Translation: Commute, Work, Sleep – which neatly sums up my life right now. I’ve been on my new job for a month and a half, and I’m hoping these evenings of Zombie-like energy levels are a temporary thing. While I feel OK at work, once I’m home it’s like my brain shuts down so it can process my vastly reconfigured workscape. Or maybe it’s the constant buzz of vuvuzelas in our living room.
Random list of things I find weird about being a French employee:
- The older you are, the more vacation you earn. No, I’m not talking about seniority – that is a factor too, but age is just as important. In other words, during my first five years I will get another 2 vacation days per year, while a 30 year-old would only get one. A 40-something would earn three. No wonder people never change jobs here.
- Regularly being kissed by strangers. Ok, they’re my coworkers, but usually I don’t know their names and often my office-mates can’t even remember them either. But French office etiquette dictates that you greet everyone in a room when you enter, and greeting a female coworker means giving la bise.
- The first thing you do in the morning is go for a coffee. The first you do after your 1.5 hour multi-course lunch is go for a coffee.
- When you go for coffee, you don’t walk back to your desk and sip while you work. You go with coworkers, sort of like a twice-daily coffee date, and hang out by the coffee machine to chat.
- Internet access is restricted. My office-mates reassure me this is NOT a French thing, it’s just my company. I forgot to log out of Gmail on my first day and so wasn’t allowed to login to anywhere on the Googlesphere for another week and a half. YouTube is always restricted. So while it does makes you an efficient worker (when not drinking coffee or eating lunch) it also means you never get to laugh over some wacky TGIF video. I am told that less than five years ago, EVERYTHING was restricted and you had to get signed permission to access work-related sites.
- Software developers dress like normal (French) people.
- There is an employee union, with elected representatives, who spend about 2-3 days a *week* on union work. The union sends out newsletters with headlines like “Company pays dividends to share-holders instead of sharing profits with employees!”
- Meeting people face-to-face is huge. While my company is, er, rather frugal (for example if your office has a window, you don’t get air con) there was nonetheless budget for me to to go to Annecy (near the French Alps) simply to meet the people I’d be working with. My boss apologized for being too busy to come along to introduce me herself. There is even budget for the US-based writers to come to the Paris office several times a year, just to have some face-time. Tech writers? Travel budget? What kind of parallel universe am I in?!
- Meetings NEVER start on time. EVER. Not even when it’s an all-Anglo meeting.
- It’s not a myth: French people really do NOT snack. They will even refuse home-made brownies.