto an agreement to give them an intermediate status.


That page on the EEA seems to imply that members have to stick to EU laws - particularly around freedom of movement, which is one of the main reasons some UK politicians are keen on leaving the EU.

Personally, I think that any move to leave the EU would probably contribute to a break up of the UK.


It's absolutely non-sensical to want to be part of a common market but to not do what's necessary to actually create a common market. You can't cherry pick what you want.

Freedom of labor (which necessitates freedom of movement) is just as much part of a common market as freedom of capital is.

If the UK wants to leave the EU but, for example, keep freedom of capital they will be told off. If they don't want to accept some harmonization process of laws (which is necessary or else it's real simple for individual governments to erect barriers in the market) they will be told off.

If they are out of the common market they are out. You can't be half in and half out. And good riddance to them.


There are lots of people in the UK who want to remain in the EU - and I'm one of them. I hope that if it looked like the UK was going to leave the EU then Scotland would leave the UK and (re)join the EU.


Ha ha.

"We want Scotland to be an independent country! And that sacrifice its independence to the EU."

Yeah, that's logical.


Well, as I'm more attached to the EU than the UK it seems perfectly logical to me.


Anglo-phobe! ;-)


There are plenty of free trade agreements that don't rely on this harmonisation.

Unfortunately the EU is set on a course of political union, which I think the majority of the UK would not want to be part of.


Free trade agreements do not create common markets. (Well, they can, but if they do they include some sort of harmonization of relevant laws).

Plus, the UK already excludes itself from practically all non-common-market activities of the EU. They aren't participating there anyway.

I also think you are confused about what creating a common market entails. It necessitates common political decisions. The common sticking point of freedom of movement is not some nice to have thing. Without it there can be no common market. Likewise, the harmonization of (relevant) laws is not some nice to have thing. That's hard political work that has to be done to reach the goal and doing it without a political structure on the EU level is unrealistic. (You can't have consensus-based negotiations about the minutiae of safety regulations for wine harvesters between heads of state.)

If that's too much for the UK to deal with then that's fine with me. The rest of the EU will do fine withput them. If the UK wants free trade agreements they can have that. They can't, however, have parts of the common market they like but not those they don't like.


So if the laws that are raised relate only to trade and free movement, then fine. However, what about rules such as the maximum working time directive? Or limiting banker bonuses? Those are examples of a non-trade related laws that are imposed on the UK.

The goal of the EU isn't free trade, it is political union.


The goal is not free trade, the goal is a common market. Is that really so hard to understand? Of course, labor regulations play a role there.


I think that any move to leave the EU would probably contribute to a break up of the UK.

But that's already happening. Ireland left in 1922. Scotland was guaranteed a referendum well before this UK/EU referenedum.


Even if Britain leaves the EU, is it really likely that they will leave the EEC?

EEC doesn't exist anymore. You may be thinking of the EFTA, which (e.g.) Norway is in. That's a free trade & customs area. However one still has to implement all EU law and allow all EU citizens to live & work there. Euroskeptic/europhobic people would not find acceptable. I don't think there is any details, but I think it's a straight in/out, i.e. leave EU & EFTA.

The cynic in me thinks the politicians are delibrately giving 2 options (current EU membership and leaving EU & EFTA) so that one option is horrible in order to ahem 'help' one option win.


I don't believe for a second the UK is leaving the EU. It would be a huge disadvantage economically for them to do so. All that talk is just political posturing to please the idiot wing of the conservative party.

(Disclaimer: I'm not from the UK however, so I'm just evaluating the situation from the outside)


Unfortunately, the pressure for a referendum is not primarily driven by economic issues. Its driven by tabloid prejudice, and single-issue parties like UKIP who want to get a share of power.


It would not be an economic disadvantage, and wanting to leave the EU is certainly not "idiotic".


Or Ireland?

Or Luxembourg?


Can anyone comment on what it's like to run a startup or a smaller high-tech outlet in France? Taxes, social insurance / humangous vacations, bureaucracy matters - the boring day to day stuff. I'm sure I'm not the only one playing with an idea of moving to Europe, so a first hand account would be much appreciated.


Sure. Low (or even no) taxes on yearly income if you locate your startup well (e.g. put it in an area that gets subventions or tax cuts, checkout so-called ZFU aka Zone Franche Urbaine). If you're innovating (which is, really, an administrative term, that you can put anything under), you'll get tax rebate on the salary mass that you dedicate to R&D. Even further, your startup can be labeled as a 'young innovating company' (JEI, aka Jeune Entreprise Innovante) and you get even more benefits.

I (with others) operate a startup with entities both in France and in the US. It is cheaper for us to leave R&D in France because of the subventions mentioned above.

Sure, you'll still get plenty of taxes and the euro is strong, which may be good or bad depending on your activities.

PM me if you need more details.


I've set up a business in Australia, average 2 days, and in Austria where the average is 25 days (and it went way over that for me) and I am not sure I'd do it again in Europe besides perhaps the UK. It's not so much the time and frustration, which is indeed wasted going to I think it was 4 different locations in 7 or 8 trips, but the shocking hostility of the process and people. It made me feel very unwelcome.

There is also a dearth of funding and a much smaller culture of philanthropy. Although those two are not really relevant to my project, jkl.io, as I am not taking funding and looking for philanthropy from places other than Austria.


Even though I regularly meet French who whinge about their culture bureaucratique, I don't think they have anything on Asia (China, India, etc.)!

I'm Aussie/Kiwi/European and have set up wholly foreign-owned businesses in China (9 months) and Hong Kong (2 hours). I believe AU+NZ are pretty damn straightforward.

Have to mention: this article reads so obviously like an American wrote it, it's kind of amusing .. impatient, US spelling, notion of a 'check book'. Come on! Welcome to Europe, you're in the developed world now. We have online banking that actually functions... at minor or no cost across the whole region. We don't generally use cheques. Even China's consumer banking system is more efficient than America's, in my experience. You will learn to love it in Europe :)


It took me almost as long as setting up a business in Austria to get just a business visa for India so I agree with you on that point.

AU+NZ (check out the coverage of NZ on my site, what do you think?) are the models to follow for business registration I think. Given they've proven it can be done in one or two days I am not sure how the other countries can justify the delays.


When I read things like this, I'm glad that I was in the US at the time I had the opportunity to create my app business (flight sim app for mobile). My school mates who are still in France are having a hard time with all the overhead of french bureaucracy when doing anything... most of them are thinking of moving abroad at some point.

The whole process in the US was so easy, finding a bank was a total non issue.


I don't know really; I started my company 8 years ago and it didn't appear to be that much of a hassle to be honest. I could find 3 banks willing to take us onboard in an afternoon.

And I only pay 140€/mo for the whole family health-care extension :P


Okay, thanks for sharing that perspective. Perhaps its the case of different cities having different business cultures within France? Not unlike how doing a high tech startup is going to look somewhat different in the bay area of California vs in Macon, Georgia?


There are different cultures in different cities for sure.

That said I, like a growing number of people I know, do everything "online" from a very rural place of France (both doing consulting for heavily technical startups or regular companies, and launching a SaaS product), and meet entrepreneurs and technical people once per year at conferences etc.

Then again I don't have employees (we're 2 cofounders as a couple), so being remote is probably easier!


Thanks for the post.

What I find annoying is that to simply test a business idea where you need to store subscriber's email addresses you normally need to register at the CNIL for which you need a registered company which requires what is described in the article. It feels backwards somehow: you need to register a company (with all the paperwork involved) before you even know if it can work.


I think that this sort of stuff is why a lot of people are afraid to create start-ups in France. Yes, there are huge taxes, but huge taxes provide a benefit (living in a decent society). This on the other hand is just an artifact from the past that nobody has bothered changing, much like how universities ask students for photocopies of every degree they got every damned year, or how much physical paper is used for trivial stuff that should be computerized.

(just to clarify, I am not against the CNIL, just against the hoop-jumping mentality)


Good tips

Well, the bank thing seems exaggerated. Did they pick one of the main banks or one tiny one?

Yes, I have had an account on France. Sure, mine was a personal account, but it was pretty straightforward. Online banking worked fine (true, I haven't done transfers)

The weirdest thing (for me) about the French banking system (apart from cheques that rip from the widest margin of the book) is what they call a RIB (Releve d'Identité Bancaire), it's something that comes in your statements and is the 'key' for service providers to set up a direct debt to your account. Yes, they need that piece of paper.

Public offices are weird as well, they are sometimes a row of unmarked doors, so you just have to guess, or figure it out from some faded indications and voilà


Also: this is a must-read for anyone willing to start a company in France:

http://www.rsi.fr//change-user/pied-de-page/espace-telecharg...

It compares the various kind of company structures, how taxes will work for each case etc, with simulations.


Agreed on the banks: read my comment on the article, we pay 15€/mo for top notch service (used to pay more for sub-par service). Pick a bank that is entrepreneur-friendly, not all are interested.


Paying fees for basic banking accounts is really foreign to me personally as an entrepreneur. In the U.S., the big banks all charge fees, but it has been a point of pride for me to figure out how to get the banking services needed without paying any fees. A smaller, local bank for the corporation and a credit union for my household.


Ah, you're using Credit Agricole. Mine was BNP Paribas, not sure which one the person in the article is using.


I can relate to what he wrote since initially I was at the CIC, which historically was good for entrepreneurs, but jumped the shark at some point, starting to sell me Virgin mobile phones etc instead of focusing on their core job.

Switching was easy and totally worth it!


Just don't start a company in France, at least not if you can avoid it which is the case for most startups (just go to Luxembourg or whatever). Not for the one week hassle, but because if you're looking for investors or if you want to sell it later, you and they'll have to pay close to 70% taxes so it will be a tough sell. Also, if you need to hire employees you will have to go through the expensive hell that is managing/hiring/firing employees and the crazy expensive taxes. Just not worth it.

The only case where you could start a company is if you're a one man shop freelancing startup (or a non-startup that needs to start a company for physical reasons such as a grocery store etc). Just my two-cents.


Some incorrections here and there in the article, I want to add some fixes:

- I wouldn't say the exigence of having a bank account is humiliating for a company. The process of opening one can be, however. But you can pick up any bank you want in any EU country you want. They can't "discriminate" against say a Luxembourg bank if you think this bank will serve you better. That's the EU market- same currency, and they can't change you fees for sending/receiving money from/to EU countries. I have a french bank, and I really like the idea of a conseiller - I want a single person I can talk to. Previously I had a bank which worked differently - I basically saw a different person every 6 month, while I had complex stuff that needed to be done and lost time reexplaining everything again and again. Now I have had one person for the last 3 years, that get things done by email, fax or phone. I like that. And when I decided to take my business to some other bank because it worked even better (phone service 24/7, with a limited number of person handling your case because you conseiller can't work around the clock) I never even had to go there in person- did that while travelling abroad, sending scans of my ID documents, having the account ready 24h later, having the paperwork they sent in return waiting for my signature at home since they just wanted a physical signature too.

BTW you know why there's so much red tape with french bank? bankers are legally responsible if you launder money using their services and if they didn't ask you basic questions designed to flag such cases. Some take risks, some don't. If you see a bank involved in a big scandal, pick it - it usually means it has less red tape, serves customers better, but some con men abuse it. If you don't care about the reputation of your bank (I don't) you get efficiency.

- the address fees depend on the company you create. For some corporate types it will be fully free to change your address as much as you want, and you can "upgrade" your startup to any type. You may want to start as a Autoentrepreneur (personally liable), then switch to a EURL, then a SARL, then a SAS - you'll pay almost nothing for the first 3 types.

EDIT: someone posted this link to compare them: http://www.rsi.fr//change-user/pied-de-page/espace-telecharg...

- for the step 2 and 3, I'm sorry to disagree here, but why didn't you file online instead? That's usually simpler - there are also what is called "unified" centers usually within ursaff offices to do everything in one place, with civil servants who know their job and can even check and fix basic mistakes in your file - for free! The whole process exist so that you can get the legal numbers (for tax, payroll, vat) within a day!!

- accountants sucks, and there's worse- whether you do your accounting or whether they do it, any mistake there is - it's your responsibility. The taxman will go after you anyway, it might be a good idea to learn the basics yourself, if only to avoid poor service. If you take an accountant you get a tax break (especially for the less complicated corporate forms) but take some "for dummies" guide and you're ready to go.

I'm french, and I wouldn't say the process is overtly complicated when you have some experience doing it. It's sometimes quite efficient - I have one person in the tax office who knows my file and cell number, who I can call if I have any specific question, and who can call me back if there is any problem.

Also we have great laws: for ex, between companies, an exchange of emails can constitute proof of contract, like a signature. You don't need as much paperwork if you know the law.

The real problem is the corporate environment - your company may work with french company and customers. Most of them are not even worth the euros they'll bring. Make sure you add the customary letters at the end of each bill, reminding them that any overdelayed payment will result on late fees + interest.

Personally, unless I personally know the guys or the company that need my services, I don't take french clients anymore. Been burnt too many times on too many technicalities.

I've had the pleasure to bill a HN company (hello there if you read this!) - a pleasure to deal with.

EDIT : some corrections

All things considered, I should let you know I am examining the corporate situation in Canada, to have a place where hiring (and firing if needed) might be less problematic, along with companies that may be more pleasant to work with when I need outside help, or as clients.

Hiring in France is taking a real risk. You don't want to hire in France - you don't want to hire any one, at any salary. Just don't do it, trust me.

Also, Europe has some new demons recently- there's a lot of hate going on there, especially in France, now with casual aggression too (not even for the money) etc. When I visit mainland France, I play a game with friends, sitting at a cafe terrace : we watch people shop etc, and we make bets: mine usually is whether we would see someone getting beat up within 1 hour - and I won every single time, in the center of Toulouse - (in)famous city, last year at the same time a guy was shooting down schoolchildren and their teacher, because they were jewish. My mom was attacked twice these last 2 years - with a knife, in the city center. A cop got the guy - well, two of them, because the one who caught it was stabbed 13 times and was sent to the hospital. The guy was released from jail because of a technicality in the prosecution. Racism and hatred are rampant, cops are giving up on some neighbourhoods, etc. I'm not talking about hearsay here, but from a personal account. I trust my mom. Now she has had a new passport made - one that doesn't say "France" on it, and might get used if the situation gets too bad.

Some compare the situation in France to NYC of the 1980, prior to the introduction of tougher laws. I don't really know how to understand it. It's complicated. There are basically groups of people growing apart from each other, and hating eachother more and more - a bad recipe for any country.

If physicial safety is something you value, try to spend 6 month there first, to see if it is something you can live with - especially if you are a female founder considering any big city suburbs (cheaper rend, tax breaks for ZFU, etc).

I added these little warnings after proofreading my text, because I realized I was painting maybe a too rosy picture: there is no paradise on earth, and creating your company in France won't be as complicated as some make it sounds, if you like french food you'll love it there, but for what I value life is much better on the other side of the atlantic.

You are free not to trust a single word of what I say - just go live there and try to make a decision by yourself.


>last year at the same time a guy was shooting down schoolchildren and their teacher, because they were jewish.

A once in decades terrorist incident. I could use the same argument to say that Oslo is orders of magnitude unsafer than Toulouse.

Talk about anecdotal evidence...


I feel like adding another anecdotal fact: we're a startup in Toulouse and NY, and we love Toulouse, great city for both daily life and business (think Airbus etc...).


That's really cool ! I'd be curious to know more about the things you do, if you can speak about it here or mail me (info on my profile).


Sure, https://xplr.com/ we're seed funded, early stage, early customers.


> You are free not to trust a single word of what I say

I didn't believe this could all be true so I asked a friend who is French, and was told it was actually all true. I thought he'd either nuance or refute it, but neither happened...


> BTW you know why there's so much red tape with french bank? bankers are legally responsible if you launder money using their services and if they didn't ask you basic questions designed to flag such cases.

To do anything in France requires a lot of red tape. To join a gym or go on a fun run you need a certificate from your doctor, which they charge you 70 euros.

As to your other sentiments, after the last 6 months living in Paris I have never seen anyone beaten up or attacked, even though I often stay out late in Chatelet and other seedy areas.


"To do anything in France requires a lot of red tape. To join a gym or go on a fun run you need a certificate from your doctor, which they charge you 70 euros."

That's not true, you can get the certificate from your "family" doctor, and the cost is probably 22 euros, fully returned by the secu + mutuelle (if you have one). So pretty much 0.

also you can do quite a lot of things online, pay your taxes, manage your account, order copies for your birth certificates and many more ... you just have to use them before complaining.


You are 100% spot on. I moved to Belgium (like many "wealthy" french people do) and will probably move further away.

The situation in the eurozone is really degrading quickly: it's not gonna get better with the second state default of Greece and the 50% unemployment amongst young people in Spain. Portugal, Italy and France (Greece is economically dead as of now) are on life support. France let way too many people in and gave them way too much welfare-state goodness (that's the way socialist buy votes to get re-elected). Lost of immigration is good when the GDP is growing: 100 000 people is 0.1 additional % of GDP growth... But when you're in recession, all the immigrants can't find job and suddenly they accelerate the fall of the GDP (due to all the wellfare-state benefits that have to be paid).

Moreover the socialists made sure to give a sense of entitlement to most of the french population: so as soon as something is talked about getting lowered or removed, there are strikes and revolts.

Physical security is a real issue: it's really not reassuring to take the subway in Paris and exit at station "Chatelet" to see groups of heavy armed military trying to make sure the situation doesn't degenerate too quickly.

I think most people are living in a fairy tale, refusing to see what is going on.

France is going to state default just like Greece, the question is just when. The officials keeps lying about the predicted GDP numbers and state deficit numbers: now they admitted that they'll be in recession in 2013 and plan on a state deficit of 3,7%. It's going to be much more than that. In 2014 the french state shall have so many debts to pay back that it's going to have a very hard time refinancing itself on the market, bringing it closer to a default (skyrocketing public debt).

No country in the eurozone is safe due to the common currency.

You have to be IMHO a totally stupid and fcked up person to start an online business in France as of now.

Don't forget that should you succeed you'd be regarded with jalousy and hatred.

Last year while on vacation in France my girlfriend was driving in a 8K convertible car (bought used for 8K). 8K. Hardly a "rich" person's car. Yet she could see the disdain and hate at trafic light from french people.

Socialism ruined France. While Sarkozy was in place it was still a wellfare-state and the local communities created more state servants than Sarkozy managed to terminate at the state level (Sarkozy suppressed 180 000 public state jobs, trying to keep the public debt in control but meanwhile the socialist in charge of the local communities created... 500 000 public state jobs!).

Socialism is killing France and is killing the eurozone.

It's killing entrepreneurship and encouraging a very* concerning hate of the succesful (President Hollande said himself: "I don't like the rich").

I moved out. Do the same. Do not even consider starting a company there.

Btw go further than the eurozone: the only way out of the euro-crisis is going to mean either a gigantic depreciation of the euro or a split of the eurozone and a move back to local currencies (which would be followed by a massive recession in all these countries).

I'm considering Switzerland as of now. It's expensive but at least people there aren't all nuts.

I don't mind giving Godwin the win: not that long ago in Germany there were national socialists who put in place 8 of Marx's ten major point of communism and who spread hatred of the wealthy and the succesful. France is going this same path right now and this worries me a lot. People are getting nervous. Hate is growing up left and right. The situation sucks.

The military are already in charge of subway stations and doing surveillance in front of important buildings (like Notre Dame). There are only going to be more and more of them. If the situation gets worse I expect the "couvre feu" to be put in place in big cities.

People are free to believe in fearytale and pink unicorn pooping rainbow butterflies that said...


One of the problem in France is the dire state of the political discourse, full of empty diatribes and finger-pointing that prevent focus on real, practical problems with painful solutions. Sadly your commentary is an example of this. Immigration is not a problem to the welfare state (it has been shown that new immigrants pay off for what they obtain) and socialists are not the only culprits when the welfare state you're complaining about takes its origin in conservative De Gaulle era and more than 2/3 of the national debt originates from years when right-wing governments were in power.

France needs to change its course, of course. Off the top of my head, I can cite two or three reforms that are badly needed: adopt the "flexicurity" Scandinavian system with flexible hiring/firing and great investment of the state in helping people finding job again, to reduce risks for employers and prevent people to fall in the shitty long-term unemployment; reform entirely the unfair and ineffective tax system to get rid of loopholes and reduce the tax rate and pay for welfare with progressive income tax instead of get money from poor worker's salary. These are centrists policies and despite all the shit thrown in political discourse right now, they have slightly better chance to be implemented by the current Socialist Party in power (which is very centrist in acts, albeit not in speech) than by what the main right wing party is currently heading to right now. But that's just my opinion.


This is the single most insightful comment in this thread.

That's close to what the Economist said on that issue - the socialists have the political power to make such reports.

These are centrist reforms - partly libertarian, partly social, but given the current status of France they are among the only possible solutions.

Regarding immigration, it's not a problem when it's selected immigration like some country do - say Canada. Immigration is a problem if you are welcoming workers with little education, who come from social or religious group who holds their beliefs are superior and better than anyone else's, and are more likely to develop hatred towards the host country and grow that hate when they are forced into a social net they have no hope of escaping - and that'll also be forced on their kids due to racism etc.

How good could it be for say Isreal to welcome immigration in open arms from say Iran ? I'm not talking of their nuclear scientists, remember- unselective immigration. IMHO, it wouldn't be good at all, which may be why they are not doing it :-)


Well, fortunately there is no country that is to France what Iran is to Israel. Or is it? :)

A good part of the economic immigration today is from Africa, and they are a bit more educated and far more hard-working than one could believe (being a doctor in some African places is really not easy and you earn more washing a rich white man's dirty clothes). The problem with immigration in France seems more to have with second and third generations: kids born in France but that are not integrated in the society. They seem completely lost and without future and a lot of them evolve badly to either crime or religious extremism. If I had to point fingers, I would give a shared responsibility between public policies that have done nothing to integrate them (with school in suburbs filled with inexperienced teachers for example), racial prejudice and a lack of culture from the uneducated parents that are unable to show a good path to their kids.

Selective immigration is not so easy. If they really want to, people will come, eventually. If you put hurdles in their path, you only make their integration more difficult. Speaking of the Canadian example, I am in Canada right now, and my wife being a recruiter for a call center, she hires a lot of smart immigrants who actually hold the equivalent of a Master or even a PhD. Their diploma was given in France or another European country, but it is not recognized in Canada (it is often the case for medical professions which are very locked up in Quebec). Now these doctors and researchers call people to sell them washing machines or baby diapers. That's a waste.

Update: speaking of my wife and immigration, she is Romanian and had a lot of trouble finding a job in France, due to all the restrictions that Romanian nationals still suffer when they want to access the job market, and also her uncommon education path (she hold business degree from Romania and psychology degree for German university, which is great anywhere except in France when the culture of education is favoring people coming from one of the few elitist schools). One of our main reason to move to Canada was our bet that it would be easier for her there, Canadian being more open to people like her. It proved right, and she got jobs very easily. That's a huge loss for France, because she is a very smart woman! :)


>Immigration is a problem if you are welcoming workers with little education, who come from social or religious group who holds their beliefs are superior and better than anyone else's, and are more likely to develop hatred towards the host country and grow that hate when they are forced into a social net they have no hope of escaping - and that'll also be forced on their kids due to racism etc.

Are you quoting Rush Limbaugh?

>How good could it be for say Isreal to welcome immigration in open arms from say Iran ?

This doesnt make sense, there were plenty of Iranian Jews who immigrated to Isreal. From what I understand, Isreal will take you if you are Jewish, they aren't very selective.


If Isreal will take you if you are Jewish, that seems selective. It doesn't seem to be than >50% of the Iranian population is Jewish.

Maybe it means they will welcome people less "likely to develop hatred towards the host country" because of their preexisting beliefs and religion?


I was just pointing put that your statement on Iran was obviously false.

I never understood why France had such a hard time with muslim immigrants when they seem to completely integrate in the states within one generation. I'm sure it has to do more with the differences between Americans and French then...the immigrants themselves.


Yeah, like there is no problem whatsoever in places as different as the Netherlands, and Australia.

But you're right it seems to be working fine in the US for muslims. Something certainly related to the american culture and how open it is.


I think Europeans are just not as open (read: non-racist) as they claim to be, while Americans are the opposite: they are not as closed as they appear to be, they just let all their anxiety out first and then just assimilate as normal.

Or let's put it this way: the French go out of their way to push a "French" culture on their immigrants; whereas "American" culture isn't really defined and is very organic, meaning, like gravity, we all tend to just converge.


> Don't forget that should you succeed you'd be regarded with jalousy and hatred.

While the rest of your article may have some exaggerations, that's true and that's what is shaping my decision. I can live with some insecurity, I can live with deadbeat companies trying to avoid paying their bills and laws preventing me from hiring - I'll just go solo and focus on foreign clients.

But if on top of that I'm hated and discriminated against (that's common when your name doesn't sound french) sorry but that's just too much.

BTW for the people who do not know France let me precise what the "military" mentioned by this poster is : there are squads or 3 to 5 soldiers, in full uniform with machine guns in their hand patrolling in some places. I don't know if it's supposed to make me feel safe or not. And you can be asked "your papers" by policemen for no reason that not looking exactly like what they expect. (I once took the train to work every day - when they did that for the 4th time straight, I just said I had forgotten them (I had!) and suggested they arrest me. they ducked out. That's just plain intimidation)

And BTW to those who say it's anecdotal evidence, just go live there! Try it for yourself. Vote with your feet. When it is in the media and your family is attacked and you see people being attacked too, all the while being hated for being successful maybe you'll sing a different tune.

I'm happy to be on the right side of the atlantic, in the FWI where making money is well regarded, people start business, and you generally feel safe. The population is quite diverse in the Caribbean, and - for now it's working just fine! There's not so much hate!

We certainly have unemployment and some stupid french laws to deal with, but with different tax brackets, and overall it's IHMHO not a bad choice.

PS: to those who downvote my original article, I tried to be factual and fully honest. You can hate the truth, but it remains the truth.


I've met the militairy police in Paris as well. I was obviously not French (way too tall for the average French guy, can't talk the language and not wearing French-looking clothes). Intimidating bunch. One even flipped open his holster holding his pistol before talking to me in front of the subway. Couldn't understand a word he said and he wasn't really willing to talk English. Let me go on my way again. I kept thinking 'what are you going to do with a machine gun in a crowded subway? Shoot everybody?'


The nerve on that police guy ... he wasn't willing to speak English ... like if he was in your beloved US of A everyone will be chatting around with him in French. Start learning a few foreign languages before snubbing around people for not speaking "your" language.


Funny. I talk Dutch, German, English, Frisian and a little -just a little- French. But if they talk really fast I can't understand.


I live there, just next to the train station that you describe as being in a war state, and while there are worrying incidents in the outskirts and suspicious neighbourhoods, center Paris is by far the safest city I've ever lived in, and the only one where my women friends feel safe enough to walk alone at 3am. If we're playing the anedoctal evidence game, the only place I was ever seriously threatened ("I will kill you", at gunpoint and with evil eyes) was in your beloved Caribbean, in the beautiful island of Saint Lucia.


Please enlighten me.

Were you living in the Caribbean, or just a tourist? What were you doing? By any chance, were you going to the friday night?

(St Lucia is right next to my island - been there too, there is some unsafety but nothing too worrying)

There is not so much hate- we have people from all shapes and colors, and all creeds too. But FYI, in some places, including in the FWI, you should know tourist are not very welcome. They look for the sun, booze, girls but also for trouble. They hold sightseeing tours on the most poverty stricken areas and are arrogant. Many of them see local as dummies from the 3rd world.

So we don't really like them - personally I don't. We are not a bordello or a zoo, but just normal places were people work and live.


I was in the docks, arriving by boat from another island. Like everyone in that boat, we were held up for many hours waiting to get our passport stamped and a bunch of young locals started harassing our girlfriends (we were 6). We were the last to leave the passport check because officers didn't know what to do with people from my country (apparently we were the first ones there, so the passports were held). When we got out, these guys were waiting for us in a pickup truck outside and I walked up to them to have a chat before things got out of control, and while we were still next to the customs office. It's an open world we're living in. I realize many tourists can be unpleasant and disrespectful, but hating tourists is just as stupid as hating immigrants. If you don't like their actions, put rules in place to avoid them.


I'm wondering where else you have lived, just to correctly frame your comment.


The FUD is strong in this post again. Please keep your political unargumented opinions for yourself.

> all the immigrants can't find job and suddenly they accelerate the fall of the GDP (due to all the wellfare-state benefits that have to be paid).

In 2009, of the 600 billion euros spent by the french government on welfare [1], 45% were allocated towards elder care, 35% towards general health care, 10% towards family welfare (which every family benefit from whatever their revenues are, and which has been praised by many nations as a major factor in France's high birth rates), and a whopping 6.1% towards unemployement aids. I'm pretty sure the numbers in 2012 aren't far from that.

So yeah, your bar counter theories on immigration and welfare being the cause of the economic crisis don't mean much when compared to real numbers.

EDIT: I'll add towards the international audience of HN that, it's true that few French don't realize how awesome health care is in France (which is one of the reasons why salaries are lower here for the middle class and above, the other reasons being education and retirement). You can go to a hospital for a severe treatment (including many treatments such as cancer which could bankrupt an individual) and get treated essentially for free. If you have a job, your health insurance usually takes care of the part (minus a tiny something) that isn't paid by Securité Sociale (the state departement that manages all health related spendings) and if you're too poor to afford a health insurance you get a universal, state-managed one which gives you most of the benefits anyway.

Where in another country, you'd have to pay thousands of euros of hospital bills for a severe condition, in France usually you'd end up paying only a couple hundred euros, perhaps less.

Of course this comes at a cost (and has drawbacks as well because people don't realize the true cost of healthcare), but that's the choice that's been made by the French society.

>Last year while on vacation in France my girlfriend was driving in a 8K convertible car (bought used for 8K). 8K. Hardly a "rich" person's car. Yet she could see the disdain and hate at trafic light from french people.

Yay for anecdotal evidence !

>Physical security is a real issue: it's really not reassuring to take the subway in Paris and exit at station "Chatelet" to see groups of heavy armed military trying to make sure the situation doesn't degenerate too quickly. [...] >The military are already in charge of subway stations and doing surveillance in front of important buildings (like Notre Dame). There are only going to be more and more of them. If the situation gets worse I expect the "couvre feu" to be put in place in big cities.

Please. The militaries are part of plan Vigipirate whose goal is to prevent terrorists attacks in risky public places. They are certainly not here for criminal violence (which, if you knew what you talk about, are the jurisdiction of the various police forces, including CRS and gendarmes).

The situation surely isn't ideal, but we're a very long way from curfews and martial law. What you're saying is pure bullshit.

>I don't mind giving Godwin the win

Yep, Godwin point. It truly shows how well argumented your message is.

[1] http://www.lepoint.fr/economie/les-prestations-sociales-ont-...


> few French don't realize how awesome health care is in France

And even fewer don't realize how good it can be in other countries too. Social security pays a percentage, the rest is up to you - you have a commercial insurance or a mutuelle. But some costs still are for your to pay.

I work in healthcare. There are countries where in fact you don't have to pay at all. They have delay issues (try Quebec!) but if you are arguing on just a cost basis that's better.

> we're a very long way from curfews and martial law

No, not very long. There are already riots every 3 to 4 years, large scale ones.

You have the left that's ignoring the economic situation, the right that's discredited and the far-right that's banking on the situation, saying things that may make sense to the common voter, but if they get in power won't be so good for the country (and for that I would accept a Godwin point)

We badly miss a libertarian party in France. There's no hope in sight. Between the socialist and the fascist, the poster has good reasons to be worried, even if there are some exaggerations. Just look at what happened to Chile, Spain etc.

If there was a way to make a profit on my bet, I'd bet on civil war in mainland france within 15 years - and edge my bet with a smaller one, curfew and martial law within 10 years.


> They have delay issues (try Quebec!)

Yeah .. 2 or 3 weeks to get a appointent with a doctor, 6 to 8h at the emergency service at the hospital. I prefer to be sick in France than in Quebec.

> There are already riots every 3 to 4 years, large scale ones.

Come on ! There was 2005[0], and 2007[1] but that's all. Both were due to a police blunder (or at least a supposed one). Only civil security handled it. There was no army involved.

Appart from these two ones, I don't recall any other "riot". And they are very localised (very poor suburbs).

> If there was a way to make a profit on my bet, I'd bet on civil war in mainland france within 15 years - and edge my bet with a smaller one, curfew and martial law within 10 years.

I hear that sentence since 20 years. It's a banality that is said by a lot of french right extremists and racists. They dream of a war to get rid of immigrants. It's sad and start to be boring.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_civil_unrest_in_France [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_civil_unrest_in_France


You seems biased.

I'm PRAYING that there will not be a war, and that immigrants will find a way to feel happy in the society, and that the french society will welcome them.

This will require a lot of changes on both sides- but for now, only hate is growing.

I'm just very sorry I don't see that happening. I'm making predictions, hoping I'll be proved wrong.


I'm not saying French health care is magical (comes at no cost) or perfect (could not be improved), I'm just saying that it's pretty damn good, and that for the majority of French people it turns out to be something they want to keep.

>No, not very long. There are already riots every 3 to 4 years, large scale ones.

It's all a question of perspective. We haven't seen anything like the LA riots, for example. And riot control has been for decades the jurisdiction of the police force and I sincerely doubt there would be the need for the army to intervene.

>If there was a way to make a profit on my bet, I'd bet on civil war in mainland france within 15 years - and edge my bet with a smaller one, curfew and martial law within 10 years.

I wouldn't be so sure.

>We badly miss a libertarian party in France. There's no hope in sight.

There's no hope in sight unfortunately because the whole political system is tightly controlled by politicians and closed to any new party. But I don't think that the grass is much greener anywhere else in the world.


Perhaps some of his post might not be completely true, but I expect much the same. Recently I read that unemployment in France has risen to 15%. More unemployment means more people have little money to spend. Because of less spending, there will be reduced export from Northern-Europe countries to Southern-Europe countries. As a result unemployment in Northern-Europe will rise as well.

If the situation stays like this for a while, social unrest will increase. The increased social unrest could create a very nasty situation in Europe.

I really hope I have a chance to emigrate from my country (The Netherlands) in the next 5 years or so, cause I don't expect the situation to improve, at least not without lots of violence involved.


Apparently we share the same analysis. No hate, just plain facts.

Europe seems up for a very nasty situation indeed. The nobel peace price for the EU was to remind Europe that in the past they had been at war every 40 years or so, but since 1980 they had stopped that bad habit (let's ignore the balkans)

Maybe Europe will see the light? I hope so, but I don't see that happening at the moment.


"The military are already in charge of subway stations and doing surveillance in front of important buildings (like Notre Dame). There are only going to be more and more of them. If the situation gets worse I expect the "couvre feu" to be put in place in big cities."

This is because of the war in Mali, and 'vigipirate' protective plan. Your rant could be interesting, but unfortunately, it plays facts instead of trying to understand them.


You left, great for you. But don't bother coming back to vote, leave that decision to people who live in France and are impacted by it. Sarkozy did nothing good for France and we don't need another president like him.


What are you thoughts, or maybe anyone else's on South America?

Argentina, Chile, or Brazil?


Honestly my 1st choice : Canada : close to the US, business friendly especially in provinces like AB.

Then in fact in my 2nd choice : South America.

Chile +++ but I've never been there. I considered spending some time to check for myself if for some reason I don't follow my 1st choice. I considered Uruguay too. Both seem like good place to start a business, at least just as good as Europe in my line of work. I'm just concerned about the "distance" to fly to North America and Europe (clients, family, etc) and the added costs. [I'm considering India too in this 2nd choices]

Brazil +, more violent crime than in France, but more opportunities.

Argentina : unknown. Seems to go down in flames, just like France (sorry for any argentinian, I'm just casting an opinion based on gut feeling without much proofs)


Argentina: it's going down in flames at an alarming pace, but has been doing so for the past decade. Every ten years there is an Earth shattering crisis in the country, and there has been a 25-30% inflation for the past 4 years, likely to grow. There is a pararel market for US dollars, as it is controlled and it's almost impossible to buy legally (unless you are travelling overseas, 60 USD per day with a top of 1000 USD per trip, 2 trip max per year).

If you have international clients, you'll get ARS at the official rate (5 ARS == 1 USD) but will have to pay international providers with the parallel rate (8 ARS == 1 USD). That alone, coupled with rising insecurity, blocked imports and unpredictable government, makes starting a company there a very unsound decision.

The good things about it is that you have relatively cheap workforce (30000 USD will pay a good engineer), there are many good engineers, it's in roughly the same timezone as the US (GMT-3) and culturally is much more similar to the US than, for example, India.

Having said all of the above, I've moved to the Netherlands, and couldn't be happier so far. I've been in Silicon Valley for about 3 months total, and Amsterdam is as safe as Mountain View is, but without the heavy police presence and you can actually walk anywhere (the city feels like a town in that regard). The only downside is that I'm earning about half what I'd be earning in the USA.

I've been to Paris, and although it didn't seem unsafe, the military in the streets did freak me out.


I'm hoping to plan my next holiday to Chile so I get a better feel for the country. With that said, here are my observations so far...

I suspect Chile might be an pretty good country to live in. From the Wikipedia page it's stated that perceived corruption is low. The country has a major focus on IT (start-up Chile) and has a nice Mediterranean climate around Santiago. Spanish should also be an easy language to learn, I try to follow the free DuoLingo courses. It's also a major wine country :) I really like the ValdiVieso wines from Chile.


I have been there, done that. In my experience, the problems do not end after the business creation. If you are like I was, an unemployed guy trying to start its own business with a few equally unemployed associates, you applied for the ACCRE subvention which was, at that time (2005) the worst piece of bureaucratic form I ever experienced. Then you get a load of accounting obligations. The "siege social" was at my own address and I had to move after a while, which produced another round of bureaucracy hoopla to change the business address. It took some time and the post office was refusing to give me my mail as long as I couldn't give a Kbis with the new address. I haven't had the chance to have employees before the business collapsed, but what I've read about what to do when you hire people and the risk you take was very untempting.

Now the things has apparently been better, and a new very simplified status has been created for one-person businesses (the "auto-entrepreneur"). It is my status right now and it is quite fine. But if I start earning too much money (more than 30K euros a year) I'm forced to change my status and go trough all this again.


Can anyone explain European rubber stamp-fetishism? Has there ever been a study done showing that rubber stamping practically everything (20 euro purchase at an electronics store) is effective in preventing forging of documents? To an outsider visiting continental Europe the practice looks redundant and almost comical.


I think it's a mix of several things:

- A bloated public sector that is protective of it's jobs and represents a large percentage of the electorate (also very motivated to go on a massive strike if you even think about reducing the complexity of the system)

- An aversion towards real capitalism. Europe is still pretty much a class system. It's ok to want to have a better education and job than your parents, but wanting to do something more spectacular is almost equated with "being up to no good"

- You cannot be fired from a public sector job, so you have absolutely no incentive to care (some people still do, but they're not the norm)


It's just a way of identifying that a document is 'officially' from the company.

Ideally you just lock up the stamp in a drawer. You can probably forge it just as easily as others, but at least with the stamp multiple people can "sign" for the company. In my experience it was more useful than anything.

also: it's not euro-only. Go to Japan for a laugh if you want.


China also.

And then there is also the fapiao (stamped receipt).


Getting the stamp on the 20 euro electronics purchase is in the customer's best interest as it is a proof that he purchased the item there and so can get warranty service from the seller (I don't know if "warranty" is the correct term here, in German we have two words for two concepts that wikipedia both links to the English "warranty" and that most people confuse anyway: "Garantie" (cognate to "warranty") which is a voluntary service offered by the producer, and "Gewährleistung", which is a legally mandated service by the seller. The stamp documents your right to get "Gewährleistung" from the seller who puts his stamp on your receipt, and usually the producer's "Garantie" requires that stamp, too).


It is more difficult to forge a stamped receipt, true. As to whether it proves that you purchased the item is debatable because both a receipt and a stamped receipt can be easily forged. The question is: is it necessary? Tally up all the man-hours a country spends stamping receipts. Could that time be put to better use? North America seems to function fine without them. Perhaps we've come to realize them as redundant - or are we too gullible to not demand rubber stamped receipts in the first place?


Dealing with banks in France is a humiliating experience even if you're not a company. They have way too much unchecked power and, ultimately, treat you like a criminal. For example, if you do an international bank transfer, you might get a phone call to explain it. If they don't like the explanation, they will freeze your account. They even freeze accounts if you get an unusual bonus from your employer and they find it odd for some reason.

French people seem to find it all normal because they grew up in this system, but people that come from abroad quickly learn to be terrified of French banks.


that's funny because I've had the opposite experience with my bank (Societe Generale). I've been able to call them up for most anything and they've been super reactive. Maybe it's all the fees I pay


> the Internet interface will only let you do small amounts, and only to pre-entered recipients. Who enters those recipients? You guessed it – your conseiller!

I do not think this is true. With my French bank account, I can add recipients for online recipients without interacting with my conseiller. I do need a confirmation code sent through SMS to confirm additions (a poor man's two-factor authentication) but that's it.


Wow! I read through this entire article and the thing that struck home is even how painful this process sounds vs my experience incorporating businesses in my home State in the United States. Even banking wasn't as big of a problem due to the level of competition among banks and that the local smaller banks still even offer free basic checking to business accounts.


Out of curiosity, how hard is it to get a visa to start a startup in France as a US citizen? I've toyed with the idea of starting something in Paris.

There appears to be ample opportunity even if all you want to do is create a French version of some other successful product.


Thanks for the article. And thanks God, nowadays we can open business in nearly any country, just be sure to have some coins for air ticket..


Starting your business in France? Step 1, register it in the UK...


not entirely true : if you are a french resident Dual Taxes Treaty apply ... If you work from France or do business with French companies you'll end up paying some taxes to France.

if anyone got more details on this topic I'm interested, please pm.


Great article, but doesn't cover the mother of all French bureaucratic challenges - employment law!




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