Posted by: britgirl82 | August 9, 2010

The beginning of March 2010 – The French Job Centre

So, February came and went, BritGirl’s boyfriend completed his first month of work en France and enjoyed every minute of it.

BritGirl knew her way around the city, she had explored, she had written letter after letter to friends and family at home – the old fashioned letter writing would not be forgotten by BritGirl. Letters to and from friends and family became very important; it became almost therapeutic to write her thoughts and feelings down and send them away. There was no expectation from BritGirl for someone to reply to these ramblings (of which they often were), but it was merely a means to air her thoughts and not feeling quite so alone. Friends back in England were great, they kept BritGirl going through her first month alone without a job, but now it was time, time to find a job.

This was a tough challenge, in England, BritGirl had always been successful looking for work. She had LOVED her last job and still struggled to accept that she was now fully reliant on her boyfriend and not the independent girl she had been for the past 5 years back home. Her confidence was a little low, the fear of talking a foreign language, of not being understood or making an idiot of herself was always present. This did not stop the job hunting, but definitely made BritGirl a little uncertain of her new life in Bordeaux and the challenge to work and find that indepedent girl she had been not long ago.

Although CVs had been sent to numerous companies across Bordeaux, from hotels, to the tourist office and other larger companies across the city, little positive had come back. After all, the country, like most of Europe was still coming out of the recession or la crise as we called it here….and there was little need for someone who spoke a certain level of French but lots of English.

So with that in mind BritGirl registered with the French Job Centre – Pole D’Emploi – for job searches and merely to see what it was all about. She was not quite expecting the notification of a meeting at the job centre in the first week of March – which she MUST attend!

Another big task for BritGirl alone – this would all be in French, clearly, it was the French job centre, helping French people find work. BritGirl worried; would they be unhelpful because she gave up a job in England to come here? Would they be rude because she did not speak fluent French yet expected to work?

Lots of worries and plans were made, notes and hopes! At 8.30am BritGirl trundled off to explore Pole D’Emploi, having never really been to a job centre back in England she had little idea what to expect here…in the end high rise offices and people waiting outside in the morning cold to register or ask for advice greeted her. With French efficiency BritGirl’s appointment was on time and she was shown to a desk…here a French man preceeded to talk in French, fast for about half an hour. He explained how Pole D’Emploi worked, he talked about BritGirl’s CV, with a few questions for her to answer (but very few) and then that seemed to be it?!

Did BritGirl need anything else? He asked!? Well….. BritGirl was not sure, she had thought this meeting would be about her, what she wanted to do, where she had come from, her concerns, her questions…but it turned out that was not really important. The man showed her how to search for jobs online – after 4 years in recruitment this seemed a little wasted on her, but nevertheless she listened – sometimes looking blank as the French washed over her at a speed you would not believe.

After thanking the man for his help (?) and collecting the papers that she had acquired BritGirl quickly left the job centre. Not particular helpful, she knew no more about finding a job in Bordeaux than she did before. Did she feel more confident after making the appointment and listening to French? She was not really sure, should she have spoken more? Should she have asked more questions? Should the man have been more interactive?

Nevertheless, it was done, BritGirl could, would and did start sending applications through the job centre, finding contacts for jobs and looking at different companies as a result….was there any positive feedback from this? That…you will just have to wait and see!!

Only two days after the job centre experience, BritGirl was taking her first lone flight back to the UK….without a job and after a month on her own, it had been decided that a week back at home with friends and family would be an ideal break! Some will say that BritGirl should stay in France, she lived there after all and needed to experience French life everyday, but for her sanity and also to enjoy some of the additional time she had without a job it made sense to see friends and family.

The flight was uneventful, BritGirl was proud for making it on her own. As written before, the small things suddenly become huge when you live in a foreign country and start doing very different things to your life before!! Days and evenings were spent talking, drinking, laughing and visiting places with BritGirl’s friends and family. She loved every minute of it!

One important task was achieved during this visit home, BritGirl got her hair cut!! Yes, BritGirl went all the way back to the UK for a hair cut!! Do they not have hair dressers en France I hear you ask?! Well, yes, but they are so expensive that BritGirl cannot face it, this along with the fear of explaining what she wants done with her hair wrong en Francais thus leaving the salon with a horrific hair cut! The reality is that even when she lived in Cambridge, BritGirl still travelled 2 hours to her parents’ home to have her hair cut by her childhood hairdresser! So yes, BritGirl may be 27 and a grown up living in a foreign country, but that still doesnt stop some routines existing!!

So….that was it for the job centre in March wasn’t it?! NO! It was not!! Whilst back in the UK, BritGirl received a call from her boyfriend – she had received an invitation to a workshop at the job centre on her first day back in Bordeaux. Now when I write invitation, that is probably an inaccurate definition – there was no option in attendance, as BritGirl had registered with the job centre she was obliged to attend, unless there was a valid reason…and lists of laws were listed to reinforce this!

So, upon returning to la belle France, BritGirl set off for the job centre, even more nervous than on her last visit. Going back to the UK had given BritGirl a little more confidence in her job hunt. She was capable and qualified and had the skills to work with people so she WOULD and COULD find a job, but this confidence seemed to disappear little by little as she made her way there. A workshop? She did not much like forced social events like these back in the UK, how would she fare when they were in French, with French people who she felt, probably quite rightly, deserved and needed a job in France more than she did…after all, she had given up a perfectly good job to move here.

The workshop opened with a dramatic twist…one girl (with her child) threw a chair across the room and walked out upon finding that the session would last 2 hours and she was not sure she could manage that with her child… nobody quite knew what to say at this point, so an awkward silence started the workshop. After that episode when everyone calmed down, BritGirl told the “teacher” she was in English so if possible could they speak a little slower. They didnt. Needless to say, when things got going, the French sped up!! The session, looking back, was not as scary as it could have been and was probably a good lesson for BritGirl en Francais – a workbook was worked through, with hints, tips and questions about job hunting, discussions continued as to how best to look for the right job, target companies and sell yourself. It may not have been the most informative of sessions (BritGirl was truly frustrated more often than not, that she had lots of thoughts, experiences and advice to give from her previous career in recruitment back in the UK, but could not, for the life of her convey this in French). However, it was more useful than meeting one at the job centre and had been a good french experience for BritGirl.

As soon as she left the building, BritGirl rang one of her “confidants” en Angleterre. Now I write confidant, because this was what he had become. Over the intial two months in Bordeaux, through texts, emails and letters, BritGirl had aired her grievances, worries and fears to this very strong, young man back home. The cost of the call did not matter, BritGirl just needed to tell someone back home that she had managed the workshop, another big achievement in a small way! The phone call made BritGirl even more confident that it could work and she could find a job…walking along the river back home, on the phone to her friend, BritGirl thought life in Bordeaux might not be so tough after all.


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