Les differences petites

I had an appointment with the pôle emploi today, the French employment services. Having never worked in France before, I didn’t expect to receive any benefits. I’m simply signing up, to have something to show, when I apply for a social security number.

I had already filled out a long and detailed form online, so I hoped it would be quick and easy. I even prepared myself by looking up a bit of vocabulary.

I underestimated the walk there and took much longer and was much sweatier than I hoped to be. I walked past the Charles de Gaulle monument. I think the flowers were put down on Armistice Day (November 11), not because of Friday 13.

Flowers for Charles de Gaulle

Flowers for Charles de Gaulle

Still, I made it on time, and despite there being a vigipirate sign on the door, nobody wanted to check my backpack.

Ubiquitous sign, in this case printed out extremely pixelated.

Ubiquitous sign, in this case extremely pixelated.

I was flustered within a minute of my arrival, though, by forgetting my coat (again) outside the office and a security person noticing immediately and following me into the office to tell me. I can’t do any small talk in French, so these situations make me feel very silly and helpless.

The sign up process is a lot like the one in Austria: I had to sign a lot of paper, and I was told a lot about my duties and rights. Even though not following the duties has no real consequence, since I don’t get any money from them. I would simply drop out of the statistics and probably lose the bit of paper that I hope gives me reduced access to museums.

The clerk also told me I have a right to 35 days of holiday, which made me laugh. She didn’t understand at all, why I found it funny that I’d get to take a holiday from my unemployment. I also have to call in monthly and tell them if I worked that month, how much I worked and if I’m still looking for employment. Seems easy enough (except for the calling part, but I suspect this might be automated).

I will get a letter with my password for their website, and she signed me up for a one day job search course.

The clerk was friendly, patient and helped out with english words from time to time. Still I found the conversation super exhausting. After the 45 minute appointment I was soaked with sweat, but instead of going home to take a nap, I decided to go to Paris.

My mobile internet doesn’t work anymore, ever since I put in my Austrian SIM for 15 minutes on Sunday. I tried doing all the things I did the first time I made it work, but to no avail. I need help from my phone provider and in the morning I read about a shop that might be helpful at Les Halles. I thought that if I couldn’t find anything there, at least there’d be wifi, to do further research.

Even though I’ve only had my mobile internet here for 6 weeks, losing it made me kind of nervous. For one, I have the sense of orientation of a drunk housefly. Plus, the thought of going into Paris and having no way to find out if there are any problems made me intensely uncomfortable. With my Austrian SIM card, at least there was the option for roaming, in case of a emergency.

There were no emergencies, of course. Just a couple of changes, pour raisons de securité. The security announcements I know from the large train stations are now also played in our small town. “Don’t leave your luggage unattended and report suspicious activity to personnel” in four languages. There are soldiers stationed in Les Halles, dressed in camouflage fatigues, carrying big weapons. That doesn’t alleviate my discomfort in the least, I found. People with guns who look barely older than teenagers don’t make me feel safe.

“Well, at least there are no armed soldiers inside the mall.”, I thought, as I showed my backpack to the security guards of the mall and at the entrance of every store I went to. On my way out, though, a group of five soldiers patrolling the mall overtook me from behind. I found out that people with guns walking past is highly disturbing to me. I tried to sneak a photo. I don’t know why, but I want to document the changes. The photo didn’t save, though I might get more chances to document this change.

The problem with my mobile internet is, that it’s from a cheap reseller that doesn’t seem to have any shops in Paris. I still haven’t found a shop that can help, so I might have to call them. Now what’s worse: living without mobile internet or a French phone call? The horror!

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