Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Five heads are better than one

One of the reasons that I chose my masters program is because there wasn't an individual thesis to do - quite frankly, I just didn't see myself spending months researching a topic and then reading 100 pages about it.  Instead, we have more of a final project, where we choose a company and spend a year doing a business analysis on them.  It's very labor-intensive, but has a lot more practical application for real-life scenarios, and as you all know, I am all about the practical side of things.

Last week in class, our program director announced our groups.  Leading up the announcement, I looked around the classroom and decided that there wasn't really anyone I would mind having in my group, with the exception of one guy.  (There always has to be that guy).

Well our guy thinks he is an expert on anything and everything. He claims he is an astrophysicist, yet he is unemployed. I believe his previous job was for Peugeot - and don't even get me started on the argument we got into about why so few French cars are sold abroad.  I wasn't thinking about who my audience was and basically said "Well duh, they are ugly and up until recently they were very basic and didn't even have any options like A/C, cruise control, or cup holders.  They were adapted to the needs of the French only, and not the rest of the world".

*Cue the stares of an entire classroom of French people"

But anyways, back to that guy.  He is constantly arguing with the professors, and he dominates any and all conversations he participates in during breaks and at lunch.  I have often thought that he should be a professor since he likes to hear himself talk so much.  Fin bref, I basically avoid him as often as I can.

And guess who I have in my group?

You got it - that guy

I came home that night and was talking to Chris about how unlucky it was and how I had a 1 in 30 chance to have him in my group, and C interrupted me and said "Well, actually if there are five per group, that means a 1 in 6 chance blah blah blah", and I was like "Okay whatever, I suck at math, but it sucks even more that I am going to have to work with him on a weekly basis for the next year!"

But so we all had lunch together as a group the next day, and of course Monsieur completely dominated the conversation, with no one else getting a word in edge-wise.  Monsieur has done a PhD, so he knows all about defending a thesis and he will so very graciously share his experience with us, ie tell us what to do.

The thing is though, the director made it extremely clear that we need to equally divide up the work, and that we also need to equally divide up our défense du projet into exactly ten minutes each.  Afterwards, we will have a 60-90 min grilling by a jury and each member needs to answer an equal number of questions, and if we don't, we will lose mega points. This is frustrating to me, because knowing that guy, I don't think he is going to be able to stop himself from interrupting us and shouting out answers.  So I'm worried this is going to be a long year....

All complaining aside, I did want to throw out there that we have to find our own business to work with. It needs to be a PME (petites et moyennes entreprises), with a chiffre d'affaires between 5-20 million and between 50-200 employees.  We will do a full analysis of the business's strategy and at the end, give 2 or 3 suggestions of where they could improve or expand.  So if any of you know of any businesses in the Paris area that fit the bill and who would like some free advice, please send me an email!


Monday, November 26, 2012

This Thanksgiving, I spent the day working and reading several chapters of my "Strategic Management" book. I've done T-day dinner chez nous in the past, but with 12 hours of class on Friday and an 8am start, I just wasn't feeling up to it. 

After skyping with some family though, I ended up feeling a little down and regretting not having planned something, so C surprised me with his own mini homemade Thanksgiving dinner Saturday evening after class.  He is a sweet man and I have a lot to be thankful for this year.

Last week was also a lucky week for me - I won free tickets to both the Wine Fair and the Arts & Crafts Fair, and I also won two spots to one of the coveted Jolie Apéros.  Some of you may remember that I have a subscription to the Jolie Box (like the Birch Box in the US).  It started off as a great service and then sort of went downhill this summer.  The boxes started arriving later and later and the products weren't always that great, nor worth the 13€/mo that C had paid for as my Christmas present.  (Fyi: For those who are interested, there are some great blogs out there showing all the different versions of the JolieBox each month, and the value of each definitely varies - from 10€ to 50€+!).

The last two months though I have had a lot of really fun, new products, and I am wondering if it is 1) Because they recently got bought out by Birch Box, 2) It's just by chance or 3) My subscription is up and they are trying to draw me back in. But in the mean time like I mentioned, I won a spot at one of their Beauty Apéros.

This particular one was at La Maison Dr Hauschka, a wonderful little spa in the 11th. A friend and I showed up, and were treated to tea and unlimited Gu cheesecake, and then a free make-up session and a hand massage. It was heavenly! We also got a little to-go bag with more desserts and some free Dr Hauschka products (all of their soins and cosmetics are organic).

So I just wanted to give a shout-out to the spa - it was a really nice place, and the employees were all incredibly nice and friendly.  As for the Joliebox, I'm still debating about whether or not to renew my subscription, but I'm leaning towards yes now after that night....

Update - I just won two movie tickets as well!  Since I'm on a roll, it might be time to go out and buy a Euromillions ticket as well! ;)

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Two ships crossing in the night

I should have expected it, but my travel schedule has not calmed down a single bit since starting my masters program.  It irritates me a bit because I did an enormous amount of traveling in Sept/Oct in order to get all of my trips out of the way through January.  But with my new responsibilities come new travels, which is how I found myself in Scotland last week presenting to a rather hostile large group of people (!) and in Hanover this week at a trade show. (As a side note: The night train from Paris to Berlin is not nearly as nice as you'd think it would be...)  But looking at my calendar, I basically have a trip planned for every week between now and Christmas, including one to visit a potential customer in Turkey.

Normally I would be excited to visit so many different countries, but some of the excitement has worn off now that I am married. I no longer have a strong desire to stay an extra day or arrive early in order to have time to look around. Spending time with C just seems more important than everything else, and even more so now that he is traveling for his job too. The timing has been bad as of late, and he has been coming as I have been going or vice versa, and it seems like we never see each other.  And my weekend classes are cutting short the few days we do have together.

Both of us are dedicated employees and we're still working on how to have fulfilling careers and yet not sacrifice too much of our personal life. I try to remind myself that we are lucky to both have such good jobs, but on the other hand, I don't think both of us traveling for work is something that is sustainable for a long period. Maybe someone else out there has successfully made a go of it and can give us some advice?  When you think about it, it's actually kind of funny that we find ourselves in this situation in France, land of the supposed 35h work week...

I did have a little bit of time to do some sightseeing in Edinburgh though, and it was a lovely city - definitely worth going back for a long weekend.  Unfortunately I never did find an Asda to buy some of their "mexican cheddar" that I love so much, but I did get some shredded cheddar and some caramel shortbread from M&S (plus the obligatory pub stop with a meal of fish & chips).


See, I told you it was lovely!


Saturday, November 10, 2012

La Banque Postale

By the time 4pm rolls around, I will have sat through 18 hours of class on "Contractual Obligations" in the past two days. This class, along with the French Economy class we had a few weeks ago, were two of the main courses I was really dreading.

But it actually didn't turn out to be that bad, mostly thanks to the professor.  I'd guess he was in his 70's, and he peppered his lecture with tons of interesting anecdotes, including one about how a Portguese woman was able to convince the Magistrates to rule in her favor to the tune of 1 million Francs thanks to a very low-cut, sexy red dress.  I have to say, older French men crack me up, especially when they've gotten to that age where they really don't care what they say anymore, nor who they say it to.

Another story that stuck out enough for me to make a note to blog about it was regarding La Poste.  I'm assuming there are at least a few of you out there who have bank accounts with La Poste, so I wanted to make sure to get the info out there.  French banks all have a legislative bank code that they have to adhere to, and it states that if someone steals your check book or your bank card, and makes fraudulent purchases with it, the bank has to reimburse you. Good deal, right?

It is unless you are with La Poste.  You see, it turns out that La Poste has their own legislative postal code that governs them, and when the laws were passed allowing La Poste to become a bank, they were really sneaky about it, and stuck it in at the end of a really long day - ie the legislators were still in session and voting at 1am.  So by that point, no one was really examining things very clearly, and they just passed the laws without looking too closely at them.  Which is how La Poste managed to have it written into the postal code that if you lose your checkbook or bank card and purchases are made, tough cookies for you.  Ie unlike the other banks, they have no legal obligation to reimburse you for fraudulent charges. Pretty scary, non?

Our professor learned this the hard way when his lawyers' association had their checkbook stolen out of their main office.  I had to laugh picturing all of those high-powered lawyers being out-lawyered by La Poste, and even he had to begrudgingly admit they'd been had.

The moral of the story is - with how much bank theft there is nowadays, it might be a good idea to avoid La Poste bank if you can....Or if you can't, at least think twice about taking out their supplementary bank insurance via Alliatys!