More French people live in London than in Bordeaux, Nantes or Strasbourg, so much so that it is now thought to be France’s sixth biggest city in terms of population.
More than 400,000 French live there and the number keeps growing.
Many are young French citizens of African descent who are settling in London’s East End.
What is drawing them is a less bureaucratic and rigid system that is giving them the economic opportunity they couldn’t find back home in France.
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Marco Wermen: I’m Marco Wermen, this is The World. So, a Frenchman walks into a bar in London, and this isn’t a joke, lots of Frenchmen walk into lots of bars in London. That’s because there’s lots of French living in London. The French consulate there puts the number between 300,000 and 400,000. That’s more than the population of Bordeaux, Nous, or Strasbourg, which, strangely, makes London the sixth largest French city. There’s always been French people living in London, but today’s group has some defining characteristics., many are there to stay. Hamid Siny is a business consultant based in London.
Hamid Siny: Ten years ago, we were all young French kids thinking, “Yeah, we’re learning English, getting a little bit of work experience, maybe we go back to France.” And now I see people married with kids, and settling here, buying houses, and that’s it, we are emigrate. England is home.
Wermen: Siny has observed his fellow French in London for more than ten years, and he says they’ve changed, they’re much less boastful, and less snotty.
Siny: I remember we were speaking English in the workplace, we had to, and then outside we would speak French, like, oh, we are French, we’re different, we’re more sophisticated because we’re French. I don’t see those people shouting anymore, I don’t see those people showing off their French-ness.
Wermen: Siny, like many French in London, is the son of North African immigrants. He said he had all the degrees and training he needed, but still couldn’t get a job in France, so he left. He’s found London to be a much more level playing field, others have too. Malika Favre is an illustrator who came to London seven years ago.
Malika Favre: In France, if you don’t have the expense per se, or the diploma, then there’s no way you’re going to get the job, because you know, it’s less legal. Over here, people would be much more likely to give you your chance.
Wermen: She says London is much less bureaucratic and there is a ‘can do’ attitude that just doesn’t exist in France.
Favre: The seem people are much more optimistic about ‘we can do’ things. If you want to do something, you can do it. When I was in Paris, when you want to do something, like a new venture or anything, you always think of what’s going to go wrong.
Wermen: Sounds familiar, it’s kind of like the American Dream. If it were set in London, and if you’ve got a French accent,
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