If you're French, francophone, or a wanna-be frenchie, you probably know that tomorrow is Bastille Day.
History lesson, en bref:
On July 14, 1789 around 1,000 French revolutionaries attacked the Bastille (a fortress, armory, and prison in Paris). The attack was meant to revolt against the disproportionate amount of power that the monarch exercised over the country's commoners. This was a key turning point for the French Revolution, as it forced influential bourgeois to leave Paris and also paved the way for future local municipalities. The point of all of this was to give share power more fairly between the classes.
Fast-forward to 2017. Since patriotism and politics are hot on many people's minds, I wanted to share a fun thing about working in France, recounted to me by one of my oldest friends Shannon. She's an American who's lived in Paris for the last 11 years and once said to me,
"After I moved here, I realized, 'This is me. I belong here.'"
When Dave and I were back in Paris for graduation last month, we had an evening with Shannon and her husband Guillaume, in their picture-perfect, trendy yet classic Parisian apartment. We cooked, watched their adorable son patter around the apartment, and had important conversations about things like politics, family, and American v. French life. It was the kind of evening that left us asking, "Was moving away from Europe a mistake?" (It wasn't, but you know. #vacationgoggles)
Shannon has innumerable beautiful qualities, but specifically, I've always tried to emulate her inclusiveness, optimism, and hard work. Contrary to stereotypes, the French are extremely hard workers. They work hard, then relax hard.
But from working alongside many French at HEC, two things I hadn't personally felt in my short history there were inclusiveness, nor optimism. And this was difficult for me. So I was curious to get Shannon's perspective on why she loves Parisian life and work so much... when her qualities, that I think are so exceptional, seem to be at odds with local customs. Here's the eye-opening thing she said:
"The thing is, at work in France... Your colleagues will not quickly or eagerly jump on board with your ideas like they might in the US. It takes time and effort to get their support, so it feels like things move slowly. The difference is: it's slow but significant. Once you do win your colleagues support, its deep and unfaltering.
For me, this is how inclusiveness and optimism enter the picture. What may feel like upfront negativity is intended to eliminate risk so that they may stand by you 100%. There is no quick but shallow enthusiasm that fades away like in the US.
The support builds slowly and deeply, and it lasts."
Oh. Should've asked two years ago, I suppose.
It might seem like you have to storm the proverbial Bastille in France when convincing people that defending an idea is worth the risk. But once the walls are broken down, you have trustworthy camrades fighting for the collective good, no matter the obstacles along the way.
Thank you, Shannon! You always make me a little wiser and more worldly.
PS - You should know that the fantastic, dramatic ending was Shannon's idea. She didn't graduate from UVA with an English and literature degree for nothing ;)