More knickers, Nodding and Nicotine: use all three when working in Paris.


In the last installment you read of a girl. You learnt she spent 8-weeks in Paris to improve her spoken French (and to drink a lot of wine). Then you learnt how she made a fool of herself in front of numerous Parisians (some uber-cool, some less so.) You quickly realised she had very little common sense and shouldn’t have embarked on such a trip alone.

I’d like to say I don’t know the girl in question, but I’m a bad liar. Unfortunately, all of the stories mentioned are completely true and completely my own. But on the bright side, I have plenty more hints and tips on what not to do in Paris, beautifully illustrated with more sorry tales of red faced, cringe worthy humiliation.

Tip 3 – If it makes you cry more than once (an hour) just leave.

My next mission was to find a job, and it was easier than I thought. I felt confident once I had my French CV printed out, for it boasted of a French ‘A’ Level, plus previous experience in waitressing and pot washing. Impressed? I know.  It took 3 unsuccessful attempts and a lot of stern head shaking (on their part, not mine) before I was offered a job on the spot and a shift starting in 2 hours time.

This was perfect. I was a success. I was a genius. And I was also apparently, a slave. I was to work 7 days a week, no negotiation. My shifts started at 10am and finished at 4pm. I then had 2 hours to cry into my pillow and forge a smoking habit, before I had to be back at work for 6pm through till midnight. During which, the waiter would shout at me, attempt to touch me up, and call me Fatima instead of Martha. (I was never a massive fan of my name either, but Fatima??).

After a few shifts of this I tried changing the waiters name to something English and crude but it never caught on, so I decided I’d had enough character building and quit. But all was not lost, for I now had a 10 a day smoking habit and wide range of French insults. Something to boost my CV at least.

A week later i found another job working in the outdoor restaurant/cafe in the Luxembourg gardens which was two minutes from where I lived. It was a beautiful place to work, a few hundred yards from the palace and right next to the live music stage where they held outdoor concerts every night.  Towards the end however they had obviously ran out of acts when they let the French reggae band play 6 nights in a row.

Tip 4-Wear big pants to work.

Yes, its very important that when you find yourself a great job, in a great location with reggae background music that you abide by this rule. On my first day, I arrived outwardly smiling and inwardly terrified. I was scared that everything would be the same as the last job and that I just wasn’t cut out for this.

However, as soon as I arrived, my boss, a mildly flirty laid back type, showed me everything and repeatedly told me not to worry as it was my first day. He gave me an apron and set me to work as an ice cream lady. I was now inwardly grinning from ear to ear. Sadly, on the outside, I was exposing my bottom. Completely unbeknown to me, when I had tied the apron around my waist, I’d managed to hitch up one side of my skirt to show a full cheek.

I carried on like this for a few hours, happily scooping ice creams and messing up the till. As the waiters came and went with plates of food, I was flattered by their friendliness but quietly wondered why they kept high-fiving each-other. As i considered this, my boss came in and laughed. He said something I didn’t understand and pointed at his own bottom.  I feared my trusted nod and smile technique wouldn’t be appropriate here so i offered a confused shrug instead. After a bit more pointing and shrugging, I finally looked down and realised. Inwardly, a small part of me had died, and outwardly, the skirt was hastily pulled down and the cheek was covered.

I hope you will learn from my mistake and if like me, you just can’t wear trousers when its hot, then please, for everyone’s sake, on both sides of the channel, wear big pants.


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