Thursday, October 27, 2011

La Pilule Amère

So I'll start slow with this because basically all I wanted to do yesterday, and I still kind of feel like it today, is curl up in the bathtub with some cake mix.  As I mentioned, I started applying for jobs here in France.  I knew this would be a bit of a complicated situation.  I guess I never expected to get even a response.

I should really mention a problem I have.  The best way I've found to describe it is that I go up like a rocket, and come down like a stick.  Outwardly, I am a bit cynical about things, but secretly I'm already counting on success on everything I do.  So when I got a response from one of the first places I applied to, I was floored!

The schedule would have been 12 hours a week.  It wouldn't have been a terrible amount, but it would have been a start.  They asked me if the hours worked for me, and wanted me to respond as soon as possible.  So I called the number I had been left at the bottom, and set up an appointment to speak with the people necessary.  I was really excited, because this meant that I wouldn't feel so useless here.  I could contribute real money to the situation here, and we wouldn't have to worry about next year.  I was really excited.

I called my sister in law and mother in law to ask them how I should approach this.  I've never been terribly confident in my actual French level, so I always feel like I'm at a disadvantage.  They said to try and keep it simple.  Don't get in over your head.  Explain the situation exactly as it is. They said that given the level of the job, and that I wouldn't be speaking with people all that much, so I should relax on that front.  The one thing they said though was that this job isn't something that would appeal to a lot of French people.  Frankly people who are already on chomage make more than this job would give a month, so it's not to their advantage to take it.  I had maybe a bit more confidence with that.

They said for a job like this, the most important thing was to present myself well.  I just got a hair cut last week, so that was fine.  I needed to shave, which I did (even shaving against the grain with a new blade to make sure it was smooth.)  I wore dress pants and a dress shirt.  I even put a sweater over the top of it, one to look even more French, and number two so that no one would notice the shirt was off white.  Since the sweater was tan, the shirt looked really nice and white.  I even took one of those chemises with me and a pen and paper.  I don't think I ever tried to look that French in all my life.  ( I should just mention I hate shaving and never wear a sweater with a collared shirt because I get really warm easily, and I think it just looks so ridiculously Ned Flanders that I want to beat myself up. )

Digressing, I got there with about 15 minutes to spare.  I had always heard it was a good idea to arrive between 10 to 15 minutes before the appointment.  I spoke with the person at the Acceuil and was told that the person I was supposed to meet with was in a meeting, but someone else would be down to receive me.  In a few minutes I see a person in a suit come to the desk.  I assume that it's him.  He comes over and asks if he should know me.....?  It's not the right person and I'm turning about a thousand shades of red.  But I smile, excuse myself, and the woman at the acceuil explains that I'm waiting for someone and that he's fine.  She tells me that the person I'm going to meet with will be down in just a few minutes.

The guy arrives just a little bit after, now that I'm really embarrassed and even more nervous, it's a match made in heaven.  He's a young guy, probably younger than me in truth, and he asks me how I'm doing.  I reply that I'm doing fine, and we walk to the back.  He asks me if I had ever worked in a store like this before, I say yes, and explain a bit.  I'm so nervous I really don't know what to say.  So I try to explain a bit, but it's not going so great.  So. Damn. Nervous.....

We go to an office, and he explains a bit about the job.  We go over the hours, the days I'd work, how many people would be on the team I'd be working with, and just a few general things.  I get the feeling he's killing time until I can speak with the person I need to talk to.  He asked me if the schedule would work.  I say yes, not a problem.  We talk a bit more, and he asks me if I can take on more hours sometimes.  I say it's fine.  I try to explain the situation but I'm still a bit tongue tied.  Someone comes in and tells him that the woman I was supposed to speak with is now available.  So we get up, and walk to her office.

She says hello, we shake hands and she has me take a seat.  She asks me how high my level of French is, and I try to stammer out a response until the guy says "small," and she says, "oh, small."  That was it!  At that point, something just snapped in my head.  Now it was a challenge.  I responded with, "J'aime penser que je peux parler très bien Française, mais j'n sais pas."  She blinked and opened her eyes a bit wider.  She smiled a bit and said, "Ah bon, je trouve que vous parlez très bien!"  I felt vindicated!  We talked a bit more.  I'd be on a CDI, but for students, at which point I had to explain about visas and such.  She said that would be worked out with the person who handled that.  Of course, I was to speak with her next.

So I meet with her, we talk, and she says that she doesn't know how it would work to hire me, because with my visas, it becomes more complicated.  So she calls the prefecture.  Of course, no one's there until tomorrow morning, as the person who handles it only works two days per week apparently, so she'll have to call back tomorrow, get word back, and speak with him then.  I figure, ok so she'll do that, and I'll be working next week ok.

I'm pretty happy, I'm telling everyone on the phone that I don't know what will happen, but everyone seems pretty confident that it'll work out.  So I'm pretty happy, talking with partner.  He's happy for me, and we're a little relieved.  He has to go back in for his afternoon class that day, so I walk out with him.  I come back upstairs and see that I missed a call.  It's the woman who needed to call the prefecture for confirmation to let me know that with the visas I have, it would be IMPOSSIBLE!  No real explanation other than that.  She said to call back if I had any questions.  So just.....whatever......

So I was really pissed, and just annoyed with the whole situation.  I took a walk and called a few people...  The search continues only now, I'm just slightly less enthusiastic about the search.  France is a tangle of bureaucracy, so I'm not completely saddened by it, but I'm just, yeah....  If I could just marry my partner like in the majority of European countries, I wouldn't need 2000 euros per month with 400 dollar a month health insurance.  So I'm just done for a bit.

Where's that cake mix.......?


  1. Ach! That sucks really! But don't lose hope. Ça fait partie de la "game", malheureusement! But I don't need to tell you, you already know!
    Keep your spirit up! "Un de perdu, dix de trouvé!"
    Focus on what you've got: a great partner, great in-laws, great friends, un bel appart...

  2. Thanks for the kind words, and I know that it will eventually work out. I'm still going to be bitter about it for a while though.

    Also, I gave up on the cake mix. However; I just need to buy some crisco and I'll have everything I need to make cinnamon rolls. At least the closest approximation I can do here.

  3. OK, this is bad, but I LOL'd at your previous comment on getting Crisco - I thought you were just waiting for your partner to get back home to use it on you. ;-)

    Good luck with the job search. It seems like a slow and annoying process, unfortunately. Given the circumstances, I think you did pretty well at that interview.

  4. Hehe, yeah, I realized how dirty the whole crisco thing became! ;-) Sinister, yes, I love it.

    Thanks for the kind words! I'm just rather blah about the whole thing. I got a call confirming it was impossible today. So blah, don't feel like doing anything. McDonald's for dinner tonight.

  5. Tamayn, Lay off the cake....It is pretty brave/honest of you to tell this story, I am old enough to be your dad and I just went through a similar experience...and it felt exactly as you described it. This was cathartic for me. Thanks.
    This may be a bit personal, but do you have a student visa, and do you know if Pac-ing your partner would allow you to get an immediate Residency Carte?
    Good luck with the future interviews....remember, there is a sensible french person out there that will see your value...

  6. I will never be able to lay off said cake, especially if it's actually a millefeuille or a forêt noire. Sometimes it seems as though Pâtisserie is my best friend!

    Right now, I'm just on a visitor's visa, and unfortunately the PACS only links two people monetarily. It doesn't provide for immigration equality of any kind. If you are PACSed when you apply for a visa, it helps you financially. Some requirements for financial support are waived, but it can also count against you because familial ties are a reason to overstay your titre de sèjour. It'll all work out. It always does, one way or another! Thanks for the concern though!