Tuesday, November 2, 2010

So, what do you do?

As I slowly master the art of typing with one hand, you may notice that the next few posts come out in bits and snip-its. Bear with me. 

When in America and at a cocktail party or BBQ and you are meeting someone for the first time, one of the classic get to know you questions is...

"So, Bob, what do you do?"
"Well, Jim, I am in waste management."
"How interesting Bob! You know, I have always been curious about why we can recycle plastic bottles but not the plastic caps..."

And voilà! The conversation is launched.

In France it is considered incredibly impolite to ask what someone does for a living. I have several theories about why this is but the following French expression pretty much sums up how most French people feel about their jobs: je travaille pour vivre et pas le contraire - I work to live but I don't live to work. People here are thus less attached to their jobs, seeing them as a necessarily evil and not as something that defines them. They prefer to be defined by what you know... what you like... how you dress... where you live... etc. 

Given that my current official job is possibly the silliest job I have ever had, the fact that I don't often have to explain to people that I answer phones and make photocopies for a living suites me just fine.

Lately however my job title has been popping up in unexpected (and unfortunate) places. After Colette was born, Grégoire had three days to declare her birth at the town hall and confirm that he was indeed the father. There were endless forms to fill out asking for our address, date of birth blah blah blah and our professions. When Grégoire returned to the hospital he presented me with Coco's birth certificate and there it was in black and white for all of history and the world to see, "Colette, daughter of Mary, standardiste - receptionist..." I looked up at Grég who started apologizing immediately, "Sorry Mary, I didn't know what to put.... and you weren't there...but since your blog doesn't make any money I didn't think I should put blogger...anyway it's just a job Mary. When you are famous you will look back and laugh!"

For as much as I try to detach myself from my job like a good French person I just don't seem to be able to. Must be the American in me. Note to self: Must find a new job soon.  


lazy susie said...

And what if someone doesn't work? What does it say?

We have been filling out reams of paperwork to have our marriage recognized and our children granted French citizenship. They don't make it easy, but it is finally done; we finally have the carte de famille.

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

Yeah, I don't mind the de-emphasis the French have on not asking about careers, either, given my non-working status right now, lol. Thing is, I keep hanging out with expats who keep asking "So, what do you do here in Paris?" and all I can tell them is "Uhhhh, I blog. And then sometimes I babysit and clean house for other people. And then I comment on blogs a lot." LOL. It really does not sound that great. I'd be happy to tell them I am a receptionist, speaking in two languages, actually *doing* something for money!

I dunno. I think I would stick with receptionist for a little while. Just think, you can use it to hide a secret identity, just like Clark Kent worked for the Daily Planet, but was really Superman! "Receptionist" sounds so innocuous and especially in French -- "standardiste" -- I love it! It sounds so, well, standard! You should hide behind it and then create a super-fantastic alter ego!

So, if you could have any superpower, what would it be? (lol)

Anonymous said...

your blog amuses me to know end, i thoroughly enjoy the way you describe France, it makes me want to live there too.

Monique said...

I would like to start off by saying that I truly enjoy reading your blog and admire your writing style very much. I have been to France twice and I have to say that I do like the country. However, I have a different reason for posting. I noticed that your husband was born in Auray and I have been there. I was able to visit Carnac and some of Bretagne while visiting my brother's very gracious host family. Bretagne is amazing and Auray was an absolutely charming town. Congratulations on a healthy baby and I hope to read more of your posts.

Michele said...

Hello everyone! I found this blog a few days ago, and I love it. I wish someone French would ask me what I do because I have been sending them resume upon resume for months now!

I'm an American who is trying to break into Paris... legally... or illegally, if push comes to shove. Much like our beloved blogger, I am in love with a Frenchman. Have yet to actually MARRY him, so ce blog est tres pratique ;) Therein lies the job problem.

Andrea said...

I just spent hours reading all your blog entries and I'll be checking in often for newer ones! I, too, have fallen in love with a French man and somewhere in my Googling of "how to marry a French man" this blog popped up. Thanks for lighting up my day because the process of fiancee visas and all that neverending paperwork nonsense is giving me mal à la tête. Congrats on your beautiful baby!

Rosanna Tavarez said...

It looks like you have a fan club of women who are in love with a French man! Add me to the list please:) I have enjoyed reading some of your blog entries immensely and I must agree with you that people leaning on the metro poles are indeed annoying.
Congratulations on your baby and making a life for yourself in the beautiful city of Paris!

Michele said...

There are indeed many American women in love with a Frenchman! I will be in town (a Paris) from 12/6 through 12/14. If anyone wants to get together for coffee :)

Madame Bouron said...

Michele! This is a fantastic idea! Let's have a 'ladies in love with Frenchmen' Party. I'll put a post up about it toute de suite.