Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April 28, 2009: Work without the Jerk

It has been so nice the past week or so experiencing normal moments.  Moments that feel comfortable. Moments that are not anticipated with anxiety.  Moments that would seem fairly boring to you as a reader.  But to me, these are moments that reflect our family is settling into our new community.  Small things like an invitation to have breakfast with some new friends that has conversation flowing comfortably.  A birthday celebration for Grace and Mia at a local theme park supplemented with all their favorite toys and foods.  A run through our new neighborhood that can now be navigated comfortably without getting lost.  A polite conversation exchanged with a teacher.  I don't want to jinx anything, as I am a bit superstitious, but I knock on wood as I say that Caen is becoming a lovely, lively home.

We had a really nice 4th birthday celebration for Grace and Mia at Festyland in a nearby village.  The park is similar to Great America, but you need to reduce the scale and crowd size by 20 and then picture rides that are great for kids aged 3 to 8.  Grace and Mia ended up going on 90% of the rides and had a total blast.  They are quite the daredevils!  Ella was not as adventurous but she has just as much fun.  They have already declared that Gaga and Bobby and Grandma and Grandpa will be taking them back to Festyland when they visit - so be prepared grandparents!  It's hard to believe that the twins have already turned age 4. It's been a great ride and Andrew and I are looking forward to the next many decades with Ella, Grace and Mia.

One thing that has been coming to the forefront of my mind these days as I go through day to day life in France is how efficient and proud they are of their work.  I have stated this before, but I now have many examples describing this statement.  Let me just share a few:

Here is a very typical scenario that you might encounter in the United States: You go to the bank. There are 7 people in line ahead of you to speak with a representative.  You see 10 other people sitting at desks helping no one/no customers.  Not one of those 10 people get up to help the 7 people waiting in line.  Maybe because they are "beyond" those duties or feel they are only obligated to do the job that has been described as part of their current "desk".  
Now, here is a very typical scenario that you might encounter here in France: You go to the bank. There are 7 people in line ahead of you to speak with a representative. You see 3 other people sitting at desks helping no one and they immediately get up to help all the people in line to help move the line along.  And after all, they were not doing anything anyway!

Typical U.S. scenario while getting your haircut:  You check in with someone who tends the front desk.  They tell you to wait for your hair washer.  After one person washes your hair, they instruct you to wait for a hair cutter.  After you get your hair cut, they instruct you to wait for the hair dyer.  After you get your hair dyed, they instruct you to go back to the front desk and pay for services.  There is no cross-training, no sharing of duties.  

Typical France scenario while getting your haircut: You check in with someone at the front desk. They than take you to personally wash your hair and sit you down.  Your hair cutter comes over to cut your hair and you notice the guy that tended the front desk when you arrived and washed your hair is now styling another ladies hair that has just been cut.  The phone rings and the lady dying someone's hair stops what she is doing and goes to answer the phone and makes an appointment.  The point?  There is no Front Desk Staff.  They all share the duties of running the business. They all wash hair. They all cut hair. They all style hair. They run the establishment and do any and all tasks involved with running that establishment. 

It is typical to go to an establishment, at least here in Caen, and have one person own it, run it, and staff it.  Examples are doctors - no secretary, no nurse, no partner.  The doctor actually answers the phone when you call and schedules your appointment, they open the door for you on arrival, they do the whole appointment, and then schedule your follow-up when you depart.  I got my nails done once and there was one girl. She did my nails and also tended the front desk, buzzed people into the door, and managed to provide very good services at the same time. And no matter where I go whether it is the dry cleaners, the grocery store, they shoe repairman, Pizza Hut or a clothing store, all employees are dressed equally as nice, are equally as polite and all appear to be equally as satisfied with their situation.  Happy with their jobs and happy to help you, no matter the task of that  job.  I feel like in the U.S. there is so much animosity and baggage when you go to a service establishment that you never experience this pride I describe here in France.

Anyway, it is a random thought but something I find very intriguing about the French, about France.  I so admire their willingness to perform their job duties without getting into a "class" or "hierarchy" spat or being too good to do certain tasks.  It keep operating costs down, it keeps connections with customer's up and it just makes good sense.  I have definitely learned from this amazing aspect of France and it's workforce.

Tomorrow is Wednesday so we should hopefully have something special and amazing to tell you about after a day off of school.  Best to all of you!

Pictured above: Pictures of our day at Festyland for Grace and Mia's birthday.


  1. Think I need to forward this to Obama - don't know how to get to his wall, but am going to give it the old try! How does mid June sound for a visit? Let me know, as I want to work on reservations this week!! PS - your hair looks super!

  2. Mid June sounds great! Just give me a hollar or email with the dates you plan to book so I can check on last time. Thanks - about the hair!