Job Perks: A Peek into the French Way of Life

by Jackie D on June 6, 2016

paris in the spring“In France, a personal life is not a passive entity, the leftover bits of one’s existence that haven’t been gobbled up by the office, but a separate entity, the sovereignty of which is worth defending, even if that means that someone’s spreadsheet doesn’t get finished on time.” The French Counterstrike Against Work E-Mail

So I’m back in New York. Don’t even get me started. Those who’ve seen me in person (and even many who’ve only spoken to me through text) have already gotten an earful.

But this isn’t going to be several paragraphs about how much I miss Paris. It’s going to be several paragraphs about one of my favorite parts of France: the work culture.

I love to work — mostly I love to be busy. But I also love to relax (earth shattering, I know). I am either extremely busy with many things or completely relaxed doing almost nothing — there is very little wiggle room. And when I get into that busy zone, it’s really hard for me to get out of it.

One of the things I loved so much about the French work environment is that people seem to be able to switch between these two zones so easily. When they are at work, they are at work — people get things done and meetings are held and problems are solved. But when it’s lunchtime, it is lunchtime. There is no eating at your desk while you’re trying to finish up a spreadsheet. And when it’s time to go home at the end of the day, same deal — it’s time to go home.

The first week I was there, I was checking my work email at the bar we’d often go to during the week. My coworkers almost slapped it out of my hand (out of love, and maybe slightly out of vodka, too). Work is for work hours. Play is for all other hours. It’s a common stereotype to say that the French value pleasure above all else, but I think it can be amended slightly — they do value pleasure, and they see a person’s personal life as exactly that: a personal life. A whole life that involves friends and movies and drinking and food and love and kids and everything else. But they also value work just as much. They value a job well done. And they see those two parts of life working in tandem with each other, not against each other.

It’s difficult now with iPhones and wifi and offices in multiple time zones to feel like you can ever really “shut off” completely. And especially when you work in a field like social media, which literally has no off switch, it can feel like you always have to have an ear open to make sure you’ll catch anything if it happens. What if there’s a disaster in the middle of the night? What if something happens while your phone is dead?

But you have to draw the line somewhere. You have to just stop working sometimes, or else you’ll go insane. And you have to stop checking your texts from friends at some point and just get that Excel sheet done. Everything has its moment. And I know that this is all common sense and that no one would argue that you need to strike a balance between work and play, but I’ve never seen so many people actually live this out before.

It was a delight to get a break from the USA work mindset for three months and live like the French do — where it doesn’t necessarily matter if you get to work 30 minutes late as long as the work gets done at some point; where it’s not the end of the world if you have to save a task until tomorrow; and where it’s just as important to hang out with your coworkers at the bar on Wednesday night as it is to brainstorm with them in a meeting on Tuesday morning. Where work is a beautiful thing, but so is play.

Snapshots from a Weekend in Bordeaux

by Jackie D on May 25, 2016

mama shelter bordeaux 2Travel often enough and you will eventually have a trip that goes wrong. I’ve been very lucky so far – Central America has probably been the only truly bad trip I’ve ever had.

And Bordeaux definitely wasn’t bad – but it wasn’t perfect. I arrived in pouring rain on Saturday morning – like, biblical levels of flooding. Despite the fact that I definitely did not bring along the proper footwear for a potential apocalypse (does anyone?), I forced myself to wander around the town a bit, and I stopped into the Museum of Antiquities because there was an exhibit about the ancient cave paintings in Lascaux that I really wanted to see. Ancient cave paintings = the original street art! Well technically, ancient cave paintings = the original ART, but I digress.bordeaux streetsWhen my hotel was ready for me to check in, I relaxed for an hour, showered, and Google-mapped the rest of my afternoon and evening while I waited for the rain to pass.

And that part of the trip went great: there was a bookstore (Librairie Mollat, the biggest independent bookstore in France) and a macaron shop (M Le Macaron) I wanted to visit, and they were each a five minute walk from my hotel. I also wanted to stop by the Place de la Bourse to see if the world’s largest reflecting pool was all it was cracked up to be (it was great except for the 3000 children running around screaming. Literally did not see children anywhere else in Bordeaux except here).

And since it looked like the majority of rain had passed for the day, I decided to venture out to see the botanical gardens (free to the public and open until 8pm). They were just OK – it looked like many of the flowers might have drowned or been washed away in the downpour.bordeaux bookstorebordeauxAnd of course I was also excited to stay at another Mama Shelter hotel – I’ve stayed at their hotels in Paris and Marseille and I am absolutely obsessed. When I checked in, they noticed these previous stays in my file, and they upgraded me to a king suite to thank me for my loyalty. I celebrated by jumping on the bed a lot, because I feel like if you’re given access to a king-size bed, you’re contractually obligated to jump on it.

Mama also has locations in Lyon, Istanbul, and LA, so I am determined to visit all of them at some point down the line. So many more king-size beds await.mama shelter bordeauxOn Sunday I was supposed to venture out to nearby Saint Emilion for some bike riding through vineyards, but the weather wasn’t great, my back injury was acting up again, and I had a bizarre encounter with an Uber driver that really threw me off. So I decided to hit the Sunday market and then head back to Paris a couple hours early.

And when I got on the train and we started the trip back to Paris, it really felt like I was heading towards home. And I think maybe that was the problem: it wasn’t that the trip itself was bad, and it certainly wasn’t that I didn’t like Bordeaux. It was just that Paris feels like home to me now, and I really missed it the moment I left. place de la bourse bordeauxI know, I live in Paris for three months and suddenly I’m all Lifetime Original movie about it. But you have to admit this is still better than that one time I got super sad about gross shoes.

More Snapshots:
Snapshots of a Weekend in Belfast
Snapshots from Salvation Mountain
Snapshots of Miami Beach Lifeguard Towers

Expat Life in Paris: Part 4

by Jackie D on May 18, 2016

expat life in parisCurrent croissant situation: Unchanged. Going for a record here. Literally I walk into my usual pain au chocolat place on the way to work and it’s always the same guy behind the counter — he hands me the goods, I hand him the coins, we nod, we part ways. It’s the best relationship I’ve ever been in.

Current bookstore situation: The other day I was headed into St-Germain-Des-Pres to meet up with a friend, and I turned a corner and suddenly there were bookstores everywhere. English-language bookstores. California-themed English-language bookstores. One was called San Francisco Book Company, another was Berkeley Books. One thing that blows my mind about Paris is that whenever I start to feel homesick for something specific — a bookstore, a normal-sized cup of coffee, doughnuts — I feel like I’ll turn a corner and suddenly, whatever it is that I’ve been missing will suddenly be there. I’m hoping this happens soon with Mexican food.

Current bike-riding situation: I’m not a huge bike person — in fact I spent most of my freshman year of college riding my bike around in terror, fully expecting to bring some sort of terrible accident upon myself or others — but for some reason, being in Paris makes me really, really want to ride a bike. It’s probably all of the people riding around with baguettes in their bike baskets (French people really do carry around baguettes as much as the stereotypes would suggest). So I took a day trip up to Deauville the other day, a tiny little beach town in the north of France, and rented a bike for about three hours. The neighborhood was adorable and very flat and easy to ride around, and the weather was perfect, and hardly any cars were around, and a few kids ran away from me and my bike in terror at one point, and it was a very idyllic afternoon. And true to form, towards the end of my bike ride, when I was approaching the rental shop, I was thinking about how proud I was that I hadn’t crashed or hurt myself or anyone, and at that exact moment I came within centimeters of crashing directly into a tree. Jackie travels!

Current vocabulary situation: Only one today, because it’s a good one: paperclip is trombone, because paperclips are shaped like little trombones. This is the cutest thing I have ever heard in my entire life.

Current French shoes situation: I wanted French shoes, I searched for French shoes, I finally found and drooled over and BOUGHT French shoes. And they are good, you guys. I actually saw a girl trying them on in a shoe store, and then literally stalked her around the store until she asked me if I needed help and I asked her where she found the shoes. I may be a creep, but I get the job done.

Current back pain situation: Bad. I’ve mentioned here briefly that I’ve been suffering from chronic back pain for several months now, and it only seems to be getting more frequent and slightly worse. At this point, my back hurts at night so much sometimes that it wakes me up. One of the only reasons I am excited to return to New York is that I can see my doctor again to get this figured out. I’m also thinking of trying acupuncture for the first time, though I’ve never really enjoyed the thought of strangers sticking needles into me, particularly now that I’ve been listening to so many murder podcasts.

Current murder podcast situation: Guys, I’ve been listening to Casefile, a podcast about true crime (I think it’s at least 95%, if not 100%, murder related) and it’s so good. The narrator has a very strong Australian accent, and many of the crimes took place in Australia, and if you know anything about the weird type of shit that goes down in Australia, that will tell you something about these crimes. My favorites are: The Somerton Man (this one is a great and truly frustrating mystery); Katherine Knight (one of the most famous – and intense – murders in Australia); and The Weepy-Voiced Killer (Pro: all the stuff that good scary stories are made of. Con: is so scary that it will keep you awake for the rest of your life, probably).

This is my second to last weekend in Paris! I can’t believe it. I need to buy another suitcase this weekend, start cleaning the apartment (shockingly no wine stains to clean up — although I guess I have two weeks left, shouldn’t speak so soon), make a trip over to the Musee D’Orsay (only went once, when I was around 21 I think), and if the weather is nice, I’m going to try to soak up the sun in Bois de Boulogne with my French Harry Potter book.