The 5 laws of a Parisian office expats will encounter

Photo: Pawel Chu via Unsplash
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The Parisian office is like no other. This unknown terrain is littered with booby traps and laced with tight lipped last words. It takes a brave soul to start navigating these shores. You must arrive armed. Yes, I did just use the word booby. There are 5 simple laws to abide by, folks. Nobody tells you what they are. Few realise they exist. And many will not attest to their existence. Fear not, sprightly little expat. I’ve got you covered.

1. Thou shalt take a break

Breaks. And plenty of them. From the coffee break first thing in the morning, to the one in the middle of the morning. Then another just after lunch, since 45 minutes of eating wasn’t enough. Staying in the office until 7pm? Then of course another break at 5pm is in order.

Don’t forget the additional break to catch up with the colleague who just returned from vacation. You don’t want to miss out on that.

2. Thou shalt not be prompt

There’s a meeting in your diary. It starts at 9am sharp. You, my charming little expat, will turn up to the meeting room just before 9am, because you’re punctual. And proud of it.

Ten minutes later, you’re still sat in the room alone. Oh, what’s that you hear? Chatter in the “point de convivialité”? That’ll be your fellow meeting invitees.

See, when someone schedules a meeting at 9am, what they actually mean is THE COFFEE will start at 9am. The meeting itself? It starts whenever we decide to slowly meander towards the meeting room. And for some crazy reason, we promptly finish at 10am and get through the entire agenda. Efficient? Totally.

3. The weekends are a mystery

Here is how a typical conversation with your good colleague Sevrine will go on Monday morning:

You: Salut Sevrine! How was your weekend?
Sevrine: It was fine.
You: What did you do?
Sevrine: Oh, y’know, weekend things.
You: Yes? Things like what?
Sevrine: Just relaxing, family, sports, things like this.
You: Sounds great! What did you do with your family?
Sevrine: Just family things really.
You: So .. um … did you guys have dinner together yesterday or something?
Sevrine: I suppose so, yes.
You: [bangs head against wall and imagines taking blood from stone]

Weekends, folks – if you’re not invited along, you’re not hearing about what happened.

4. Your bosses boss is the boss

You are in charge of a major project. It impacts pretty much every department across the business. It even hits some of the international offices.

Decisions are made. Plans are approved. Teams are assembled. It’s time to get to business. Only it isn’t.

Your decisions? They don’t count. Because when your bosses boss decides to change the agenda, ain’t nobody arguing against him.

Nobody cares if you worked 45 hours a day to pull everything together. Nobody will explain to your team why the change is happening. And nobody will acknowledge you withering to a blubbering mess because you’re so upset. Suck it up, expat. This is how we do it in France.

5. When there is a will, there is wine

Everything is celebrated, people. Everything.

  • Someone got engaged? Get the wine.
  • Someone got married recently? Pop open the champagne.
  • Someone had a baby? A pre-lunch tipple is in order.
  • Someone got their foot stuck in the métro doors and lost their shoe. Celebrate!*

Notice: Eat carb heavy, Expat. Always be on alert. The croissants will help soak up the celebration-alcohol before lunch. This insider knowledge alone will help you avoid being tipsy in your post-lunch meetings.And if you eat your croissant during a pre-meeting break with Sevrine who just returned from holiday? You’ve been here too long.


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About Razwana Wahid 3 Articles
Razwana is an English expat, who arrived in Paris in June 2012. Since then, she’s settled into Parisian life (with coffee, wine and le croissant aux amandes), made a bunch of friends (surprise! They’re mostly French), and become fluent in the local language (ß the last one is a total lie). When not battling through the terrain of a Parisian office, she is a copywriter for small businesses, making writing increase sales and customer conversion rates. If your website needs to speak to your customers and your sales page has to sell rather than bore …. Chill the heck out - she’s got you covered. And on a final note - stalking her is totally recommended – on email, Twitter, and LinkedIn.