Letter from Paris: Something a bit better than capitalism

Vincent Rousselet

The French are currently gripped by pessimism, but they could learn much from the nation's most successful global brands.

My grandmother was born exactly a century ago, in 1912. Sadly, she died in 2010. If she were still alive today – a Parisian who had relied on buses and the Metro for most of her life – she would have been be in for a shock: since 1 September, Parisian public transport is no longer free for pensioners or disabled people.

Family legend has it that she was one of the first women in the country to pass her driving test in the 1930s, but getting around in a car would not have helped either. Parking in Paris was traditionally free in August, but it is no more.

More signs of austerity have surfaced throughout the summer. The French minister for tourism reported that only 46% of French people can afford to go on holiday – even in France – and the figure is dropping by 3% annually.