Friday, January 25, 2013

Life of the Working American girl, in Paris!

Now that the hard part was over, along with all of the training, I was ready to this solo. 

       I worked for a company called Fat Tire Bike Tours.  They also did Segway tours and Skip the line tours through museums (that's me).  My job was to meet (English) speaking tour groups of about 20 people at either the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, and Pompidou.  After I would check in the families, I would make small talk while we would wait for our guide to arrive.  In France they are very particular as to who can conduct these tours, and they must be a certified French guide.  The small talk would get a little repetitive, getting the same questions everyday but I really couldn't have found a better job.  I got to meet people from all over the world, and each had different stories and adventures they would share with me.  I also join the groups on the tours, holding up the end, to be sure we wouldn't lose anyone throughout the tour.  Easier said than done, if you have been to these museums you would know they tend to be very crowded especially in the summer time.   So it involved a lot of counting and re-counting heads.  All and all the job was pretty easy, and I enjoyed it.  It definitely had its moments where I was left thinking on my toes to solve problems and give these people the best experience while visiting this beautiful city. 

      I had to really learn my way around these huge museums and trust me that took sometime.  The first tour I took through Pompidou was certainly an interesting one.  First of all I had a man who needed elevator access for his wheelchair, and they are not always the easiest things to find (especially when its my first time there too)!  Rule number one of the job, was to make it seem like you've seen and done this all before, professional. As any job you don't want to tell anyone "Sorry, its my first day."  So unlike my training tour at the other museum, once this tour was over and all had went smooth, the guide tells us to have a wonderful afternoon and leaves us!  At this point the group can either stay in the museum or choose to exit with me and proceed to coat check.  (5 floors up, mid museum.  On my training tour the guide met, us and dropped us off at the entrance of the museum, why was this guide leaving us!)  I was enjoying this tour to much that I hadn't paid attention which direction the exit was nor the elevator!  So the people who were ready to exit look to me, the professional. As I start leading them in what I thought was the right direction, my eyes are scanning the hall for an elevator sign.  BINGO!  I found one, without a second thought, I look at the amount of people still with me (about 9) and suggest we all just squeeze in the elevator.  After everyone was piled in and the door closed, I noticed this elevator only goes up (Shiiiittt).  I hear the people suggesting I push the button and I have to embarrassingly admit that this in fact is not the right elevator.  I hear a few sighs but tried to laugh it off (common mistake) but when we stepped out I saw the exit sign!  Only problem, still no elevator just an escalator. Just before I suggest giving it a try, you know, just wheeling him backwards and I could stand a few stairs down and support the back, may be dangerous but it could work.  There was a sign for the elevator.  Only this time I didn't want to live with the embarrassment of squeezing everyone in to the elevator again.  So I sent them in that direction and told them I will meet them at the bottom.  Once I got to the bottom, I prayed it was the right elevator this time, and sure enough 5 minutes later they came wheeling up to collect their coats.  I can laugh about this now, but I couldn't even describe the 50 shades of red of must of turned.  It was also a good thing that people on vacation can also have a sense of humor.  

       I learned not only my way around the museums but around the trains, metros, and streets.  There would be days I would be running from one museums to another one, then going to our office to help out when it was needed.  I loved this job for that reason, and many more.  It allowed me to learn about Paris now and in the history of Paris through it's most famous art.  Hearing the different tour guides explain different facts about the same art work every day, I would learn new things daily.  The other wonderful part about this job was meeting all the people whom I worked with.  The office is like a little English oasis in the middle of Paris, and they would have frequent picnics, and holiday celebrations in the Champ de Mars so we could all get to know one another better.  Talking to people from work, I found I am not the only one who moved here for love.  Some others did the same thing, or came to teach English, or to work, or just to learn french.  Sad as it was, when the summer came to an end (tourist season), so did my job (which I knew when I started).  

      But Summer wasn't all work and no play......  I did manage to fit the vacation of a lifetime in there somewhere....       

Best tours in Paris! -

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Job hunting in France

Job hunting in America wasn't easy, but in a foreign country it's even more difficult. 

       After my first month attending classes, I was ready to get out there and find a job.  Of course my dream would be to find this amazing marketing position, (part-time) that is looking for someone who speaks perfect English and very little French. After lots of searching I have realized that job does not exist.  I emphasize part-time, because although I would love to work full-time, with a student-Visa you are only able to work up to 20 hours a week.  That limited my search for employment and also made me more open to any kind of job!  After I transformed my résumé into a "CV", I applied at restaurants, hotels, boutiques, call centers, and museums.  I had high hopes when I would get a call for an interview, but when it came time to interview nerves were high!
      I remember my first interview was at a restaurant/bar chain, called O'Sullivans Irish Pub.  It was located near Pigalle, which isn't exactly the safest part of Paris (from what I'm told).  So I walk in to meet the two managers who seemed pretty easy going, both with strong Irish accents.  As the interview continued pretty smoothly, they told me what the schedule would look like for the person they were looking to hire.  (I was hoping for something after my class say 2:00pm and ending before it got dark?)  They were looking for someone who could work from 10:00pm to 5:00am!  (WHAT kind a bar is open until 5am!)  This wasn't possible for more than one reason.  First of all, the train stops running between 12:30am- 6:00am, and second I had classes!  After trying to charm them in to laying off one of their current employees with an afternoon shift, I was left with not the best expectations for the job. 
       Onto a few more not so successful interviews, until I got a call for a call center position.  (Perfect! I have lots of experience on the phone!)  The only problem with this interview was, it was in Versailles (not familiar territory), and an hour and half by train.  Thomas asked his Grandfather if he would mind taking me to my interview just so I can learn the area a little bit before seeing it alone.  "Papi" being the great grandfather that he is to Thomas, said that'd be no problem to take me 40 minutes by car to my interview.  Now that transportation was figured out, I was not only having my typical pre-interview nerves but also thinking of how this car ride was going to go.  Just me and Papi, alone, with no translator, this should be interesting.  The morning of, I was ready early so we could be sure we didn't hit traffic.  As we drove I read over a few notes I jotted down, and tried to make the best of the awkward silence with no music.  Every once and awhile he would point to a sign or the road and say something, I would respond with either a "Oui" or "Uh huh"(< I don't even know if "uh huh" translates!)  Occasionally I would look around and say something like " le ciel est bleu" (the sky is blue), yes, weather is always a good common interest.  We made it in great time not hitting any traffic at all and arriving 30 minutes early.  As we sat in the car awaiting my interview patiently, I was wondering what was Papi going to do when I walked in for it? (Was he going to stay in the car? Is he going to walk in with me? Would that be weird if he did?)  
       Next thing I knew it was time, and sure enough Papi was coming in with me! (Eeekk this would be weird if I took my grandfather in with me to an interview in USA, but I'm sure as hell not going to ask him to stay in a car!  Who knows how long it could take!?) Once we walked in I let the woman know I was here for an interview.  She then looked at Papi and asked him if she could help him, but he informed her that he was here with me.  She told us to have a seat while we waited, and there were some magazines.  After about another 20 minutes, the woman who would be interviewing me came out and introduced herself to me, and to Papi.  She then spoke in French with him, so I couldn't exactly follow what was said but it seemed pretty normal (as normal as you get with bringing your boyfriends grandfather to your interview).  After a long interview, testing my french skills, and phone skills it was over.  All and all it went pretty well, the french part was difficult but I did the best I could do under pressure.  We walked out to the front to meet Papi, and I'm pretty sure he asked her (the woman who just interviewed me) how I did!?  I remember my face turning bright red, but she responded with a casual, friendly response.  I may have been a little nervous having Thomas's Grandfather there with me, but if it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't have made to that interview.  
      I didn't stop looking for jobs even if something felt promising, I continued to look until something was certain!  I attended another interview just a few days after that. It was in Paris working for a tourist company.  That interview was much more relaxed considering she was American too, and it was all in English!  The more I heard about what the job entailed, the more I wanted it! The position was a museum Hostess, which involved meeting tour groups up to 20 person, at some of the most famous museums in Paris: the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, and Pompidou.  I would then introduce them to a tour guide then follow the groups through the museums making sure not to lose anyone along the way. (sounds easy enough) This was the perfect job for me, I can meet new people, learn the city better, and get to hear about the most famous art in our history, daily.  
      After both job left me in suspense for the next two weeks, the job for the Museum host called me first!  (woooohooo!)  This call couldn't have come at a better time, classes were coming to an end and summer was approaching.  She proceeded to tell me I start training on May 12, 2012, with a Bicycle tour around Paris!  I love this job already!!

Just for the record, the other job at the call-center also called me for a position about a month after the interview.  But I wasn't going to turn down the position that involved seeing museums daily and get paid for it!  Whoever said taking a cute grandfather to an interview with you hurts your chances of landing a job?

The differences between a CV and a Résumé.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Back to School!

I mapped out my daily voyage to school, practiced it once, and my first day had arrived!

       I was as prepared as I was going to get, yet still nervous to venture off alone, but if I was going to be living in France for the next year I had to try to become a member of their society and not be scared to be alone.  After 25 minutes on the train, then jumping on Metro 5, then on the 7, I made it to my stop.  Now from this point I just had to find the school.  (Was it left or right?)   After walking in circles for about ten minutes, I found my school!  My class was going to be five days a week (Monday-Friday) 3 hours a day, for 3 months.  They said by the end I should have the basics down.  Yes, just the basics..... 
       When I got in my class room, my initial reaction was to introduce myself, but when I looked around I realized not everyone in this room spoke English so I kept pretty quiet.  Once the professor entered the room, she got started with introductions.  We each went around and said our name and what nationality we were.  "Bonjour, Je m'appelle Alex, Je suis Américaine."(Hello, my name is Alex, I am American.)  The others in my class ranged from young to old, male and female, and from all over the world!  China, Japan, Portugal, Brazil, Philippians, Venezuela, Iran, Hungary, Egypt, Russia, and Poland!  I couldn't believe I was meeting people from all over the world in one room.  There were so many questions I wanted to ask them about their own countries but like a said not everyone spoke the best English so that made it a little difficult.  As a matter of fact, the entire class was in French, and so was our text book and work book. (This whole learning a new language is going to be harder than I thought, ummm translation please?)  The class continued and we started with the basics, but to be completely honest I understood about 20% of what went on.  The other 80% of the time I sat there and tried to guess what she could be talking about.  Every once in awhile I would hear a word I understood and try to find where she was.  To me it sounded something like: "Je vousud fhdjsfhjf hfhdjhfu *T-SHIRT* vla fodofosofns."  "Ok, she's talking about a T-shirt somewhere!"  Surprisingly there are a lot of words that are the same, just with the French accent so it takes practice to be able to recognize it.  My new motto became "When in doubt just say the word I want to say in French in English, just using my French accent."  Sometimes it doesn't work and you get a few strange looks, but sometimes it works like a charm, or enough to be understood.

       Just like regular school she assigned homework and said to finish it by tomorrow.  Once my normal class was over I had a break, and then one hour of a different class each day that went from Grammaire, Expression Orale, écriture, Phonétique, and Lexique.  If you don't know what all of those are, well then you would understand how I felt when I looked at the schedule and wasn't sure exactly what I was walking in to.  The different classes were a little more advance, technically my level, but clearly more advance than me.  In these classes I met some more people, and some I could even carry on a conversation with (in English).  But speaking in your native language in a French class only gets you in trouble.
(My friend from Venezuela, Mariangel)
        Each day I got a little better and started to understand the language more and more.   Which made me feel comfortable enough to explore different cafés and be able to order all by myself (instead of always having Thomas there to do it for me).   Although I had improved, my accent was still far from perfect.  Which brings me to funny story.  I walked in to this cute café not far from my school and I walk up to the coffee bar to ask for a coffee.  Thinking back on my lessons and Rosetta stones I look at the man and say "Bonjour, du café, sil vous plait." (the coffee, please) The man looked at me a little funny and was like "deux?"(2)  I thought I had pronounced it perfectly but when I saw the confusion in his face, I repeated myself. Next thing I know he has two coffees placed on the bar for me.  At that point it clicked, that my du and deux must have been confused because there I was alone at the café with TWO coffees.  I  took my two coffees to the table to drink and laugh at myself, I guess that's why he gave me that bewildered face.  After that I really practiced what I felt would be useful on the day to day, and wrote them down in my little notebook.
  1. I don't understand. - Je ne comprends pas.
  2. What time is it? - Quelle l'heure est-il?
  3. I don't speak well French.- Je ne parle pas bien Français. 
  4. *One coffee and cream please.-Un café et crème de s'il vous plaît
  5. Where is                    ?-  Où est            ?