I'm going to talk about money.

Mostly about talking about money in France. Which is to say, I’ve made the mistake of doing it. I told my roommates my salary because we were talking about the CAF. And my female roommate has become, how should I say… chiante about it. Basically, she likes to joke around, and a few too many times now it’s taken the form of joking about how little I work, how lazy I am, and how rich I am. Now I may be being over-sensitive but I find this really, really annoying, especially because I love my job and take it very seriously.

But also because I’m not rich. I make a salary that I think is perfectly comfortable for me at this point in my life. I make more than an assistant and more than a lecteur. My rent is incredibly low. I don’t have a car to pay for. I finally make enough money to save some and spend some. And I have student loans to repay.

The second time I made the mistake of mentioning my salary I was eating dinner with the roommates (minus Marie) and a couple of friends. One of them (who I like very much in general) asked me my salary and I hesitated but in the end I said it. At which point she said, “Wow, that’s a lot, my mom makes less than that.” Then our Slovak friend (who is not only not French but also older than the rest of us) finally pointed out that it’s actually not that much money. For one thing, I make less than the other teachers (which is perfectly normal), so my salary can’t be extravagant by French standards for the qualifications I’m supposed to have. I just don’t get it. My plan is to stop talking about money with French people. But then, no one American has ever asked me how much money I make, as far as I can remember. Maybe they have and I don’t remember because they weren’t jerks about it afterward.

(I should say, I’m perfectly aware that I might be having this experience just because of the age and kind of people I hang out with. Marie makes less than an assistant as far as I can tell, so to her earning enough to pay taxes is apparently extravagant.)

Just venting about a phenomenon that is starting to seriously confuse me.

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6 thoughts on “I'm going to talk about money.

  1. Maybe it’s that thing where people are “allowed” to ask you things they wouldn’t ask natives just because you are foreign. Like regular social rules don’t apply to us.

    Have you explained about students loans to your roommate who makes comments? I think that might be a big thing, if she doesn’t realize how much money you have to put aside for that. Also, people who have never been teachers often don’t realize how much work it really is, and the teacher strikes don’t really help people here think of the job as something serious.

  2. mom says:

    But let it be said that Americans know not to ask about salary. They just know it will lead to conflict. I don’t know what my best friends make, and vice versa, and we know not to ask.

    OR CARE. Let me emphasize that. We do not want discrepancies in salary to affect our relationships.

  3. Emily says:

    If it comforts you at all, I’ve had similar issues in the US with my graduate funding. I’ve had generous scholarships at both of my grad schools, and when people find out that I’m not taking out the amount of loans that they are, some people get nasty about it (as in, literally asking “what did you do to deserve that? I don’t get it. I don’t think you deserve it.”). The only thing that you can do is take comfort in the fact that despite what others may think, you HAVE earned what you make via your credentials and experience. You’ve moved up the ranks, with a pay increase each time, plus you have a graduate degree now, so more education + more experience = more money, logically. And know that it’s not really about you or the money you’re making. It’s about the other person’s insecurity/dissatisfaction with their own job, usually.

    I think the only thing you can do about the roommate is just not get into it anymore – if she brings it up, look at her blankly, and change the subject. (Easier said than done, I know.)

  4. Those are all good points, and I’ll try to think about it that way, Emily. That never really occurred to me. Well, I guess it did, but not that clearly. The problem is that it’s becoming difficult to mention almost any part of my job to her without provoking some kind of annoying response.

    Also, I never really made any money in the U.S. so there was no way for such a conversation to happen.

  5. Samantha says:

    Plus, I think in general salaries are just lower here in France than they are in the US, so what may seem like a decent salary to us actually seems astronomical to a French person. When you consider that 50% of the population makes less than 1500% per month (and only 10% make more than 3000€ per month), it sort of puts things into perspective for us ricains. I’ve learned to just never tell (French) people what I make, because it changes how they look at me. Even the guy I’m dating told me he doesn’t want to know!

  6. That is good to know Sam and very interesting. I do think I should’ve kept my mouth shut but they seemed like such innocent questions…

    (Btw, how do you feel about being linked to? I always assumed you didn’t want links since you didn’t link to your new blog from your old blog, but I realized that was just an assumption.)

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