Saturday, October 16, 2010

Vive la différence!

I've been thinking a bit more about a couple of other things to emerge out of my lunch with the boss yesterday. For example, she said at one stage that I was "always there, working, & I never took any time off". I think I managed not to shriek with laughter, but I did say that I was definitely NOT complaining, but I wasn't used to having quite so many holidays. I suppose it's true in a way, apart from the compulsory August holidays I have only taken a couple of days off so far (with a couple more scheduled around Toussaint and the 11th Nov, in order to extend the long weekends a bit). But seriously, gentle readers, I work 35 hours a week and I have (once again) 11 weeks' paid holiday plus stats. And to a French person, this equals "always there, working"!? Lolz. In fact (as I explained to her), I'm taking 3 weeks at Christmas - there's a two-week compulsory shutdown, but I'm taking an extra week because my parents are visiting. Then there's another compulsory 2 week break over Easter, although I'm not too sure how that's going to work with Easter being so late this year - if the 2 week break extends into May I'll have to take extra time off in April or before that to make sure I take all my holidays before the end of my contract (even if it rolls over), because my contract ends on the 1st of May. So at the moment, that leaves me with "only" 2 weeks' leave to spend, & I'd rather not take too much time now & hold out for some long weekends when it's deepest, darkest February/March & I just don't want to get out of bed!

Anyone who's reading this and thinking "WANKER!" - I don't blame you, seriously I know it's a ridiculous amount of leave & I'm very very grateful. But do bear in mind that I earn less here per annum than I did in my last job in New Zealand, & the cost of living is a lot higher - for example, I pay nearly double the rent here that I did in Wellington (my apartment's nicer to be fair, but it's also in a small provincial city, not the capital), so it's not all sunshine and roses. I'm not complaining, but just to balance things out...

Anyway, the second thing that stuck in my mind a bit was that we were talking about how I found my apartment in Tours & she said that she was impressed that I handled it all myself & if it were a French person, they would have been on the phone going "help me, help me", so that was a point in my favour! I was thinking (but didn't say of course) that it was partly that I was just too shy to ask for any help, but you know, it's true that by this stage I'm pretty self-sufficient and good at taking whatever life throws me. Travel's good that way. As well as the general experience in living in the famous 9 cities, this is the third time that I've turned up in a new city where I didn't know a soul & had to find a place to live and figure everything else out at the same time with nobody there to give me a hand. Doing it in Wellington was a bit easier, for obvious reasons, so I'm glad that that was the first time I had that experience, a trial run if you like. But does that mean that foreigners in general are more self-sufficient than the French? To be honest, I have my doubts. I've come across plenty of people, particularly in the assistantship programme, fresh out of university and fresh off the boat who have been pretty clueless and panicked and really reliant on people to help them sort their lives out. I think a combination of life experience - I'm not just out of university & having my first experience overseas or outside of a structured environment (living with Mum & Dad, or, from what I gather, in a dorm in the US - which by the way is not intended as a dig at Americans, it's just that it's much much less common for people to live in dorm or other student accommodation in NZ, or even to go away to uni, unless you come from a town where you have no choice in the matter) - and just the fact that there WAS no-one to help me when I turned up here in Tours or when I arrived in Nice or Wellington for that matter, is what makes me "different" in that respect.

Anyway, that's probably just pointless rambling, but it was just interesting for me to have a French perspective on what, in their opinion, makes me different from a French person, since usually it's just the other way around.

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