I still cannot get used to the French lunch, which is strange because it actually makes more sense to me than the North American version of lunch. Basically, I show up at the archives at a quarter to nine every morning and prepare for my day of research. The other researchers and the people who work there arrive around 10:00. This means that, if I get my orders in for the day, I will receive the files I need by 11:00. Most of us leave for lunch around noon. Here’s where we all differ though: I return from lunch around 12:25, and they return from lunch somewhere around 2:00 and start working again around 2:30. There is an archive retrieval in the afternoon, and so I can expect to get more files around 4:00, when the staff starts winding down to leave.
If you’re keeping track, that means that many of the other people there work approximately four hours a day, while I work about seven hours. Believe me- the difference is entirely cultural.
Honestly though, I take the French side on this one. I have never seen the advantage in working more hours. Inevitably, I’m exhausted by 2:00 and should probably go home then. In fact, it seems to me that people do their most productive work for about four hours out of the day. Ideally, I think we should all be working a lot less, and I don’t really understand why technology hasn’t made that possible.
Behind all of this is a very French idea of the good life. No French would ever coin a saying like “lunch is for losers”. The idea is to live well, not necessarily to succeed at business, or have countless luxuries or a large bank account. There is an emphasis on the easy enjoyment of areas of life that North Americans hardly even notice. I’ve never given as much thought to bread as the French do. Of course, the idea of the good life appeals to me.
And yet, I’ve been trained well, I suppose, because I honestly can’t commit to the longer French lunch, as hard as I’ve tried. Je suis désolée.