Depression: What I Saw in Paris Blew My Mind

DepressionIt started with the taxi driver. On the way to our hotel in Paris from Charles de Gaulle airport, he said, “Tourism never recovered after America blew up in 2008.” He was talking about the credit crisis and housing bust we went through in 2008 and 2009 in America, along with the ripple effects that made their way to Europe.

The taxi driver told only half the story. He was right about American tourists pulling back on travel to Paris (suspicious in that the U.S. dollar can go so much further in euro-denominated France). Indeed, I saw very few Americans on this particular trip to Paris.

But on the other side of the equation, the group most responsible for strong tourism in Paris now are the Asians. Specifically, Chinese and Japanese tourists are all over the place.

What blew my mind on this trip to Paris was the amount of poor people (and beggars) versus the money the Asians throw around in the city of romance. Have the Asians taken over Paris? What happened to the locals? Have they only gotten poorer?

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Take a good look at this picture. It’s a picture I took of a lineup outside a Louis Vuitton store in Paris. (Yes, people line up to get into this store starting in the morning. The lineup lasts all day. And these line-ups are typical for all high-end stores in Paris.) When you look closely at the picture, you will see there are no Caucasian people in the lineup, only Asians.

Louis Vuitton store

So if Caucasians aren’t lining up to get into the high-end stores (most likely because they can’t afford the goods), where are they? The next picture answers that question.

The number of beggars in Paris, from what I saw, has increased substantially. While Asians line up at high-end luxury stores, only several yards away from the stores, it’s common to find beggars doing what they do best—begging for money. All the beggars I saw were Caucasian.

begging for money

While this might be a generalization, and I’m sure I’ll get lots of negative feedback on this comment, it looked to me as if the Asians were lining up to buy ultra-luxury goods and the Caucasian locals were outside the stores begging for money from those Asian shoppers.

France has the world’s sixth-largest economy as measured by nominal gross domestic product (GDP). And like most eurozone countries, France’s economy is not growing. In the first quarter of 2015, France’s GDP growth was seven-tenths of one percent. In the second quarter, it was zero.

While Greece, Spain, and Italy might be in what I consider an economic depression based on the sky-high rate of unemployment, I don’t see countries like France far behind. If the economic situation in China continues to weaken, countries like France that have become so dependent on Asian tourism will be in real trouble. All that talk about the economy having turned the corner in the eurozone—I don’t buy it.