If Vogue is talking about it, it’s definitely a trend. In its August issue, the magazine is picking up on the growing size of the French community in London and its possible growth following François Hollande’s election.
This type of article comes back cyclically, supported by a combination of anti-European feeling, fascination for French ways and any French news affecting Britain in some way (unless you’re the Daily Mail, in which case the threat of a French invasion always sells).
As writer Kathleen Baird-Murray points out, the strength of the London French community is nothing knew. On my second day in London as a scared, 17 year-old coming to a big city and a big school, I was immediately told by the French lycée headmaster that South Kensington was dubbed “the frog valley” because of the number of French citizens living there.
Hollande’s elections and his threat of higher taxes, is the first reason Baird-Murray gives for the number of French people living in the UK, followed by professional relocation (diplomats, French companies executives), appreciating London’s “more tolerant environment”, the British attitude to success and failure and the entrepreneurial opportunities.
Baird-Murray doesn’t mention the most recent advantage: with the current exchange rate, if you’re paid in pounds, your euros go further. With the Eurostar, and direct flights to most big French cities available at decent prices, the French go back often to stock up on food, pharmaceuticals and clothes, especially during the sales periods. Why wouldn’t they? A £160 Maje skirt costs £125 in Paris, a £69.50 Petit Bateau jumper £55. Even with bank charges, you win.