Working in Paris

Yesterday I turned to a colleague and asked, “May I please take a picture of your dick?”

“Of course!” she replied enthusiastically.

In the US, that question would generally be answered by a resounding slap, either of the wrists or of the papers hitting your desk as a bailiff serves you with a lawsuit. In the oh-so-very French office I visited last week not a single eyebrow hair was raised over my perverse curiosity.

Screen shot 2014-01-15 at 3.03.19 PM

It is not usually a subject that amuses me, but, in this office, I was surrounded by genitalia. The dick in question had an affectionate little note calling my co-work a little whore, too. Illustrated on desk tops, the back of chairs, and serving as screensavers, this week I was surrounded by dicks, reminding me

Screen shot 2014-01-15 at 3.03.36 PMthat I am not Dorothy and I am most definitely not in Kansas.

Every day co-workers yell at each other, usually screaming across the open space. Sometimes it is a joke. Usually it is a not. And the language they use is far from professional. Arguments often end with one loudly referring to the other as a connasse, or a pute. Imagine a co-worker calling you a whore? I can’t wait to see how I react the day it happens to me.

Having immigrated to this country, I tried very hard not to judge and accept cultural differences for what they are. But it is very difficult for me to imagine that my educated, ambitious female colleagues are really ok with the locker room behavior that goes on in the work place. On the other hand, I think every abusive argument I have witnessed has been started by a woman, and before they dish it out, they must know how it is going to end.

Yesterday, two women were moving a bench and the receptionist stopped them in horror, commandeering the first man to pass their way and insisting that he assist in the manual labor. Is all the vulgarity the flip side of the chivalry? We know from history that the knights were not immune to lewd jokes and crude behavior. Is it possible to consistently expect different behavior from one gender in the social realm and then be treated like complete equals in the professional realm?

As soon as I have the answers to these questions, I’ll let you know. Don’t hold your breath, though. What are your thoughts on men opening doors and pouring your wine, yet acting like cads in the office place?

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5 thoughts on “Working in Paris

  1. My thoughts on that question is that it fits right in with the well-publicized (by Americans) French hypocrisy we read about. Personally, I’ve always found French guys to be polite in an office environment. But perhaps those same guys are crude in a social environment!

  2. To me, it is only a matter of time when the vulgarity of this office behavior crosses over into the personal (family) and social realms. Professionalism also suffers tremendously when you constantly dose disrespect to your coworker. Not to mention that now the employees are seeking the most base terms to sling their arrows; it only ups the ante and fuels more heated argument. I would ask for a return to civility, si vous plait.

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