Paris To Panama…What Gives?
“You have reminders of Paris all around,” our friend born and raised in that city remarked over dinner at our house in Panama City last night. “I noticed the books and paintings in your office today,” Vincent continued, “and I see more books about Paris on the bookshelves here in your living room, too.
“You seem very attached to that city,” he concluded.
“Yes, we all really appreciated our time living in Paris,” I replied, “and we look forward to every chance to return.”
“But what do you like about the place so much?” our French friend wanted to know, trying, unsuccessfully, to hide his dismay.
Vincent and his wife took their five children and moved from Paris to Brussels a few years ago. A big part of their decision probably had to do with cost of living, which, indeed, could not be described as budget-friendly in Paris, certainly not for a family of seven.
Vincent and his wife had other reasons for leaving Paris, though, beyond the cost of living there. Like most French, they’re very engaged in local political doings, and, like many French, they’re increasingly unhappy with not only political, but also economic and social developments in their home town, as they perceive them.
“Paris is not the city it was 30 years ago,” Vincent explained last night. “When we were growing up in Paris, it was common for our parents, for all parents, to allow their children to come and go on their own on the Metro, for example. Today if you allow your 8- or 10-year-old child to travel around the city on the Metro on his own, he likely will be picked up by the police. They’ll show up at your door with him to ask what is the matter with you. How could you be so foolish and careless as to allow your child to wander alone on the streets of Paris? Everyone would agree that would be unsafe.
“There are signs of unrest everywhere–graffiti on the walls, cars being burned, constant protests…”
“Yes, yes, we understand that all of those things are true,” I replied. “But that is not our experience of Paris. For us, Paris is the parks and the gardens, the chateaux and the museums, the architecture and the art, the food and the wine. No city in the world compares in those regards, and these are the things we appreciate.”
“Well, yes, of course, Paris is those things, as well. But it is a miserable place to try to be in business. The entrepreneur does not stand a chance in this city.”
“Ah, well, on that score, certainly, we agree,” I said. “That’s why Lief and I moved from Paris when we did…because we wanted to start our new business. We’d had enough experience by that time trying to run a different business in France to know that there were far better choices for the would-be entrepreneur.”
Including and especially Panama, where the government is seriously pro-investment and it is possible, even as an American, to live and operate a business tax-free. That’s why, for us, four years ago, when we looked at the world map considering options for where to base our next venture, Panama stood out.
In the years since we made the move from Paris to Panama City, though, many have questioned that decision. “Come on,” some have said. “From Paris to Panama City? What gives?”
Vincent is the first to wonder in the reverse…to question why we ever wanted to live in the City of Light in the first place.
Perspective. We’ve each got our own.