The Art of Hello

“Listen, Snow” said my Finnish boss, young like me but better versed in the mysterious ways of the French.

2004… in an office building in one of the northern suburbs of Paris…

“Listen, Snow” said my Finnish boss, young like me but better versed in the mysterious ways of the French. She had been there longer. I was a brand new intern.

“Some of our colleagues are wondering if you hate them…”

“Whaaat? What do you mean?” I managed.

“Well, you haven’t given them all bisous each morning.”

“But I do give them bisous! Not everyone of course but the ones I chat with and who sit nearby.”

“That’s exactly it. You know, they expect you to do the rounds, like everyone else does.”

“What? Like go around on both floors of the office building and kiss everyone on the cheek! Hahah!! How long would that take me, 25 minutes each morning?! It’d be 9:30 before I’d be sitting at my desk!” I laughed at the absurdity.

“Besides, I don’t know anyone on the other floor,” I added quite smartly.

“They all know you’re the new intern though you’ve never met, and they expect you to say hi to them each morning – to every single one of them individually. And it doesn’t matter if it takes 30 minutes. Everyone does it! No one works during the first half hour after they arrive!”

“So you want me to kiss everybody, every morning, are you kidding me?!”

Just then, we heard a pop and a champagne cork flew from somewhere.

“Oh hey, I forgot! It’s Angélique’s sister’s birthday so she’s offering us all an apéro before lunch! Come on! And please promise me you’ll start the bise rounds first thing tomorrow morning.”

And so yet another day started with kir royale on an empty stomach, after which work flew by quite nicely, and at lunch time everyone was invited to go together to a nearby restaurant. Wine was served and lunch took 1-2 hours. Everyone worked very late in the evenings to compensate.

You live, you learn! The complete opposite way of working than what I had known back home. A dozen jobs later, it still seems like a dream.

But I never did do those cheek kiss rounds.

80 replies on “The Art of Hello”

Sounds like an absolute nightmare. I saw a great meme the other day that describes my situation perfectly.
“Why are you always so quiet?” they ask.
“We’re not friends,” is the answer.
It’s so weird that most see coming to work as a social thing. I go to work to… work.

Liked by 1 person

Hahah! I agree! I actually like chitchatting but selectively… which means I usually don’t do it at work because I’ve already met my colleagues and realised I have nothing in common with many of them 😀 It’s easier chatting with random strangers: no disappointments. Finland, though, is an introverted culture in general, and chatting with a stranger at the bus stop is perceived as slightly odd…
Anyway, that Paris office was such an extreme example. Like you, I only go to work to work, too, and during the pandemic I’ve very much enjoyed working from home!! Quite sincerely.
Thanks Sam for clicking the links to these old posts, not very many people do! Have a fun weekend!

Liked by 1 person

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