Frantic Fred's Travel Tips: France

by Miles O'Neal, Jetlag, Ltd.


The following are based on my (all too brief) experiences at IBM in Paris. I can only guess how much is generally representative of working conditions around Paris, vs IBM specific.

This page contains no IBM Confidential or other IBM Proprietary material.

It is apparently a law in France that no two keyboards may have the same layout. The only exceptions are those keyboards smuggled in from the USA, probably at the cost of the life of a brave resistance fighter. Many of the keyboards are not even QWERTY, but are AZERTY, which means, among other things you will hate like rare liver steamed in raw okra slime, that the M key will be in various places around the keyboard (even on the same keyboard it seems to migrate), but will most certainly NOT be where you want it (as will not the Q, W, A, and Z keys, at the least). Many unix keys, such as the pipe symbol, will be hidden in bizarre places, and will require you to use the Alt, or Graphics, key, in order to generate them. My favorite keyboards were the ones requiring that the escape key be pressed two or three times to get almost anything besides basic alphanumeric characters. (Never ask why, remember?)

The hours are usually 9 to 7. Occasionally expect to go home at 6 or 9, instead. In other words, the hours are more or less like those in the USA.

Equipment tends to go through back-channel procurement much more than in the USA. If you request something, be sure and nail it down when it's delivered.

We never discovered a supplies room. I could not ascertain whether this was because there is no such thing in IBM France, or because they figured we should have brought our own. Based on how freely they gave out mouse pads and such, I doubt the latter was the case. Expect things which are easy or common in the USA to be difficult or scarce in Paris, and vice versa. Having a phone line with international access in IBM France is like having solid Hawaiian rosewood furniture in the USA. Most of the time at IBM, you will just have to get an IBM operator (nearly impossible during many parts of the day) to dial for you. She will ask if this is a professional call. Just say "oui" ("sho nuf"). She's just doing her job.

The IBM Europe personnel with whom we worked were very professional, and most helpful. Most spoke some English, and were quite patient with us. English is the common language within large companies just as it is elsewhere.

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[ Food ] [ It's in the Cards ] [ Work ] [ Sights ] [ Leaving France ]

Last Update: 01 Oct 2002

All text copyright 1992-1995, 1997 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved. Free distribution of this article is allowed, but all other uses require the author's permission.

Miles O'Neal <> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514