"Moving to Paris for my banking job killed my marriage"
When Simon Reid (not his real name) was asked to move from London to Paris with the US bank he worked for in 2020, he didn't want to go. He was happy in London with his wife and children, but the bank insisted. Reid had no choice but to oblige. He migrated with his wife and his family, and over the following 24 months his marriage collapsed. He's now back in London, divorced.
"It killed my marriage," says Reid, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They put a gun to my head, we all moved over there, and it was a nightmare for my personal life."
Reid says the move to Paris put his marriage under intolerable strain. "It was massively challenging. I was working 14 hours a day and my wife - who didn't speak French - was left at home trying to sort out everything else; the telephone line, the doctor's appointments and the children's schooling and friendships. She had no support group; the kids had left their friends. For them, the environment had changed massively."
He's not the only Parisian banking émigré to experience problems. One MD was compelled to move back to the UK after his children developed mental health issues. Other marriages have suffered after often male bankers moved to Paris while wives and children stayed in London.
"Going to Paris when you're single and in your 20s is an adventure, but when you're in your 30s and 40s, and you have a family that doesn't speak French, it's a nightmare," says Reid. "People speak English in banks, but outside banks no one wants to speak English to you."
Forced moves to Paris are less frequent now, but they may not be over. The European Central Bank (ECB) said this week that it's finalized the size of the desks it requires in banks' European hubs and has communicated the numbers to the banks concerned. While some banks already have sufficient employees in Paris and Frankfurt, others do not.
Rather than "bullying" people into moving out of London and into Paris, Reid says big banks are increasingly trying to hire French natives. "Senior management at the bank I worked for is now French and if you're an experienced French trader at a US bank you will be headhunted by all the rest," he says. This is a problem in itself - an English MD at another US bank said filling roles in the French capital is hard.
French traders who move to Paris from London are far more enamoured of the experience. "People love it here," says one. "It's a real town with a better lifestyle and lower taxes for expats."
Another trader, who moved from London to Paris with a US bank and who has remained there, says the French traders have now taken control at his bank and that most of the expats have gone back to London.
He says the real problem for English expats in the French capital is marital infidelity. "Having an affair is embedded in French culture and is a sign of status," he says. "Everyone is cheating in Paris, especially if their wives and children are still in the UK."
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