mardi 15 avril 2008

Le boulot

I've been at my new job since the beginning of March, so that's nearly a month and a half already.  Now given the stories about people who get sacked for blogging about their job, I'm not going to put any revealing information about the company or my colleagues, but, being the only non-native francophone in the office, there's a few interesting cultural observations I can make:

First of all, following on my earlier blog post about the protesters in front of the building: they're still at it. Yes, they've been going at it for a month and a half...non-stop, more or less. They aren't there every single day, but most days they're there. Sometimes it's a huge crowd making lots of noise and hanging around for many hours (they suddenly show up in a huge band, I've even seen the riot squad following them) sometimes it's just a modest little group that barely can get a chant together for an hour or two. Anyway, they obviously haven't got what they want, but one must admire their stamina.

Second: I get so many paid holidays it's sick. I'm not going to say how many because if I did, you'd hate me.

Third: I had heard that offices weren't "sociable" here in the way that they are in the U.S. It's true that my colleagues don't really do happy hours or socialize much with each other outside of work, but we do all go have lunch together (not the whole company, but at least my department does, occasionally with some of the people from other departments). We usually go to the little cafe across the street where we have a proper sit-down meal. We nearly always have the special of the day, which will typically be something like a quarter chicken with green beans and rice. My French is, naturally, improving dramatically. The "boys" (yes, we're mostly male in my department) like to talk about the usual things guys talk about over lunch: sports, girls and off-color jokes. It's still a bit of a challenge to follow it all, and I still tend to tune out for most of it, but I'm now managing the occasional bit of non-faked laughter.  We also tend to meet and have a little chat in the office kitchen for our morning and afternoon coffee breaks, but asides from that, people don't really chat by the water coolers or hang out in each other's offices. There's not a lot of long meetings, either (which is a relief). The rest of the day, people are pretty much sitting at their desks and working (or maybe playing Tetris for all I know, but they're definitely not chit-chatting).

Fourth: Every morning when people get to work, they go around the whole office and greet everybody. I'm not just talking about waving and saying "bonjour" as they walk by. No, they walk into every individual office and/or cubicle and shake the hand of the occupant, saying "bonjour" and occasionally "ca va?" . At first it struck me as weird and I didn't do it. I asked one of my colleagues and he told me: you don't really have to, but it gives a good impression if you do. So now I, like the others, do a little morning tour of the office, greeting everybody along the way, including Zebigboss himself.

Fifth: We're not at a cubicle farm, there's proper offices. Some of them individual, some of them shared between two people. The windows open, and it seems everybody likes to leave them open a crack to let the air circulate. I think that's a fine habit, but there's no need to do it when it's freezing cold outside. Also, it seems people don't like to turn their lights on. Most of my colleagues like to work in the relative dark...only late in the day when it's getting darker outside do they turn on the lighting in their offices.

Sixth: The 35 hour workweek is a bit of a myth. My hours are fairly normal (9:30 to six), but still more than 35 hours and I know that my colleagues do occasionally stay in the office reasonably late. I've stayed till 8 o'clock once or twice and there were still people there. I think that's part of the reason why I get so many holidays: the company gets around the 35 hour restrictions by offering us a few extra holidays (and the standard here is quite generous by US standards).

Seventh: What I pay in taxes here is not much more than what I used to pay in the US, roughly the same if you figure DC local taxes, but here I get free good health care and lots of other benefits. Nice, isn't it?

1 commentaire:

Colleen (CQ in DC / quinncx) a dit…

I miss the days of lots of holidays as well- living back in DC is killing me in that department!