tiistai 7. helmikuuta 2017

When You Wish You Were French

I had a job interview today. Fun fact: I applied for the position already a year ago. For some reason they had dug up my CV from their archives and wanted to meet me. I couldn't have been more surprised when I saw my extremely ugly CV I had put together when I was still in Finland working in my guide job in Lapland. Anyway, I decided to give it a shot and prepared my updated documents for the meeting.

The whole interview seemed to come so behind a corner that the days before I didn't quite feel like I was really going to do it. I just had this vague feeling that I should maybe prepare a little to be mentally ready and everything, but my brain just decided that it'll be okay. My husband also told me that I was being paranoid and we should just speak these couple of last days in French to make my communication more effortless. 

I went to the interview looking as sharp as possible in my black pants and navy blazer. I had decided to be the most lovable and smart little Finn ever. My interviewer was late and I was waiting seated while observing their current employees doing their job. There is this type of women that usually work in the administrative office jobs of the state in France. I was seeing a lot of that type there and I was starting to feel uneasy. They look at you as someone who might potentially steal their comfortable position. As people passed, their heads turned and eyes caught a glimpse of me. Some smiled politely, others raised their eyebrows.

When my potential new boss arrived to call me in her office, I made a quick assessment of what I was dealing with: a woman in her late 50's, worked in her state job over 20 years, very strict, will cling on details, possibly insensitive and mean. I straightened my back, smiled and shook her hand. Oh fuck, lord have mercy.

What followed was more of a roast than an interview. She had hardly looked at my motivation letter apparently, because she thought I would be absolutely fluent in French. She is the first person ever to frown and twist her face in disbelief when I make an error in the language. My mistakes were not enormous so seeing her reaction was both amusing and frustrating for me. She continued roasting me on the history of Avignon. Not just the general stuff, but all the way into the specific years and historical events. Later my husband (who teaches history) admitted that even he wouldn't have known the answers and not even those who have lived in the city all their life. I felt like the focus was way too much in the details, which I could very well learn by educating myself for a few hours, instead of the big picture of me as a potential employee. When I finally got to mention that I have actually lived in Avignon for only 5 months of my life and in France a total of almost one year, her eyes became round and she went: "AAAAaaah! Now I understand! It all makes sense now. I must applaud you on your French language then!" After this her attitude softened a little, but I already felt like a total piece of shit to be honest. There was no reason, I know, since her overly specific historical questions and general roasting were totally unnecessary. Nevertheless, I am tired of feeling disabled by my less than fluent French language skills. There is a moment in every expat's journey that you just wish you were already one of them. The balls you need to deal with all the trials and errors. The shame and the feeling of not belonging, no matter how hard you try.

Her method of interview was to try everything to throw me out of balance. She asks me why I want the job and after my answer she tries to prove why everything I just said is not valid. She decides that I am actually applying for the management. Oh, this is not interview to be a manager? Oh, really? The job is part time and the salary minimum and there I was being interrogated as if I wanted to be the ruler of the universe. I never told her also that I would speak German. I understand it, but I do not speak it. Nevertheless she decided to test my German and I felt humiliated some more. Even though it was her fault for not listening to me.

In the end I told her that if they were to hire me I would make sure that I study everything there is to know about the city. I also had a moment of some crazy need to end the battle with epicness and I finished by looking her straight in the eye and saying: "When I want something, I always get it by working my hardest. I do anything to be the best in my work. That is a very Finnish quality."

Hahah. She will call me the end of the week if I was chosen. Well, I prefer to forget the whole thing and see what happens. My hopes are not too high. My CV is perfect for the job, but the interview was just way too weird. She also told me that the locals don't like when they hire foreigners for these positions. Great!

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