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I know exactly what you are coming up to afew.
I am a French student at Imperial College London in South Kensington, graduating in June of this year.
My education prior to University had all been done in France, and if it were not for family pressure, I would have never accepted to come to study in London/U.K!
Almost 4 years later, I realise how big an opportunity I  was given and how foolish it would have been for me not to seize it back then. I have become very used to this city, not to the point of overshadowing Paris nonetheless, it's just so much more dynamic than our French capital. I feel like staying here for another 10-20 years (yeah that's a big range!), before returning to Paris for a hopefully more peaceful life.
This country also has many problems but it feels like British politicians resolve to tackle them with a more practical approach, while most of their French counterparts are still undecided. It is a pity that the practical approach leads to further inequalities though, enabling the rich to increase his earnings (he has to work hard for it though!), while constraining the needy to fight for every penny earned.
by Eddie on Sun Jan 27th, 2008 at 08:19:57 AM EST
Hello Eddie and welcome!

First of all, as I think you'll have seen, my motive in writing this piece was annoyance at a certain media portrayal of London as an escape hatch from an unlivable socialistic France. In my opinion, this narrative, echoed repeatedly in the media English- and French-language) for practically a decade now, has permeated conventional wisdom to a considerable degree.

But note I did not deny London's "dynamism". I said it was the powerhouse of British economic growth (too much so, imo, for the good of the entire country). I also know from experience that it's an exciting and fascinating place to live (I don't live in a city, but if I did London would be high on my wish list). I'm absolutely certain that the opportunity to study in London, and at one of its best colleges, is a fantastic one. What's more, I agree entirely with Colman's comment above, where he says that people (young people in particular) moving around from country to country is a desired outcome of the EU.

Where I'm likely to differ from you is in the "practical approach" of UK politicians. It's always been the case, I think, that there's a more "practical" feel to British political discourse than French. The Brits get down to brass tacks while the French make speeches, to draw a caricature of it. But that's on the surface. When it comes to what's behind the style, what we have in Britain is a laissez-faire, economic-liberal policy that owes more to ideology than pragmatism. Its practical consequences are, as you say, more wealth for the rich (work hard or not work hard, it's enough to own assets), more difficulty for the lower end of the income distribution. And, in particular, with such a focus on London and South-East England that entire regions, especially former industrial regions, are abandoned. The price of an entrance ticket to London is so high that essential infrastructure workers like teachers, nurses, police and firemen, can't buy housing. Meanwhile, health and social services are responding with less and less efficiency to the needs of the poorer half of the population.

This is due, not to "hands-on", practical governance, but to free-market ideology often blindly applied. London, meanwhile, is the centre of where it's at. It's the place that makes the most out of the system. No doubt it feels lively and offers opportunity. Though it may be, that in its reliance on financial services and bubbly asset prices, it will have little to fall back on as these weaken. Fuddy-duddy other places may look quite good in times to come... :-)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Jan 27th, 2008 at 09:46:34 AM EST
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