Look no further than Europe's work culture, they say. France especially has gained ill fame in the business world for its 35-hour workweeks. Yet the reality often is quite different. Both Geoffroy and Richard work long hours, as do most of their friends. Holidays and weekends are often spent in the office or working at home. Of the web of laws and rules designed to send them home to supper at 6, they laugh. "Yesterday, I worked till midnight," Geoffroy says, "and I am not in jail."

Young Europeans will simply no longer put up with the limits of the past, Geoffroy adds. The change is evident in almost every conversation these days. No longer is it considered a faux pas to discuss the details of your professional life. Indeed, many younger Europeans now talk openly of their careers, and even of their salaries, in ways that would make their parents blush. "Saying you want to be rich is no longer taboo," Geoffroy says.

The meal is ending, and we gaze across the table soberly. Unlike traditional business lunch-goers in France, neither Geoffroy nor Richard has bothered to order wine. Both drank water, and now both swill coffee. Is this a sign of things to come, I ask? It may seem quite reasonable now to give up wine and to work a few holidays. But will it lead inexorably to 80-hour workweeks, with free time devoted to the study of Monster Truck culture for clues to American-style success?

"No," says Geoffroy, with a smile. "It need not be so bad. We in Europe can civilize entrepreneurship. I hope."

business barriers
some fall, some remain

across europe, governments are eager to make life easier for small businesses. a sampling of their programs follows, as do economic areas where improvements are still needed.

austria bigger loan guarantees for small businesses. a new online database for small businesses and entre-preneurs. decriminalization of insolvency. but more venture capital is needed.