The day I thought my boss was getting fired

After having worked in France for more than three years, I’ve had my share of cultural experiences. This post explains one of the many instances of cultural shock: “the day I thought my boss was getting fired”.

During my first day at work (I spoke no French), I had my first meeting with my new boss. During this meeting she started talking to her boss across the hall (in French) and after a while they started to seriously yell at each other. Comments were flying across the hallway in what seemed an increasingly heated discussion.

Now where I’m from people don’t generally yell at each other in professional situations. The Dutch I know are generally laid back and calm. They can be direct and angry, but in a professional setting, they rarely shout. When someone yells it signals impotence and lack of character on their part. It signals that they are not in control. In the Netherlands (as far as I know) yelling by a boss only occurs in the event of crucial failures. That is why I thought my boss in Paris was getting fired.

The French however are much more outspoken in their discussions. Perhaps I would even describe them as more passionate than the Dutch I know. In France whenever people raised their voice at me I felt somewhat disrespected and in the beginning even intimidated. However being a guest in this culture, the yelling lost it’s effect on me.

I learned that in an intercultural setting, things aren’t always what they seem. It also showed me that the Dutch way isn’t necessarily the right way. After 3 years in the French context I might even have taken on some of this behavior myself.

But don’t worry, if I ever yell at you, you won’t get fired.