Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Attitude adjustment

Coming to Paris, I expected to learn the language as well as Parisians’ customs and culture. I guess I wasn’t thinking about the more subtle learnings this would entail, and how it would force me to think differently and change some of my own ways.

I am here. In a totally new country. Instead of getting aggravated by different processes, modes of communication, and general routines, I need to embrace their ways and change my own.

For example, I have made peace with the fact that I will be at the office until 7 o’clock each night. It’s the way it is. But I should also take the hour for lunch that everyone else takes as well as at least one coffee break. As my French tutor told me, it’s necessary to relax (thus the hour at lunch) and clear the mind (as a coffee break will do) during the day. This is a fundamental difference between the way the French and the Americans think. As much as I like to get out of work and have the evenings to myself, I also appreciate this more balanced approach to the workday and am going to embrace this change of pace.

And instead of getting worked up about not receiving responses to emails or requests for help, I just need to pester people more. My inclination is to not bug people because I don’t want to annoy them. But if that’s what it takes to get things done, and it’s not annoying to them, that is what I need to do (and not feel bad about it).

As for the Parisians’ aloofness, my teacher also pointed out that Paris is a city with so many visitors and transplants. Which is why they’re more guarded and stick to their cliques. And if I’m honest with myself, I did the same in New York. I wasn’t exactly the welcome wagon for foreigners or newbies, but I sure did like when they were outgoing themselves and approached me.

So, lessons learned. I hope there will be more and I know it’s not just like flicking a switch on and my expectations and reactions will be totally different. But I think it’ll be a good change.

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