Greetings dear readers and friends. Well, I’ve wanted to write about my working life in the south of France for quite some time but maybe the timing for this post is just a bit off… as we’re heading into August, the month where no one in France wants to think a wink about their jobs. This is the month of vacations, road trips, and long days at the beach. Some smaller shops close down completely as do some companies – if only for a week or two. Even after living in France for almost 10 years now, it’s still hard to get used to having all of this time off.
What a difficult problem to have, right?
On the other hand, maybe it’s the perfect time of year to write about having a job in Provence because, well, I sometimes feel like I’m on a permanent vacation compared to my working life in California. Gone is the pressure to climb the corporate ladder or give yourself fully over to your job. Of course not all jobs were like this back in the States, but much more so than in France.
The old adage of working to live (instead of living to work) is alive and well in the South. People are interested in work/life balance, and are often able to make arrangements in their working lives that benefit their families. Since children don’t attend school on Wednesdays, for example, (starting half-days in middle school), many mothers ask their employers to stay at home on Wednesdays. I was able to do this with my daughter and it’s simply wonderful.
My boss wasn’t 100% thrilled mind you, but France has many protections that favor families whenever possible so employees have a lot of power; mostly for the good, but not always what’s best for the employer.
On the negative side, and I’m only speaking about Provence as working life elsewhere in France can be quite different, it can be very hard to find a job and sometimes near impossible to change professions later in life. I spent a year and a half looking for full-time work when I first arrived. It was hard on my self esteem, very hard. I worked off and on for an English-language school during that time; sometimes I’d work 15 hours a week and sometimes I’d work 5. Then I took it all the way back to the early ‘90s and literally went knocking on doors with my CV in hand. And I started a blog 🙂
I finally landed a job managing a (different) language school, which is where I currently work. There are definitely major pluses and minuses to working in the south of France. There’s a bit of a “mañana” attitude, which is indeed pretty cool but can sometimes get a bit carried away. Dates and times can be quite flexible concepts. I once arrived for a 10am meeting in Marseille to find that a) the sales manager had a change in her schedule; so b) the meeting was moved to 4pm; ergo c) I was an hour by train from home with no one to pick my daughter up after school.
Thankfully the school took everything in stride, and we all left for an early lunch that lasted almost until meeting time.
There are many jokes about working in the south of France that run throughout the country, and well, they’re fairly true. A good friend of my husband’s asked his company to transfer him from northeastern France to the south – dreaming of sun, sea, and cool glasses of rosé, as you do! Well, he didn’t last out the year. Feeling that everything had run like clockwork in the north, the “mañana” attitude got the best of him and he headed home to the cooler climes of the north.
Of course I’m not saying that no one works in the south of France, because indeed people are working very hard here… it’s just with a different style than I am / was used to in the United States. I generally try to go with the flow and I’m learning to approach my professional life with a more open, more flexible attitude. Neither good, nor bad… just different.
Sun, sea, and those cool glasses of rosé do indeed account for a lot of my job satisfaction…
Wishing you a trés bonne journée and bon-weekend les amis!