Posted by: britgirl82 | August 9, 2010

March 2010 draws to a close – French Parties and Interviews

So, with new found interest and hope for her life in Bordeaux, BritGirl decided a party was needed. Her boyfriend had made new friends through his job, his birthday was coming up and more effort at being social was needed….BritGirl’s genius idea – they would host a birthday party at their flat.

During the preparations, this sounded like a good idea, food, drink and music – people to talk with and conversation for BritGirl…..however, the party fell on the England v France rubgy match…never a good situation in an English girl’s house with lots of French people!! There was also the dilemma…what food did you serve? The French did eat a little differently to us, what wine should we buy? How much wine or beer did we need?! The whole day was taken up with preparations, shopping and making space in the fridge for all the food and drink….then came that horrible point in hosting a party, the waiting! You sit, worrying no one will turn up, that it was a mistake arranging it after all and you just wanted a quiet night at home! Mmmm BritGirl wasn’t sure that a party was the best idea after all?!

Then, someone arrived and you worried that they would be the only attendees, which potentially would be worse than no one arriving at all!! But fear not, BritGirl’s worries were unecessary (she often wondered afterwards whether all her worries were usually unfounded?) – the kitchen was full of people by 10pm and wine and beer was flowing – more beer than wine, the food was being eaten and bad french music was being played.

This was something BritGirl never thought she would get used to, music choice for French in their 20s-30s was either VERY bad french rap/dance/crooning music which was never pretty or VERY out of date English tunes which only reminded BritGirl of her school days – so overall the music always confused BritGirl. On that subject, music had become very important to BritGirl during her unemployed month – music to stop the apartment being quiet when she was home alone, music to walk about town with, music to cheer her up, music to think to, music for the chores…..never more than en France had music been more important. At this point another thanks must go to a certain friend for keeping BritGirl topped up with new music – through YouTube, CDs or just general education…..BritGirl is much more wiser for this and can also avoid the cheesy French music whenever possible!!

With music en France came dancing and lots of it….the friends BritGirl’s boyfriend had made LOVED TO DANCE, regardless of how bad the music was or how silly they all looked, dancing happened! BritGirl never really one for dancing had to join in too – it was the way…you just did it!

The rugby shouldnt really be mentioned, as you probably guessed, it was not to be. Although it was an English household and England ruled…it was definitely a French win and the French cheer was heard…at that point, BritGirl headed for the wine and danced!

So, first French party hosted and a success was had. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, BritGirl and her boyfriend had been good hosts,the food and drink was gone (except the 12 bottles of wine BritGirl had been given as gifts…with gifts like that more parties would be hosted!) BritGirl felt happy with herself, although these were not necessarily her friends, she had enjoyed socialising, having fun and spending an evening where it was not just her and her boyfriend – although as lovely as he was, sometimes, different social contact, conversation and even dancing was needed!!

March was a month of firsts, first trip to the French job centre, first flights on her own, first French party hosted and wait for it…first French interview!! Yes, BritGirl was surprised too, after a month and a half of serious looking she had an interview for a job at a new hotel on the other side of town. After a difficult telephone call making the arrangements (phone calls en Francais will always be the hardest part of living here), a few scrambled emails to change the location of the interview as BritGirl didnt have a car and they wanted ot interview her miles from town out in the country…even though the job was in the city centre!! Nevertheless after a number of emails, the interview was arranged and fast approaching – it would be at a bar near the station.

After years of working in recruitment, BritGirl often knew interviews were held in hotel bars but this bar, was literally just that, a bar opposite the station often full of tourists. She was nervous, more nervous than she had ever been before….hours were spent writing notes of what she could say in French to answer potential questions about herself, her career, her skills, the job and anything else that she could possibly prepare for. It was like exam revision…she wanted this so much….anything to make her feel a little more worthwhile than the current routine of housework and walks.

Nerves were made worse through the note taking and the French grammar checking. Although working in recruitment in the UK for a number of years had given BritGirl model answers to questions such as “What are your strengths/weaknesses” etc, nearly three months with no work had dented BritGirl’s confidence so much that she wasn’t too sure what her strengths were anymore? In her old job, she could have told you, but what now? Without a job or proficiency in the local language, what really were her strengths?!

Friends coached BritGirl on from a distance with emails and texts, her boyfriend’s Dad (retired French teacher, thank you very much) helped with French grammar and praise and then, finally, the day was here, BritGirl’s first interview in 5 years and her first EVER interview in French.

However, it was not quite what she expected…another common theme with life so far in France, it never quite went as you expected it to. She greeted the Hotel Manager and that went fine, they sat outside the bar and ordered coffee…it was windy so the first 10 minutes were spent holding onto papers and CVs in the wind. The next 10 minutes were spent with her interviewer trying to light her cigerette in the wind (lets face it en France, smoking is the second most important task in a bar after ordering the beer/wine) Yet BritGirl felt uncomfortable. This didn’t feel right, it wasn’t just the location or the relaxed nature of the interview or even the language (although that did play a role), she just could not connect with the Hotel Manager.

The lady talked a lot, about the hotel, when it opened, her team so far, what she was looking for and the company – BritGirl understood most of this and did feel that it was a good start, if she could understand then she was getting somewhere, regardless of the fact that she hadn’t really connected with the person she would have to work with if successful. BritGirl hated the fact she didnt really have any questions to ask…they had all been covered. BritGirl also disliked that she had prepared so much for this interview with model answers or phrases in French but few questions were asked of her…again like the job centre, the lady spoke and reviewed her CV but never really asked BritGirl about her!!! Were BritGirl’s expectations completely off mark?

The point where BritGirl knew the interview would not turn out well soon came….discussions of a start date arose and BritGirl explained that in early April she would be going to the UK for a week and although this trip could be shortened it could not be cancelled, it was her friend’s hen weekend after all and that was not going to be missed. Instantly the interview took a cooler approach…it was left that the Hotel Manager would be in touch, but she reiterated she did need someone who could start soon, which BritGirl assured her she could, but would need 4 days off regardless.

How did BritGirl feel after her first interview? Deflated is probably the best word. She sat on the tram on her way home, with her sunglasses hiding the tears brewing. She had prepared so much, but none of it had been needed, she had been positive and tried to speak French when needed, but the interviewer didn’t seem to connect or be that interested.

After thinking about it and numerous pep talks from friends and family, BritGirl tried not to worry, what would be would be…she needed a job but as a good friend reminded her, she also needed to like where she was working and the interview was much about her interviewing the company/new manager as it was for them interviewing her.

In the end BritGirl did not get the hotel job, an email came through days later, politely saying thank you for your time but no thank you. It was expected. BritGirl had realised this, after letting the interview experience sink in, she had not connected with the Hotel Manager, she had not conveyed herself very well, her commitments at home had not fitted in and in reality, did she really want to work for someone she had not felt connected to?

Again at this point BritGirl has to thank her friends back in England, all gave her great hope and motivation that something would come along and it was all experience. After all, as one important friend said, “this was an adventure and the interview experience only added to that”. It might be true, living en France was an adventure, with something new everyday but more importantly BritGirl was learning an awful lot about herself…time on her own made her realise how important her friends and family were, how important the small things were, how she should appreciate life at home as much as work, how relaxed she had become but at the same time and perhaps more surprising for BritGirl was that she was weaker than she thought. Her confidence was low, she soon realised that her identity and confidence was very tied up with what she did and her work…without a job she was not very sure of herself at all. Is that a sad fact of our lives BritGirl wondered, that so much of who we are and how we feel comes from a job?

Friends re-assured her that she was not weak, but actually strong – she was living in a foreign country for heavens sake, with lots of time on her hands to think and worry and over-think. They were right of course. In many ways, although BritGirl had learnt her weaknesses and worried about them, she often forgot her strengths – she was living en France with her boyfriend without any close friends or family nearby, it was a foreign country with a foreign language and she was doing it! Of course she would feel lonely, frustrated, upset even angry somedays, but one day at a time and one baguette a day and she would get used to her new life.  Right, pep talk over!

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