4 janvier 2021
Angelica moved to Paris three months ago. Since she is working there, she shares experiences about the business culture there, far from sitting at cafés, watching people and just enjoying life.
Everyone has a perception of Paris. The capital of France is a dream destination for Europeans and non-Europeans alike. With its beautiful Haussmann architecture, luxurious fashion and renowned cuisine, Paris is often portrayed as the romantic dream destination in literature and films. So when I told people that I was moving from my home city Stockholm to Paris, the immediate reaction from everyone was positive and filled with awe: “That’s amazing, you will spend your days sitting at cafés, people watch and just enjoy your life”. However, when I mentioned that I was moving to Paris for work, the reaction was quite the opposite: “Oh, Monday to Friday will be tough, but at least you will have your weekends in Paris”, “You will need some thick skin to survive the French business culture” etc.
"Another friend of mine told me that she had complained about people smoking indoors and the reply she got was that she could always go outside to breath if the air quality inside bothered her. This is not an example from the 1960’s but rather from around 2017."
Now after three months of living and working in Paris I cannot agree more with the fact that Paris is indeed an amazing city to live in. However, there is some nuancing to be made about French business culture. I have been told the competition forgetting a job in Paris is high - whether it be in finance, fashion, strategy consulting, law, media, or any other industry. This seems to create a culture where you better feel happy in your job because if not, you know you can easily be replaced by someone else. A couple of weeks ago, I was at an apéro, with a Swedish friend who has lived in Paris for a couple of years now. She said she had disagreed with the group in a meeting and afterwards she was told that “The door is there. If you are not happy here, you know the way out”. There are strong employment laws in France prohibiting firing on the spot, but the example was telling of the mentality that seems to exist at many French workplaces. Another friend of mine told me that she had complained about people smoking indoors and the reply she got was that she could always go outside to breath if the air quality inside bothered her. This is not an example from the 1960’s but rather from around 2017. Although I do not believe this is a typical work situation, it did confirm the “if you are not happy here, you know the way out” kind of attitude.
"Who has not been served by garçons de cafés who have proudly worked at the same restaurant for decades and cannot envision themselves going elsewhere as they so strongly identify themselves with their employer?"
The flip side of the coin, however, is the amount of pride that people seem to have in their work roles. I have made many encounters where people have been incredibly proud of belonging to their specific workplace. A friend who works in fashion told me that she wouldn’t work at any other brand even if there are more famous and reputable brands out there. She had not worked for this brand for a long time, but she clearly already lived and breathed the brand and told me how starstruck she was after opening the elevator door for the heading fashion designer. I also had a discussion with a road cleaner who expressed his pride of the important function his profession had in society; “We may not get the highest pay, but what would society do without us?”. And who has not been served by garçons de cafés who have proudly worked at the same restaurant for decades and cannot envision themselves going elsewhere as they so strongly identify themselves with their employer? That is what I call pride.
Now is Paris romantic and dreamy? Yes! But there is so much more to Paris than croissants, a glittering Eiffel tower and Louboutin shoes. The best way to get to know French people and culture is through work in my opinion. Because the reality is that most people in Paris spend most of their days working. So to anyone who might get the chance to work in Paris – do take the chance (some thick skin and a dose of pride may follow).