Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What I did this summer - Part 1

December 17, 2008

Hi everyone,
I just started this blog, and I don't know what it's going to turn out to be.

I thought I'd start with some stories and impressions from a work gig I did this past summer (2008) in Marseille France. I took an early retirement from my job in November 2007, and this was my first job as an independent.

Here are a few highlights and impressions from my first week working as an independent consultant. I’m a sub-contractor to {large IT firm} working for a French shipping company in Marseille.

My French seems to be pretty good, at least speaking it. Everyone understands me and I’ve had many compliments on my excellent French. I can even tell a joke in French. Understanding it is more of a challenge, especially when there is background noise or if I can’t see the people speaking. But a whole day of heavy concentration is quite exhausting, as if my energy is being drained at a faster rate than usual, so at the end of the day I’m really tired. And dinner takes at least 2 hours so I’ve been getting back to the hotel at 11 pm.

This week I have switched to a studio apartment-hotel, with a kitchen. Now I can buy groceries and make my own breakfast and dinner when I want, so it’s more flexible and comfortable. I don’t have to go out every night if I don’t feel like it.

The people at work seem nice and tell me to say when I don’t understand something, that they will switch to English. However their English isn’t very good and it’s even harder to understand. ;-)
The {IT company} guy introduced me to the client executive on my first day, and he (the client) said “So this is the goddess of BI (Business Intelligence) you’ve been telling me about?” Ha - I think they built me up a little too much. Although, maybe I should add that to my business cards. :-)

French people, when they come into work in the morning, go around and say good morning and shake hands with everyone, even people they don’t know (like me). Some people kiss on both cheeks instead of shaking hands. I’ve probably offended people by not doing that myself. They seem to work approximately from 9 am to 7 pm. I get to work easily by subway (Metro). There are a couple of little caf├ęs nearby for lunch. Everyone goes out for lunch and it takes about an hour and a half. There’s a vending machine in the office, that has coffee, Perrier and Evian as well as snacks (madeleines as well as chocolate bars).

So, my first week went pretty well. After 3 weeks I will go back to LA for a few days, then we are running some data modeling workshops at their US offices. Then back to Marseille for the rest of June and July.
Marseille is not as pretty as Nice or Paris, more working-class I guess, but still interesting and there are lots of things to see on the weekends. It’s over a million people, and is the oldest city in Europe (founded by the Greeks in 600 BC).


More to come.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Hi Brenda, great start to your blog. What a great opportunity to work in France! I notice at work a lot of the latin american people greet normally with a handshake.

    A funny story from my daughter who last year had to deliver film equipment to a hotel in Toronto to a French Producer. Keep in mind this was her first year working in the real world after college and she grew up in rural Ontario. She got to the hotel which had a loading dock so she drove in to unload the gear but the security guard told her that she couldn't unload there and she couldn't find the producer. The guard told her to back out which was out a long narrow driveway. She was frustrated, angry and not paying the attention she should and as she exited at the street she hit a brand new BMW with the van. My daughter told me that the BMW driver and his girlfriend were way nicer than she expected them to be to her. After all the drama the producer who was very French showed up. He went to greet her with the double kiss at which she jumped back. He was like "oh you no kiss". Suddenly she realized that this was just meant as a normal greeting and she was so embarrassed and felt kind of dumb.

    Oh and in the end the producer asked the guard if she could unload using the loading dock and he said no problem. After all that!

  2. Hi NJ,
    Thanks for being the very first person to comment on my blog!
    Please stop by regularly. I'm no Yarn Harlot (who is?) but I'll try to keep it interesting.