Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, Politics /

It is all over the press: there is a new binding agreement -some are even talking of a law, which is not the case just yet-, that says that managers of the technology and consultancy sector should switch off their professional mobile phones and not reply to professional emails after 6pm. As a result, the British press is having a field day with the ‘lazy French’, who apparently still indulge in lovely ‘5 to 7’ after work. In short, the good old cliches are back with a vengeance.

I personally believe that the situation is far more complicated that it seems. In fact, I am of two minds. The thing is, I never switch off. I am always thinking of my business. That’s just the way it is, and I don’t want anyone to boss me around about what I should and shouldn’t do, thank you very much. I can’t help thinking that it is ridiculous to have a ‘one size-fits-all’ rule like this. What if you work in a global business and have to call your New York office? It might have to happen after 6pm on a regular basis. Wouldn’t you answer an urgent call from work? Seriously? Well, nobody will want to invest in France if that’s the case, and things will continue to go from bad to worse.

Don’t get me wrong: we all need a break from work from time to time. I take one when I need one. But do we really need a binding agreement for this? I don’t think so, because each business is different. There are good times, and there are bad times. You need to be flexible during bad times. And you have global businesses. And so on, and so forth. It is a fine balance. Of course some bosses are demanding too much from their employees. But no such law can change this, right?

In short, I think that, once again, this binding agreement is clumsily drafted. I am convinced that it just intended to state the obvious: we all need a break.  I am also sure that the intentions of whoever drafted it are good. But it shows in an all-to-obvious way that France is not business-minded. It also shows that France can’t go beyond its narrow-minded parochialism. There is a world outside of France, and there is a need for flexibility within each business. Being pragmatic is simply not France’s forte, that’s pretty obvious.

The British way is very different, and, for me, it is a breath of fresh air. For instance, a year ago, things got to a head when my (then French) husband needed a second passport because his actual one was at the Chinese embassy to get a visa for a future business trip. In order to get another one, he had to go to the French consulate to explain why he needed a second passport. He managed to make an appointment, which was nothing short of a miracle, and went. There, he was given a lecture on the fact that his request needed to be adequately justified and that they needed, amongst other things, a letter of his employer detailing the reasons why he needed another passport (this had already been provided and they wanted more details!!!), and a copy of his local contract and payslips.

What? He couldn’t believe his ears. He went back to his office and called me. He said that he felt he was being watched over by the Stasi. He also added that he didn’t  want to give a copy of his contract to the French authorities. Why would he? He decided to become British shortly afterwards.

When, a year after, he was naturalised, nobody asked him any questions as to why he wanted a second British passport. He paid £25 and, the day after, a second British passport was delivered to our house. No question asked. No additional justification. You have got to love the Brits!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London