Saturday, July 30, 2011

About racial discrimination in France

Recently I read in a forum about how some people were being treated differently in France due to their skin color (mainly yellow). I just have to say that I'm blessed because I have never quite experienced racial discrimination here. Most of the situations I faced were rather due to poor customer service. Examples:

- A pharmacist was telling me that "vous m'avez dit n'importe quoi" (you told me non sense), I guess he didn't understand my French or asking a pharmacist to give me pill to delay my period due to wedding is a no no in France?
- A shopkeeper blocked my way to continue visiting the remaining of the shop. I can see in her face that she did it on purpose. I just passed cross her and bumped into her. She got what she asked for. She did that maybe I was wearing a pyjamas and someone wearing pyjamas is not welcome?
- I entered a boutique and the salegirl looked at me without saying anything. A second later a French woman entered and she put on smile and greeted with a big bonjour (hi). This could happen to anyone no?
- Being humiliated in SNCF, full story here.

Here are situations shared by forum members and they think these are real discrimination cases:
- being called chink or "bridé" which means "slit-eyes". Well I have never heard people calling me this. Forum members who had this were mostly lived in Paris or South of France
- being thrown firecracker which burnt the hair while being called chink by a bunch of North African kids. Oh no I can't imagine this! That girl was really unlucky but there is more chance to have these if you live in certain areas of Paris.
- was queuing to pay and at her turn, the cashier put on "closed" sign. Once she walked away, the cashier reopened the register and put on smile for the next white customer.
- being jumped queue. At the fifth time this happend to her, she asked herself if people chose her because she looked small and yellow and people have impression that Asian is easier to bully?
- went to an upscale butcher that are usually visited by white community. Once entered, the French white woman in front of her was looking at her from top to bottom. Same thing happened when another French woman entered the shop. She was starred at because she was yellow.
- ok this one is an experience from a good friend here. She said sometimes when she was with her French husband, some French women who was walking by would stop, look at her husband then at her, from top to bottom with an insulting look, as if how dare she dated a white man. Thank God this has never happened to me.
- She was sitting in front of a shop waiting for a friend. A boy around 5 years old came out from the shop with the parents. When he saw her, he kicked her. The parents just took him away without saying sorry. Well, kid sometimes behave inappropriately and this is up to the parents to educate them. I had met kid who told her friend while starring at me that "elle est moche" (she is ugly); on the other hand a kid was telling me that "tu es très belle" (you are beautiful). Once I was in a toilet and a kid yelled "Maman, une Japonaise!" (mum, a Japanese!) and I just smiled at her. At this point, I do not care how strangers think about me.

The main issue that most of us encountered is that how should we react when being treated unfairly. Most of us could converse in French but to quarrel and to curse in French, it is a whole different story. After being humiliated / confronted, most of us couldn't find the right words to express ourselves. Some choose to curse in their mother tongue, some just hold their tears and walk away. But, there are times we should not walk away. For example, if someone calls me bridé, I would just ignore it but if they try to bully Aelig, I would not rest the case. A useful phase I learnt to fight back is "mais ça va pas non!!!" (hey we are not good here), but what should I say next?

For the first time in my life, I reckon that it could be useful to learn some curse words.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

19 months - blessed

We celebrated Aelig's 19th month with my in laws.

Aelig is blessed with grand-parents who love her dearly. Whenever they see her, their face shine up with smile.

When we are in my in-laws place, Aelig becomes their center of attention. When dining, she is placed between them, not us. We are allowed to sleep in as late as we want as in laws will pick her up at her first cry in the morning.

My father in law is someone who loves crafting. He made this for Aelig. Instead of toys from shops, I foresee Aelig to have special handmade toys throughout her children.

We are very blessed indeed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Salary increment anyone?

One day, my boss invited me to his office. He said he was satisfied with my performance so he would like to offer me an increment. Later, I told hubby about this and he went:"You do not sound too excited about it?"

Yes, I'm not excited at all. You would not too if you see the comparison:

First job in Malaysia: 13% increment after 3 months probation
First job in France: 4% increment in total after close to 3 years

What about bonus? Before I left my company in Malaysia in 2000, they announced 2 months bonus for the employees. As for my current company, I have not heard of anything about bonuses.

Since it is quite a taboo to talk about salary, I do not know if the low increment rate applies to many people in general or it just happens in my company. My coworker said they used to get 10% increment in the 90s. Situations differ from industry to industry. As for the civil servant, their increment depends on their rank and academic credentials.

Anyway, my spirit was not as bad as several months ago when I realize that I would not get much increment. I was very discouraged, but by talking to people, I slowly overcame it and have since able to appreciate advantages to work in this company:

1. Good working environments
Being minority in the company, I do not feel being discriminated. In contrast, coworkers respect me, tolerate my French, sometimes show interest in my culture. Not once I was yelled at, being humiliated openly or pressed to a non-manageable situation. My friends in Malaysia told me that sometimes they cry in their companies due to difficult customers, high maintenance bosses or stressful assignments. I'm lucky to say that I have not experienced these in my working life. As with coworkers, they might keep their distance, but in general they are friendly. Mind you, they actually made effort to call me with my Chinese name with Malaysian pronunciation.

2. Family friendly
There is an implicit understanding that everyone lives a family life. I seldom work overtimes and in general people do not appreciate working late. Managers do not make a fuss if you need to stay home to take care of your sick child. During my pregnancy, my manager kept telling me that I should put my health / baby first, if there is any sign of discomfort I should not come to work or I should go home earlier. When my maternity leave ended, I asked to work several days a week in my town instead of driving 200km round trip everyday to R town, it was approved pretty quickly. Conclusion: it was my coworkers / friends / company environment that teaches me to put more priorities in my family. I don't think I could stand working until 10pm everyday or being sent outstations frequently like some friends do in Malaysia. Ops, did I mention the 7 weeks annual leaves?

3. Other benefits
- Private insurance and life insurance with good coverages
- Subsidized restaurant tickets make eating out more affordable
- CE (Committee Enterprise) who offers discounted tickets / rates to movies, activities, vacation rental, sports...

All these make me feel that, even though I might not been paid as much as I like, I'm well treated overall and have more time to spend with my family. This style suits me well. Of course, if you find a company / industry that pays well with big increment and bonuses + all the 3 non salary related points mentioned here, do let me know!

PS: Hubby said if you want increment in France (I think it applies to other countries too), you need to ask. The rule of thumb: the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Sources to get Chinese children books from France

There are Chinese bookstores in Paris so I guess people living there should be able to get some children's books there. For people living outside of Paris and do not go there regularly, internet becomes handy in terms of buying / getting Chinese children's books from France.

See what I got? All these are FREE! Thanks to internet, I discovered and then joined a Taiwanese-French forum. Members here are mainly mixed couples who have experiences teaching Mandarin to their children in foreign countries. One member was giving away Mandarin children's books in Paris and through helps from various people, I managed to get some for Aelig.

These books were from Taiwan so there were printed in Traditional Chinese. Aelig is still young to have the level to read them but hopefully one day, she will fall in love with them.

Some of the books here are about animals so she was happy to find cats, mouse and ducks inside.

I also bought some books from Odonato Publishing in Malaysia. Thanks CL for recommending it.

Now I have plenty of books to show / read to Aelig. Hopefully she could appreciate them.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Saturday morning bread hunt 5

A: Ladies and gentlemen, it is Saturday bread hunt time again.

A: This time, I'm very unlucky, I fell down on the way and hurt half side of my face! :-( The good news is, the bakery has upgraded me to their VIP list, this is the second time I got a chouquette from them and NO, I will not share this with daddy!

Got home.
A: Let's check what is inside the bag. Oh, two pain au chocolat, nice!

A: Daddy, I'm home with your bread, I will charge your 10 kisses for this.

Daddy: Ok ok, now hand me the bread.
A: Can I use your computer?
Daddy: NO!

A: Ok I have my bread. Now let's runnnnnnnnnnnnn!!!!
Daddy: No Aelig you are not allowed to touch my computer!!!!

A: The first one who sits on the chair in front of the computer will have the right to use the computer for the whole day.
Daddy: NOOOOO!!!

Daddy: Aelig, get away from my computer.
A: NOOOO!! Now play me my favorite Youtube videos.

A: hmmmm, eating pain au chocolat + watching videos + annoying daddy = life is good, une vie en rose.