Saturday, May 19, 2012

Welcome To France

After a few days of uninterrupted bliss, yesterday I had my first Welcome To France moment. That's the term American expats use in France when something happens that, in their opinion, defies common sense and is thoroughly unAmerican. As I am now American as much as French, I, too, am now at risk of reacting in that way.

Yesterday a technician came to my place to install an internet and phone connection. Unable to find the very easy Parisian address, he called me twice on the way; parked his car illegally, got it towed away, had to go to the car pound to get it back, and finally showed up at my place two hours later, in a rotten mood. He then told me that he needed to change a plug that was hidden behind the TV and hard to access. The TV had to come off, but he wouldn't touch it, because he did not want to be responsible if anything happened. After calling my landlady, locating the instruction manual, and examining the TV, I realized that all I needed to do was remove a bolt, unscrew a single screw, and the TV would come off. I had no tools, but what about the technician? No such luck: he declared firmly that he had no tools, that the appointment would have to be rescheduled, and I signed a piece of paper that said that he had come to my place and that the result had been "echec": failure.

A technician comes to set up an internet connection but has no tools, not even a monkey wrench? Welcome To France.


  1. Hmmm. Claire, I suspect you're inferring a general rule (indifferent and incompetent service in France compared to the US) from some individual experience.

    In California, I've encountered indifferent, incompetent service quite a number of times. I called for an airport shuttle, and they "forgot" about me (good I called later to double-check - I had some doubts, from the way the guy answered me). In LA, I've had quite a few experiences with hotel receptionists and shop clerks that clearly made me think that I, the client, was some kind of inconvenience that prevented them from dozing off. At Fry's electronics, I encountered people who did not know what they were selling where.

    My theory about these behaviors was that these people were paid minimal wage and were hired without qualifications; they probably had long commutes to/from work and were really tired (some had haggard looks). Their pay most probably did not change according to whether or not they gave good service...

  2. Well, DM, we'll see if that happens again. It has been the one glaring exception so far.


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