I met Elena Calderon Escudero last year during an event for expatriates in Paris, and since then I have helped her in French. Through our group « Paris Learn French Group » we organize together some Parisian events for Internations, an online Expat community. We are more than 500 members in this group, coming from 80 countries, and the main goal of this group is to speak French while enjoying a nice evening.
Easy to live in Paris as an Expat? Not every time …
Since when are you living in Paris Elena? Can you tell me the reasons why you are in France?
I arrived in Paris in February 2013, so that means that it is nearly three years now that I have been living in this city. I came for work. I needed to leave my role in Madrid and the options were going to Munich or coming to Paris. Since I was familiar with French culture (since I had worked for the two major French banks), I had been to Paris several times for pleasure and I already spoke French, I decided to come here.
Did you encounter any difficulties when you arrived?
There are always difficulties when moving and setting in a different country. Even if France is close to Spain and in spite of the cultural commonalities and links due mainly to historical reasons, I find there are also many cultural differences, one needs to get used to. I think French character is more reserved, less spontaneous than latin or angloxason ones, and get more time to know such wonderful people.
Another difficulty for me is the one related to bureaucracy and requirements. For example in order to open a bank account or to rent a flat one needs to have a complete dossier with many documents and even if they are good one is never sure to get things done the first time. Similary the Health Insurance system cover in part by Social Security system and part with “Mutuelles” and how to coordinate and deal to get related expenses reimbursed was difficult to adapt for me.
You are Spanish et work for a German company in Paris. What is the language you use at work?
I work in English and French (50/50). All my colleagues and clients are French. So I use French to communicate with my colleagues in the branch and my clients. Indeed all the contracts with our clients are in French, so I need French to review and understand the conditions signed with the clients. I also used French when I need to look for information about my local clients and or the sector.
Nevertheless, I use English to communicate with colleagues in Munich. I am a Senior Credit Analyst in charge of analysing the financials and risk of a client and request to Munich approval for new loans for our French clients. So I used English to write down my report for the afore-mentioned analysis, recommendation for approval of new loans and defend the risk before Credit Committees.
You are as we call an “expat” and take part to a lot of Parisian events. What are your recommendations to a foreign newcomer?
There are so many different events and things to do in Paris…it is difficult to say. To star with I recommend to join any of the different groups to meet other internationals of French such as the different meet ups, Internations or “on va sortir”. This is the best way to know Paris and meet , other people. The organise walks around Paris, and other cultural or interesting activities.
I also recommend to visit main Museums (Louvre, D’Orsay, Pompidou), etc. My favourite’s ones are Museum Rodin and Musée Jacquemart André. I Love Musée Rodin’s beautiful garden where we can walk around and take a rest if the weather is good. The collection and the museum itself at Jacquemart André are great.
I recommend going to the Opera, and if possible see an Opera at Opera Garnier, it is wonderful! Or any of the concerts at l’Olympia,, where we can see such good singers as Elton John or Diana Krall. I also recommend the parade and parties at Casernes at July 14th, Fête de Vendanges at Montmartre or Christmas Lights and decorations.
You work in the banking sector. Do you think it is easier or more difficult for an Expat woman to make a career in France than in Spain?
Banking is a difficult sector for women generally speaking. I thinks it is also more difficult for a foreigner to have access and progress in a local (French) company, generally speaking, which to a certain extent it normal. There is cultural question and the language that are important to do business in the local market and better understand local clients.
But having said that, I think the largest French banks, like the largest Spanish ones have become quite international over the last years and thereby they steadily increase the weight and opportunities (including career opportunities) of women and international staff.
Nevertheless, I think banks and financial sector in general continue being a men’s world.
You decided to prepare a new certificate in financial communication and to improve your French level. Can you tell us more about your expectations about this choice?
I expect to substantially improve my written French and improvement, which is definitely important to be able to progress professionally and be integrated in France. For me a correct written expression helps to be taking seriously and to show an interest and respect for French culture and language. The certification will also allow to better understand the financial sector in France and financial terminology in French. The training has also allowed me to meet people from the sector, networking and to share experiences with them. This helps me also to understand the main difficulties usually found when working in the financial sector in France.