“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Wonderful Disaster - Week one, Michelin

Although Michelin is a highly American friendly company, there are still some stark realizations that any American person working there must come to terms with to be successful. In my short time, I’ve made and said done all the wrong things, to finally land in almost the right place. At least along the way, I had a lot of laughs.

May 9, First day at work and the chicken disaster

Overwhelmingly, exhaustingly, amazing. During the first day at Michelin in the purchasing department, my boss took me around to two floors of people (around 200 people) to introduce me to each and every one. Great in Theory, exhausting in practice. I was soon to learn that this action is an important Michelin habit, but at the time, I felt special. Anyways, during each interaction of the morning, I conversed in French, unusually nervous, stammering out my introduction.

One great thing about being in a large company is that there are several interns. For lunch, some of the others invited me to each with them in the cantine on the Michelin campus, and of course I said yes—I would do anything for an opportunity to practice my French. The food looked deliciously appetizing, and thus I took a great big helping of what I thought was BBQ Chicken and took my place among the chattering group….except a few bites in, I noticed an unusually taste. I wrote it off as “French chicken just tastes different.” But then, the texture seemed weird. HMM? Strangely textured,French chickens. Less likely. I finally decided to ask another intern exactly what I was eating, when he promptly replied by laughing and saying he thought it was really strange that I had chosen stomach. Let’s just saw that I read carefully now before picking meals, yum.

All-in-all, it was an incredible wonderful day. I accidentally ate intestines, or stomach, and it just goes to show, that FLEXIBILITY is key! I ate with the interns at lunch, and made some new friends. We went for drinks afterwards and one even came to my house for dinner. I sweat in my non-air-conditioned, no internet office all afternoon, and left at 6. Two hour lunch breaks, are bizarre! All-in-all, good day!

Day 2, kisses

My American spirit unfortunately shines through quite frequently in France, which is not always bad, but makes adjustments, funny. If you don’t know already, people in Europe greet each other with a kiss, or as it’s known here, le bise. It is one of my favorite traditions, yet in almost 5 months, I still haven’t mastered which way to go first, or who gets two and who gets three, thus, this is sometimes a cause of anxiety.

In the morning, it’s very important in a French busines to say hello to EVERYONE with either a handshake for men, or le bise for women. It is slightly offensive to people when you don’t. I didn’t know this. I come in and sit down at my desk, and give a little wave to the 12 other people in the room. 5 Minutes later, the whole room had passed by my desk, explaining that you had to greet everyone, every morning.

Day 3, Lunchbreaks

So I went to dine in the cantine once again with the other interns, leaving the office around noon. We had finished lunch around 1:00, and I was ready to head back, but they others kept lulling around. I finally said, I think I need to go back, I’m going to be late. They all just laughed and said no way, no one will be back yet. But I was fresh on the job, and didn’t want to make a mistake, so I went back, and ended up waiting in my bosses office for another 45 minutes.

Note to self: Lunch in France last two hours, enjoy it.

Day 4, Service in France.

Example of Service, In America, everything is on ‘’our time.’’ we are selfish. Today I went running at lunch with some of my collegues, which in and of itself was really great. I was exhausted and happy afterwards, however, one of the guys wasn’t feeling great afterwards. So we all went to lunch and returned to the office and he decided to call the Michelin doctor. The doctor wasn’t there but 20 minutes later, 5 people arrived. 1 Doctor, 1 nurse, 2 guys in security outfits carrying medical PACKs, like they are about to go hiking, and finally one other guy who, I’m not really sure what his purpose is…but he was trying to look important. They entered our office, and took away my colleague, like he had a terrible contagious disease. I choc it up to personal service, and a well-established healthcare system, but in the moment, It was hilarious..

Day 5, Frazzeled.

This day just started out hectic.

1.I arrive at work to realize I had forgotten my USB key with all of my work on it at my house.

2. I walked into the men’s restroom, I blame that on the sun, which was blinding my eyesight.

3. Went to lunch with my colleagues, knowing I had a meeting at 1:45, which I honestly believe I could arrive in time for. But once again, note to self: Lunch in France takes two hours.

ALL –in—All: Even after all the mistakes, I couldn’t be happier with my work. I met some great friends, I work for a wonderful boss who accepts nothing less than the best, and I work for a great company.


  1. Jenny! I love reading about your experiences! I am so excited for you that you are interning in France! You are so brave! I hope it continues to be a growing experience for you! :)

  2. similar experiences for me here...!! Ate my salad with the bigger fork and the main course with salad fork...though most of them are american, a few danish people here would take offense if i talk informally! phew...!!

  3. We should trade stories at some point. Let's just say that for the first week and part of next week, I was strategically put in the "basement." HR is working quickly to get me moved from an error in logistics. All I need now is a stapler...

  4. Bonjour Jenny! Loved reading this post about your internship experience so far and cultural adjustments. :) Sounds like you are learning so much! I look forward to hearing more about it.

  5. I need to know more about le bise before I get there haha and I purchased some french books to help me learn french. So far not so good lol. See you in about a month!!

  6. this made me laugh so hard! hilarious! sounds like you're having a blast. also, jealous that you get a two hour lunch break! :)