Today it’s my first day as official US immigrant, I entered customs through the new immigrant line as a future Green Card holder. I have been living in the US for 4.5 years under an investor visa and the main reason why we asked for a Green Card was getting the kids into College and allowing my 16 years old to keep his ranking as one of the top junior fencers in the US (he needs a Green Card # to keep fencing the nationals).
It’s not been easy, it’s been about 1.5 years that we have been waiting for that interview, prepared a full application and asking many friends their written recommendations to help my case (thanks, it helped). Oh and I think we paid $15k in immigration lawyering fees, too. Anyway, today we finally entered as immigrants and within two months we should receive the infamous Green Card.
It doesn’t change that much frankly, except that in 5 years we can ask for a full US passport if we want to, like many friends of ours elected to, and become full americans. The good news is there is a number of Countries where dual citizenship is allowed so I would be able to keep my French and my American passports simultaneously. I wonder if I will ask a US passport, I am not sure. After 10 years in the US maybe I will feel like becoming a full American citizen, I guess voting is the main difference. Tax wise it doesn’t change that much as I have already been a US tax payer for nearly 5 years. Oh, yes, there is this worldwide taxation regardless of where you live worldwide and for life, but frankly if we have been in the US for 10 years+, I doubt we will come back anytime soon and who cares about tax as long as you live well, contributing is okay, I’m also getting a lot from living here. In terms of tax, California is pretty similar to France.
Living in Silicon Valley has been extraordinary for my wife Geraldine and myself, but even more we feel for our Children. Not that we were not happy in Paris, but I have to admit that I have never seen that much concentration of talent, smart people and most importantly ambitious people anywhere. It’s the heart of technology worldwide and it’s not going to change anytime soon. We love it. We have so many friends here now.
As I have been a few weeks in Paris, a few details and “cliches” stroke my mind and reminded me how different the US is to France, much more different than I expected when I moved 5 years ago:
-Crossing the street.
In Paris you should be scared to cross the street as cars accelerate if they see you’re going to cross. In San Francisco cars watch you from the sideways and stop even before you started crossing the street
-Asking for the bill.
In Paris you wait forever for the bill and it’s impolite to bring it to you if you haven’t asked for it. In San Francisco they bring you the bill even before you finish your desert, it’s considered good service so you don’t have to wait. After 5 years I’m always surprised when they do this to me.
-People generally feel more relaxed and happy in San Francisco compared to constant stress in Paris. Each time I go back to Paris I feel everybody is complaining around me and feel unhappy about anything. It’s very parisian to just complain about anything.
-In San Francisco good service in a restaurant is when the waiter is very kind and helpful. In Paris if you get good service (read: they’re really nice with you) it’s a tourist place. If it’s a parisian place waiters are arrogant, generally make you wait and feel like you should be thankful to even be in that restaurant, that’s how it (generally) is… Get a table at the Costes and tell me how you feel when you arrive.
Of course I’m focusing on the obvious here, and I think France and the French have very unique qualities that I miss. I like coming back to Paris, but I have to admit that I like coming back more and more as a “foreigner” or at least that’s how it feels to me. I have just spent for the first time in my life a full week in Paris as a tourist with my family, showing the Louvre and Versailles to my kids, we all loved it. We enjoyed incredible food and great places we don’t have in the US and of course stayed many times with friends we don’t get to see that much anymore.
I have lived in Paris for 15 years and now 5 years in San Francisco, both cities and cultures are for sure very different. For me it comes down to living in the center of the World of my passion: technology. Paris is one of the centers of Fashion and food, for example, and has great startups, but it can’t compete with San Fran if you look at the startup scene, it probably doesn’t have to.
I enjoy very much organizing LeWeb in France every year and that’s here to stay, it’s been 8 years already, but I probably feel more home in San Francisco now than in Paris. I love the energy, the ambition, the “no-one complains ever” culture. Everything is about entrepreneurship and technology. It’s also very often about improving the World we live in, look at Apple, Facebook or Google as well as so many startups I love such as Flipboard, Uber, Path, Evernote… to name a few. They are changing the World. It feels good to live in their neighborhood.
Who knows, it might change, but for now my plan is to settle here more and more while keeping organizing LeWeb in Paris every year in december, which keeps me somehow in the middle of the Atlantic and contributing remotely to the european startup scene, at least once a year. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Paris, the Parisians and the French, I’m just focusing on technology!