Tuesday, September 03, 2013

France has the Nicest People in Europe

After recently returning from a trip to Paris and telling my friends and acquaintances about what a great vacation it was, I kept getting asked over and over again by many different people, "Weren't the French people rude?" It seemed like a strange comment but it was a carryover from an old stereotype, which seems to persist.

Let me set the record straight. French people could not have been nicer, friendlier, or more helpful. From the immigration official who said "Welcome to France," to the taxi drivers, to the hotel staff, to the restaurant waiters, to the tour guides, they were all polite and courteous. Even the woman con artist was friendly. Maybe it was a matter of luck, but I don't think so.

Everyone in the hotel was fantastic, at the Hotel Saint Honore. (The hotel advertises itself as a 3 star hotel but it seems more like a 4 star plus.) I can speak some French, and when I talked to the hotel staff in French, and reached my limit, they would immediately switch to English for me without a pause. I believe the French really support tourism and appreciate the tourist dollars.

It is interesting to note that France, which has Europe's second largest economy, has finally come out of its recession. France's exports increased by 2 percent during the latest quarter, and the country's quarterly GDP went up by 0.5 percent.

During the last couple years, French stocks have underperformed the S&P 500, with the market up over 35% but the iShares MSCI France Index (EWQ) was up only about 12%. Yet French stocks are catching up. In the last month, the France ETF outperformed the S&P.

If you want to invest in French companies more directly, there are a few stocks that pay decent dividends, such as Total SA (TOT), the oil and gas company which yields 4.8%. There is also Veolia Environnement (VE), which provides environmental management services and has a payout of 5%, and the healthcare company Sanofi (SNY) which yield 2.7%.

A bunch of other French stocks can be found on the free list at WallStreetNewsNetwork.com.

Disclosure: I didn't own any of the above stocks at the time the article was written.

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