Wednesday, April 13

Come Down

I've been kicking around Rennes for about two weeks now. Mostly, I've been looking for a job. Unfortunately, I've come to a bit of a disappointing realization.

Long before I looked into the details of coming to France, I realized that it would be an uphill battle finding a job, as France is a very closed society. I expected most employers wouldn't want to hire foreigners.

For the last while, I've been hitting as many employment agencies as possible, and what I've learned is that for almost all jobs here, you need a 'specialized' diploma. For instance, to work as a cook almost anywhere, you need a diploma for cooking, and one from France, at that. Fine. But it gets worse. To be a bartender, same deal. To work at the front desk of a hotel, as well. Or to be a temp. And of course, working in sales is pretty much impossible if you don't speak French like the locals (as I learned the hard way).

This diploma is certainly not intensive. Quite the contrary, I'm convinced that it's just to lock immigrants out of most jobs. For instance, I was talking to a French woman who was studying to be a florist. This struck me as being nothing short of retarded. Making bouquets isn't exactly rocket science. Yes, some training is required, but making a year long course mandatory? This is completely over the top.

As a consequence, the only way that foreigners get by around here is by opening their own restaurants. This took a while to sink in. For the first while, I thought that not seeing anyone but pure-bred French working in unionized jobs was a coincidence. But after having seen the majority of the country, I'm beginning to see that it can't be anything less than a big plan.

The saddest part of all is how organized the discrimination is here. The government is what drives it. The diplomas example that I gave for instance; France is the only country that I know of that requires such silly programs. Diplomas for working in a hotel? More than just strange. Still, although it is annoying, for the most part it just makes me feel sad and disappointed with the way things work here in general.

Mind you, this isn't to say that I'm giving up. In the worst case scenario, I'm sure that I can find something in Paris. And I'm told that it's rare to find a job without looking for at least two weeks, which is all that I've done. Still, I'm getting tired of Rennes. The biggest problem here is the amount of homeless people. I'm not going to use the word poverty. The simple fact is that it's not the problem at all. Just get a diploma and you're fine. Instead, as near as I can tell, it's just exceptionally 'cool' to be on the street. This is nothing new. I've seen this in Canada, and in my more depressed days, I've even thrown in with these kind of groups. But here they're so freakin' aggressive! They come at you from all sides, acting all charismatic, giving various spins on the usual 'spare a few cents?' line. If I'm walking with a friend, it's sometimes so bad that they butt in between us, interrupting the conversation. Sometimes they absolute mob you. And with the number of social programs here, they don't want or need for food and shelter. It's all available free of charge. It's just some sort of bizarre trendy way of fitting into an image that's thought to be cool, or bad assed, or whatever. The weird part is that it's only been in this city.

Now, I was intending to go on about the positive things in France, but I got a little sidetracked... Now that all of that is off my chest, I'll repeat what I wrote last time. Rennes IS very pretty. Just a combination of little things is giving me itchy feet again. As well, I should mention a few of the numerous things that I like about this country. After all, if there weren't good points, I wouldn't stay here.

a) Pretty much everything is sold through specialty shops. For instance, to get bread, go to the bakery. To get fruit or vegetables, go to the produce shop. Meat is from the butcher's shop. Any style of clothing is in a clothing shop of just that one fashion. Although the same thing exists in other countries, there's a much heavier emphasis on it here. Big department stores or grocery stores are much rarer here than in other countries that I've been to. And all of this adds a feeling of class to buying even small things. Getting a baguette is more of an experience. Of course, it takes longer to get things done. But as a consequence, people are much more relaxed.

b) There's hardly any emphasis placed on violence here whatsoever. This again adds to the feeling of ease. It's strange, but the obsession in America carries over more heavily to Canada then we suspect. Here, people seem to have nothing more on their minds then sex. America is almost as bad, but here it's much less paradoxical. Sex is fully embraced, and nudity isn't shunned at all. Sex is fully explained to children in a classy and healthy way, so as not to confuse them. In America, the story line in every movie or sitcom seems to center around people 'sleeping' with each other, but as soon as you show a nipple, the whole country goes apeshit. And the only form of sexual education allowed is to preach abstinence. Then the kids turn on the latest big show, like Friends... No wonder there are so many problems there.

Moving along, I've been following the news in Canada, and Prime Minister Paul seems to have really stepped in it this time. For once, government workers have been caught red handed being as corrupt as anyone who thinks about it should already have realized. Seems like a bit of a Watergate. What's strange is how naive Canadians seem to be. With hardly doing any reading in between the lines at all, his (and the Liberals) level of corruption has been more than clear for years. To give just one example (there are MANY), when he was running for the leadership of the Liberal party, Pretty Boy Paul had two opponents. John Manley and Sheila Copps. After the convention was over, he drove them both out of politics altogether. In the case of Manley, he was offered the job of ambassador to the U.S. Manley was Chrétien's second in command, and it's no secret that the Chrétien Liberals weren't exactly popular with Dubya. This was as close to saying 'Ha ha, fuck you' as could be. For Copps, her riding was 'amalgamated' with another, and after a corrupt vote to see who of the former two ridings' MPs would get to represent the new one, her ass was shown the curb. And amalgamations don't happen often. Just so happens that after she challenged Mr. Martin...

It should of course be noted that Martin's first leadership bid was against Chrétien, which he needless to say lost. Afterwards, Chrétien made Martin Minister of Finance, the second most powerful portfolio, next to [of course] the Prime Minister. Compare the policies.

Still, it's come as a big revelation that the government is corrupt. Well, I'll be naive for a moment and hope that this will finally motivate people to clean up our politics for good. But this is the only scandal likely to get attention, even if others are right under our noses.

I guess I really am kinda jaded. And of course, our politics are incomparably better than our southern neighbors...


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