When I arrived for my first day of work this past Monday, I was extremely nervous to discover what the culture of the company would be like. I had heard so many people describe the French workplace as extremely formal, hierarchical, etc. So, visions of closed doors, unfriendly faces, and a desk alone in the corner clouded my mind. However, when I called my family that night they immediately asked, “how do you like where you work” and “what is it like?”
My answer? “I love it” and, “google ‘start-up office’.”
It’s true. I absolutely love where I work. My co-workers have been not only helpful, but extremely friendly and welcoming. Addtionally, I feel as though my thoughts and inputs have already been valued, even in my first few days at work. And, to top it off, the culture is down-right open, collaborative, creative, and fun.
However, returning to the actual office layout, as I mentioned to my family, it’s a very stereo-typical start-up office. I’m not joking when I say if you google the phrase “start-up office” you’ll get a good idea as to what the space looks like here. Theatre in Paris, the name of the company I work for, shares a building with three or four other startups. The building itself is three stories high and although most of my co-workers work in a cluster of tables on the third floor, you are free to go wherever you like. There’s couches, a ping pong table, a piano, medicine balls, really anything to get the creativity flowing when you need an extra dose of inspiration. All of these elements really contribute to the organization’s open, relaxed, and collaborative environment.
However, it’s not just the space that encourages this, it’s the people who work there, too. Deadlines don’t really seem to exist and there’s not an exact time as to when everyone has to be in the office in the morning. The company is also very small, with about ten other employees, a lot who are interns, as well. There is a lot of independency as each person has their own set of responsibilities to accomplish but there is also a sense that we are all on the same “team”, so to speak. Because there’s a multitude of languages and nationalities amongst one another, we must all work together to ensure that no meaning or message is getting lost in translation, whatever the lanuage may be. Each of us are encouraged to help each other achieve the company’s ultimate goal ( that is, making french theatre more accessible to english speakers). This goal is not something that just french or just english speakers can do. It takes the collaboration of both, which is so unique and interesting to me
For example, a few days before I arrived, the “mother-company” of Theatre in Paris (the company in charge of the subtitling software that we use to project the shows in english) released a new website. I was asked to carefully read the website and make sure it made sense and used “proper” English, as it was written by someone who speaks French but knows English fairly well. So, I read through it and made my corrections and suggestions. Then, my boss and I sat down to discuss my proposed changes. We went through suggestion by suggestion and contemplated what to change and what not to change. Sometimes, my boss was surprised that you could word something one way English. Other times, he said that even if what I said made sense in English, we had to change it because it wouldn’t make sense to “French people who think they understand English”, which I thought was quite amusing.
As I’ve just detailed, the culture at my work place is nothing as I imagined it would be. It was very hands-on and I was given responsibility right away. In general, it was a lot more “open” than I thought it would be. Of course, I can’t speak for other French companies and a large part of me has been wondering if my work is only so open and relaxed because it is a start-up. Whatever the case may be, it has been really eye-opening to me as to what exactly an organization’s culture entails and what type of culture I would like to work in someday. Who knows if it’s “typical” for a French company? In just a few weeks, I’ve learned that there is not an abundance of “typical” in The City of Lights.