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PROFILE: Thriving in Paris

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Thomas Siakam CA(SA)  is a senior consultant at a boutique advisory firm in Paris specialising in banking with a focus on risk and IFRS implementation

Thomas Siakam had the opportunity to move to Paris a few months ago and he jumped at the opportunity. He is thoroughly enjoying the experience and on weekends you’ll find him exploring the City of Light with his friends, enjoying walks in the parks, and trying out new restaurants.

He greatly appreciates the efficient public transport system that makes touring of all parts of cities possible any time of the day. Paris is centrally situated in Europe, which makes it simple to travel to neighbouring countries – and this is exactly what Thomas does, whenever possible.

What do you love most about Paris?

Paris is cosmopolitan with a very diverse population and is the perfect location to travel across Europe.

How long have you been living there?

Eight months.

What is your current job title and name of the company?

Manager in the prudential regulatory team of risk advisory at Deloitte.

How has your CA(SA) qualification benefited your career?

It has opened a lot of doors internationally. The CA(SA) qualification is well known, mostly in the English-speaking countries. I was fortunate to work in some of those countries and my experience attracted my current employer in France.

How has international experience enriched your life and career?

It has allowed me to learn how to adapt quickly to a new environment. Having to work on very complex subjects has also allowed me to improve my technical skills.

Describe yourself as a person?

I am an analytical person who loves new challenges (I get bored quickly so I need stimulation).

I strive for excellence wherever I go, therefore I’m not scared of working hard and pushing myself to the limit.

An interesting lesson you have learned living in Paris?

I have learned to be patient. The administrative process is so cumbersome it requires a lot of patience …

Some of the challenges you have encountered in Paris?

The biggest challenge has been to work in French. Although I speak French fluently, it’s a different story when you are discussing technical accounting and finance topics.

Is there a community of South Africans in Paris?

The South African community is very small and it is actually pretty difficult to find them. Most of the South Africans that I know live in London and come here mostly for weekend getaways.

What do people do in Paris to relax and enjoy their free time?

There are so many things to do here. Because it is such a cultural city, people spend their time visiting museums, discovering French gastronomy (there are thousands of restaurants), or just enjoying outdoor activities like jogging or cycling.

What is the quality of living like in Paris?

Overall I would say great. The city is quite safe and the public services are exceptionally efficient, particularly the transport and public hospital system.

What do you miss most about South Africa?

The weather, the affordable lifestyle that a CA(SA) designation could bring, the sense of ubuntu and the steaks!

Cost of living?

A one-bedroom flat would cost at least €1 000 a month (all charges included), and somewhat less if you stay a bit further from the city centre.

Paris has one of the best public transportation systems in the world and not many Parisians own cars, so gasoline shouldn’t be a real cost to consider. Because of the low interest rates, it is pretty easy to get a house loan. Prices differ significantly from one suburb to the next. A two-bedroom house would cost you in the region of €350 000 in the cheapest suburb of Paris, and this can go up to €800 000 in the best suburb. Cars are not expensive. You can get a brand new car for €15 000, but to maintain them is pretty expensive, as is parking.

What does a South African earn in France and how does the income tax system work?

A recently qualified CA will be earning €50 000 to €70 000. Taxes are particularly heavy (around 40% of your income) but you quickly understand why (you can get up to 75% of your last salary if you lose your job, and this is for up to two years).

Based on these factors, can a South African come to France to save money or is it difficult because of the cost of living?

A South African can definitely save, depending on the type of life he or she prefers. Of course, a fancy flat close to the city centre will just be a financial burden.