Sunday, April 18, 2010

How We Got Here

When I read the last post I realized I needed kind of a bridge from the previous one, which was back when we were still despairing about the stalled project after the death of Monsieur K.  DSC_1730 Basically, what happened is the architect, Monsieur P., took care of everything.  He is quite remarkable, all on his own he found another contractor, figured out how to close things out with the late Monsieur K., filled out a lot of legal documents in our name to protect us against any future legal actions regarding the estate, and got everything back to work.  My guess would be the whole project is going to wind up a month late and on budget, which is pretty good, considering.

What’s funny is that he did all this with hardly a single communication to us.  His standard is to simply take care of things, and not to send us emails or call us unless there is some very specific piece of information he needs.  I guess it’s nice, in a way, but it can sure make you nervous sometimes when you have absolutely no idea what is going on.  And there is something very French about it.  We spent some time talking to our friends Sandy, a Canadian and American who live in Paris, about that characteristic we are always trying to understand.  DSC_1728 Their description is that the French are very “private with information.”  They keep things to themselves, as a matter of manners, of privacy, of the proper conduct of business, of minding their own business, and sometimes of competing in business.  Sandy and Steve are both freelancers, and experience it when they are looking for work.  It is hard to network there, because people don’t pass information around as freely as we do.  In Monsieur P’s case, I think he sees it as preferable, more businesslike, to simply take care of things and have the papers waiting for us when we arrive, rather than shooting emails back and forth over every little detail.  From my end, it is a little nerve-wracking, and even once everything comes out OK it feels a little paternalistic, but I have come to trust that everything will get taken care of.  Even now, back from Paris from two weeks, we don’t know what the status of the apartment is right now.  A couple of emails to Monsieur P. have gone unanswered.  By now, I know what is going to happen.  At some point in the next couple of weeks he will send an email, and it will be all done.  Workers gone, cleaned up, key-ready.  I often end my emails to him with a note to the effect that I like to hear a lot of little details about how things are coming, but it won’t happen.  resized_DSC_1732 Just as an American contractor would take pride in demonstrating what an eager-beaver he is, a French businessman takes pride in demonstrating that he can make it happen without a ripple.  As far as I can tell eager-beaver does not exist in France.

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