« Quand à Rome, fais comme les Romains » When in Rome, do as the Romans. It has been a month since I have arrived in France and started working at UNESCO. Oh, how time flies. My first couple weeks have been very exciting. The UNESCO building reminds me of a museum, art adorns almost all of the spaces. The “C” in UNESCO stands for culture, and almost every day there is an event celebrating a country or holiday. UNESCO is an international organization, so there are many different work styles that create the office culture. The overall sentiment is that your division sets the work pace and you have to accommodate other divisions because their pace might be different. This requires patience. Time appears to be of the essence, depending on the culture, and this has been a wonderful learning experience for me; I have realized that there is no single correct way to get something done. In order to be culturally sensitive, I usually tell colleagues that I have a North American work ethic and then allow them to respond or act however they choose. Some laugh, and so far I have been commended for my work, which has been rewarding thus far.
So, what have I been up to lately? Since the Gender Equality (GE) division is a global priority, my work covers all the various sectors at UNESCO. Because of this, I have been fortunate to work on many different initiatives from evaluating university gender studies programs, to consolidating field office reports and creating summaries for the next general executive meeting and attending intellectually stimulating conferences on behalf of GE. In addition, I have had the privilege to write a few articles for UNESCO’s website. My first piece was about a conference I attended that focused on women in business in the UAE and France, and the speakers offered some great opinions that shattered many of my preconceived notions of what business must be like for a woman in France or the Middle East. I also wrote two other pieces which you can read here and here.
Besides that, Paris is heating up and air conditioning is scarce, so I’ve been staying up late and practicing my French wherever I can. Even though French is technically my second language, I speak Spanish as well so it’s been an interesting experience trying to pronounce words and having people look a bit confused at first. However, my confidence is growing as well as my vocabulary. Until next time, I will continue to gently shake the world….from Paris with love.