Friday, February 29, 2008

One Week

It's been exactly one week since I got to Paris, and this marks the end of my first full work week at the office.

At noon, I was brought downstairs to the conference room where they had flowing champagne, endless snacks, and even a few gifts.

Ok, so they were commemorating someone else's last day. And other than there being much more champagne and much less English spoken, it struck me that it's almost exactly like the office back home.

And after a week here, I'm glad to say that my initial impressions were wrong. When I last came here, I found the office to be much quieter, less social, and definitely less fun. I knew that in order to gain French quality of life, I'd probably be sacrificing the uniquely Californian quality of workplace.

Honestly, this is the part I was most nervous about. I've read countless times on expat web sites and god knows how many books about Paris that work is work, it's not nearly the social call that it is in the US, and that you shouldn't expect to make any friends there. That you should largely expect to be ignored, that people won't talk to you (often out of a self-conscious fear of the language barrier), and that there's a strong boundary between workplace and social life.

To some extent, it is quieter and not as much fun here. That much is true. No one's cranking music on their iTunes, and people don't huddle around a screen to watch the latest YouTube funny.

But I've found that it's no less social. People are friendly, genial, and so far have been really good about making me feel welcome. There's definitely water-cooler talk. It's not hard to get a group together for lunch. Hell, there's even an informal gathering of people who go swimming after work on some days. When people ask if I've found an apartment yet, they're quick to name their favorite quartiers along with the best restaurants and bars. And even though I'm now a married man, I've definitely taken the totally testosterone-fueled pleasure of pointing out cute girls walking by the break room window with my colleagues. (And yes, the women here do it, too.)

So to summarize: A week in, working in Paris has been more pleasurable than expected. Besides the fact that it's freakin' Paris, the people have largely broken the stereotypes, and I'm largely having a good time, even if the environment is a bit more reserved. Even Clichy, the lame suburb where I'm staying, is tolerable because it makes me look forward to going to the office.

The only miserable part? I miss my wife :(

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