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Au revoir Paris, j’taime très fort

warning, long post ahead .. move on if you’re looking for a quick read, this girls got something to say.  

The Baretti’s are on the move, again.

After 2 years and 8 months, we are hanging up our doudoune and heading for the golden, shimmering sands of Dubai.  

Surprisingly, I’m a train wreck.

In a mere few days we say goodbye to the city we started raising our boy in. Where he had his first haircut, crashed rode his first tricycle, scooter and bike.  Had his first tantrum, took his first tumble in the playground, stood up for himself in the sand pit, and started to school. There’ll be no more after school trips to the park or cheeky patisserie pit stops at the local boulangerie for goûter.

It pains me knowing I won’t be able to drive past somewhere that triggers a memory and takes me back to one of those pivotal moments in our boys early childhood. I feel a tremendous sadness, that sinking feeling, a mix of guilt and sorrow in knowing our boy won’t grow up with the little friends he’s made, or even remember who they are/were.

All the guilt.  They say it’s an useless emotion. What they don’t say is how strong that prickly pear is and how incredibly vulnerable it can make you feel.

Expat life is not for everyone. It’s not glamorous, it’s tough, and not for the faint hearted. It takes a certain strength, something you summon up every damn day to overcome what you miss. In even the smallest of ways, you miss something about home on a daily basis. You miss the familiar. Not just family and friends but the way of life you were conditioned to, where and how you were raised.

You compare everything you see and how your “new” life is to what you already know and it’s flippin DANGEROUS to ones psyche.

After 8 years abroad I’ve learned to take the good with the bad, face the cultural challenges head on, get up every day and tell yourself “I’ve got this”. It’s about unconditioning yourself and making the new home wherever you go.

It’s about learning to drown out the guilt, noise of not being at home where you belong” (a common phrase heard by families of expat families) and get on with daily life, dreams, ambitions for you and the family you are creating.

Living in the City of Light has been both the most difficult, yet rewarding challenge yet. Beijing was tough, but Paris is the clear winner in the “tough” stakes. Initially language was the biggest hindrance with integration, however, over the last 6 months I’ve felt more confident in my speech, and slowly came out of my shell. God, in no way am I fluent (hopefully one day!) but I’m not frightened of making a fool of myself anymore and can manage a light conversation on my best days.

I’ll miss the people at work, who made my days so much fun (and bearable!) you know who you are, who supported my craziness and constant ramblings of all things Australian. No one will forget the crows, the “courage” of our Aussie rules or my Aussie BBQ Classics Spotify playlist ! I’ll miss the guy who smiles and calls me “Aussie” everyday cos it’s the only thing he can say in English. I’ll miss people asking me to repeat my “Nom” or where I work because I can’t pronounce the french “R” properly. I’ll miss those who speak to me in English because they want to practice “ze anglais”.

I’ll miss the Seine at night in all its glory, the beauty in the way the lights reflects off the water. Centuries of buildings, standing the test of time, and beating the harsh Parisienne weather extremities.  Standing by the beautiful clocks in my favourite, Musee D’orsay, staring over Paris, admiring the Sacre Coeur, watching the tourists float by on the Bateaux Mouches, mouths agape in awe.  An awe that is never lost, but seems to enhance over time.  Paris, you really are a true beauty, even on the coldest, wettest, windiest of days, you can take a persons breath away.

Then you step on a dog turd, and all the loveliness dissipates in an instant.

I will not miss these dirty folk who somehow think it’s OK to leave their dogs doings in the path of others, specifically my son and his bike.  Have you ever tried getting soft poo out from in between tyre tread? In your bath. Yes, the one you clean yourself in, because no apartment has a laundry! Unless of course your “riches”, living in the 16e in your cosy 1000 sqm “apartment”.  

Selfish, selfish <expletiveright here>.

I will not miss counting or evaluating the cost of something, #fml that’s hard yakka. Still got me at quatre-vinghts deuze. Merde!

I will not miss the constant grey skies or smelly metro with no AC in the scorching summer heat.  God no.  That is hell on earth.

But geeze, I’ll miss the fromage and pain tradition, pas trops cuir stp.  I’ll miss the swiftness of Amazon Prime next day delivery, because Europe.

Onwards we go.  New dreams to make, new places to see, new people to meet, new adventures to be had and a new “home” to create.  Shop & Ship here I come.

I feel like I be left pieces of me in the places I’ve lived and visited, and as cheesy as this sounds, the biggest piece of me is in Australia, the only true place I could ever call home. I’ll be seeing you real soon.

Until next time, au revoir Paris, j’taime très très fort.


Photo credit: Clock Painting – Musee Dorsay Clock Window by Joan Ryan.

Expat life comments are my own views and in no way replicate or dictate other expat opinions.

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What Does a Career Break Really Cost You?

What if I fall quote
One of my favourite quotes by Erin Hanson. Wise lady that Erin.
Dedicated to the women of the world facing career challenges after bringing a human into the world. I feel you.

You all need to be celebrated.  We all need to be celebrated. 

Becoming a mother is no mean feat.  It is one of, if not, the most exhausting, physically and mentally demanding ‘jobs’ a person can do.  And, it’s largely unpaid.  Suppose for a minute we were to get paid … this clever little calculator  summarises what the cumulative job of M U M is worth.

Yet, irrespective of our many talents, having one of the greatest responsibilities on earth and taking time to fulfill that responsibility, deems you unemployable in the real money making world.  Unless you’re self employed, which then brings about its own sets of issues.

At least this is what rings true for me.

How on earth did I go from a senior level manager to being rejected (or not even considered) for countless roles at entry, mid and senior levels?

I’ve applied for more positions than I can count in the last 8 months.  I’ve had 3 companies of interest.  3 interviews.  Zero offers.

Living in a foreign country with a language barrier obviously leaves me at a disadvantage. Feedback from two interviews (and my recruiter) indicates this is the major factor, particularly in my usual line of work which requires significant client interaction.

I understand to a degree.

What I fail to comprehend is the lack of interest for the English speaking positions I’ve applied for, all directly in line with my skills and expertise.  Paris is a hub of global business activity, engaging with wider Europe, APAC and Americas.  Considering English is the universal business language, surely someone out there needs a lass that can speak English fluently?!

Recently I received an invitation to interview via email that clearly indicated my profile and expertise were a “good match” for the Senior Project Manager eCommerce position.  A position I could easily fulfill and perform well in.  I had a phone interview, which seemed to flow nicely and then I waited for feedback.  48hrs later I got it.

I regret to inform you that we have decided not to progress further with your application and move forward with candidates whose experience is a closer fit to our search.

I’m at a loss here.  One minute my experience is a good match and the next my experience is off point.

Now, I’m not a narcissist, so I’ve clearly gone wrong somewhere along the line.  I want to know where I’m falling over.  Self improvement 101.

So I write a “Thank You email” to the once lovely HR lady who is now avoiding me and politely asked her to provide some feedback for my own personal development, thanked her for the opportunity and wished them the best – as you do.  Personal branding is everything.

So, I wait for a response filled with anxiety.  I’m still waiting.  I’ll be waiting.  All I have left is to churn every little negative thought over in mind.

Did I talk off topic, talk too much, say too little, summarise incorrectly, how was my elevator pitch, is my experience not solid enough, am I over my head, OMG I’m a F R A U D, how’s my profile photo, are my social accounts up to date, are they not relevant enough, too personal, s!*t did they read my blog ?! … WHAT. DID. I. DO. WRONG? 

Then I remember the deafening silence whilst willingly explaining my career gap.  Yes, I made a decision to start a family, and at a later age than most, thinking my career was established and secure.  Or at least I thought.

I can hear their little brains ticking as I answer the questions; “she has children, she isn’t committed, she can’t travel, she can’t work 100 hours a week, work is not her first priority” HEX, HEX, HEX. 

These people do not know me.  They have no idea on the caliber of person they are turning away.  I have worked my way up the food chain and built a career.  It wasn’t handed to me on a silver platter.  I earned it.

So now I ask myself, what has this “career break” really cost me? Let’s break it down:

  • loss of income
  • lost income growth
  • career advancement
  • retirement benefits
  • career confidence
  • loss of identity
  • imposter/fraud syndrome
  • anxiety

There is something very wrong with this story.

A 2014 survey from London Business School deemed “70% of women fear taking a career break”.  How is this OK?  Not only are women faced with a decision on wanting children (or not), they also need to consider the impact to their careers.  What kind of system allows this to happen?

in 2016 women should not be trying to fit into the economy when we could be shaping it !

I have 5 different versions for my CV, all targeted at various levels and positions.  I’m tailoring the darn thing to almost every position I apply for – it is work, tedious work.  Maybe I need to start coding my job applications like Nina for AirBnB – which is uh-mazing btw, GO Nina!

Thankfully I have still retained my humour through all of this.

Women all over the globe are facing this same issue.  We’re all being made to feel like second rate citizens because we decided to contribute to global population growth and boost the economy for years to come.

It is not good enough and I will not stand for it.  Why are women targeted for something that was anatomically given to them and therefore, a right of passage to utilise.  We are being penalised for having used our reproductive organs. Simple as that.

Recently I followed a startup called Apres.  These ladies have provided a platform for women to learn and guide us back into the job hunt.  It’s similar to LinkedIn but targeted specially at women seeking to return to work after their “career break”.  I’m following closely and so far appreciate their service offering.  They understand the psychology behind the “career break” and provide insightful information that can help challenge the negative cognitive thought process that comes with being a mum – who once upon a time, used to be ‘Somebody’ other than ‘Mum’.

It pains me to tears to write “career break”.  I didn’t chose a break from my career.  I chose to give life and nurture that life and help to make it the best life it can be.  Isn’t that a job in itself?  However ‘career break’ seems to be the PC term for our baby making phenomena.

This “career break” was handed to me on a platter of “suck it up love”. It is single handedly the largest and longest emotional roller coaster of life. There is no job task on this planet (besides world peace) that can be harder than being a mother or carer (if you want to get all PC on me). I raise anyone to challenge me on that – with of course, an actual job.

Not a day goes by that I regret my choice. My son teaches me how to be a better human every single day. I anticipated some career fall out, however, I not at this magnitude. I am forever the optimist and still believe getting back into the workforce can happen. For me it’s a question of language and geography, on top of the career gap issue.  I’ve always been up for a challenge.

My advice to all the want-to-be mothers out there. Before you make a decision to go on a “career break” – plan wisely, strategise and set yourself up for some fallout. For some that may be returning to work sooner, for others that may be a financial contingency for your planned break. Engage with networks like Apres so you can be fully aware of expectation. If you take your career seriously, you owe it to yourself to be prepared.

As for me, I don’t go down without a fight. I prefer to F L Y.


p.s. Nina did get the job with AirBnB #CVGoals

p.s.s. With reference to the recent job rejection. No doubt there could be a million other reasons that I wasn’t successful in my interview. I would love to know. However, it is fair to determine the career gap is a significant contributing factor.

p.s.s.s Ladies, I’d love to hear your ‘return to work’ stories and any other feedback you may have on our plight. Leave me a comment and we’ll chat xo

Image credit: theglobewanderers.com.

My Whole Brain Is Crying

img_3072-1
Image credit: Google gifs. Merci beaucoup.

In today’s lesson I accomplished everything and nothing. This is how it went …

2 hour commute to my 2 hour French lesson – way on the other side of Paris. 3 tram stops and 4 metro stations changes later. I’m exhausted before I get there. So many numbers already.

I meet my tutor M in the local bar/cafe and pop a Panadol with my “thé aux fruits rouge”. Really hitting the hard stuff this morning.

We begin. I learn. Nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, indefinite, definite and possessive articles all determined by gender (masculine/feminine) and whether they’re flying solo (singular) or at a party (plural).  M says “indefinite article” to me and I nod politely but really my mind goes blank. I’m supposed to remember this. I’d like to know exactly how many people read and go “oh there’s an indefinite article, a noun and a verb and there’s that doing word thingo”. Do you?

Moving on from my English Lit failure …

M taught me how to count. It’s very similar to Italian so it seems like a no brainer for me. Then you hit 60 and sh*t gets real. For example:

  • 60 is written soixante. 
  • 70 is written soixante dix, because 60 + 10 = 70. Dix being 10. OK. Stay with me.
  • 71 is written soixante et onze, because 60 + 11 = 71.  Onze being 11.  Still there?
  • 72 is soixante douze, 60 + 12 = 72. Douze being 12 …. and so on, until you get to the mothers of all the numbers, 80 and 90.
  • 8o is written quatre-vingts, because 4 x 20 = 80. Just let that sink in for a minute.
  • 90 is written quatre-vingt dix, because 4 x 20 = 80 + 10 = 90. Got it? Nailed it right.

Picture this … 

You’re at the checkout with no digital display to show you the total amount due. It’s common in the local stores here, at the butcher and the baker the candlestick maker.

You’re still working out the coin sizes (1 and 2 cent pieces still exist). The assistant tells you in the fastest of French, which sometimes has a Chinese or Vietnamese accent, “douze euros et quatre-vingt quatorze centimes”. 

???????? WTHeck ????????? “My Whole Brain is Crying”

Your mind goes AWOL. You search around in your purse attempting to cover up the fact you have no idea what they just said by looking for change, whilst you’re frantically trying to reiterate the words in your mind to come up with a ’round about number. You cannot work it out so you mumble “je n’ai pas la bonne monnaie” (I don’t have the right change) and hand over a bank note. Defeated.

This has been me on countless occasions. I’ve boycotted stores for this very reason. I prefer to support the local guys so I really need to get better at this change thing.

If you are still trying to work out that number, it’s €12.94. Easy! Ha.

 

 

 

 

Je m’appelle Adele 

So today I had my first real French lesson.

The ‘not from a lonely planet phrasebook’ kind. Those are incredibly useful but if I want to have real life discussions, I need to extend my vocabulary past “une baguette s’il vous plait”. 

French lesson
“Terre des mots” is a text designed for primary school children. My tutor has high hopes for me.

I’ve only been with my French (now) husband for 7 years. Call me an avoider. It’s a difficult language and I’m a big chicken. There, I said it. Just too scared to fail because I suck at languages. My other half is the polar opposite, he’s a language sponge.He speaks a few of them. Sometimes I switch off when he talks about the “langue”. He doesn’t know this because I never let my eyes glaze over. Clearly I’m joking, sort of.

All jokes aside, there are very good reasons for me to learn.

Here’s my motivation list ….

  1. So I understand when my husband is talking bad things about me to my son, like “mummy won’t let you eat that chocolate, she said no”. That’s a diplomatic example.
  2. As above except applied to the in-laws. You feeling me?!
  3. Employment. Even though there’s a buhzillion foreigners in Paris who everyone tells me “seem to have easily landed English speaking jobs not speaking a word of the language”  – well, I am not one of those “lucky” ones.
  4. So I can say more than “putain” or “conard” when some ar*ewipe fails to adhere to basic road rules, like stopping at a pedestrian crossing while my son is on it! (that really gets up my goat). Insulting people politely and with a larger vocabulary seems important here. I need to get on that train.
  5. For myself. It’s a slow and painful death living in a foreign country with a language barrier. I need to expand my circle. My daily conversation revolves around “get your finger out your nose” and “no, you can’t have any chocolate” and my  personal favourite, “how many times have I asked you not to do that?!” Nooooooooo.

Back to my lesson …

One tram and four metro station changes later I make it to my teachers hood. Remember I live just outside of the peripherique, so going to the westside of Paris is like a day trip for me. I’m doing one-on-one lessons. We go to a local bar. I’m ensured it’s quiet. This is important as I sure as hell don’t want people listening to me.

I’ve learned a quiet bar in Paris is like a Friday afternoon knock-off drinks. Quiet, not quiet. Apparently it’s the a new cool thing to have your lessons out and about, submerged in the Parisian way. The only thing I was submerged in was phonetics, grammar and conjugation. Up to my eyeballs.

Kudos to my lovely tutor though (I’ll call her M), she kept her voice on the low down and leaned into me so I didn’t have to speak very loud. Bless her. M is ace and her French (for a native Italian) is excellent. M speaks four languages fluently. Puts me to shame. So much shame. M was very patient with me and made me feel really comfortable so after a while I didn’t give a rats bottom who heard me. M was very encouraging of my pronunciation, overall status and ability to progress. Felt pretty chuffed after my 2 hours came to an end.

Feeling pretty confident I can nail this. I’ll keep you posted!

à bientôt

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