Working from home can get quite lonely. This is why Emily in Paris kept me – Alex in Paris – company during my lunchbreaks at home.
What this has to do with your business and international expansion? Let me explain. (And let me put a little spoiler alert here in case you have the series on your watchlist 😉 )
For those of you who don’t know the series:
It follows Emily, an American who is relocated to Paris by her marketing agency to support the newly acquired local subsidiary by providing an American point of view. Of course, not everything goes smoothly. It soon becomes clear that the Americans and the French are not always quite on the same wavelength…
At the end of season 2, a senior manager from the American company comes to Paris to check in on things and turns everything upside down. In an amusing way, the US production paints a rather self-aware picture of the loud, pushy American: She questions work practices, management methods and relationships with clients – and all this without really communicating with the local staff or even getting to know the local customs.
Emily, who had a similarly difficult start when she first arrived in Paris, is now caught in the middle: She understands her American boss and her approaches as someone who has lived and worked in the US herself but has also made an effort to gain work and life experience in the French environment within her past months in France.
As for the outcome? The senior manager’s well-intentioned growth ambition ends in a fiasco: she loses her staff and a large number of clients and finds herself in an empty office with only one employee.
What we can learn from it about interculturalism at work
While this series is sometimes (read: often) hard to watch, lacks reality (a junior profile has this kind of life in one of the most expensive cities in the world?! With an average gross annual salary of around €30k, it’s usually more like the 10sqm chambre de bonne for €850 cold and a frozen lunch from Picard.) and is bursting with clichés, some parts are not wrong. As a German living in Paris, I can only confirm that French and Germans don’t tick the same in everyday life or at work – even though we’re practically neighbors. And I guess I am not the only one who has made this kind of experience.
A lesson in interculturalism at work from Emily in Paris? All markets function differently. Before you arrive in a new market with new people and cultures with strategies and actions that are successful in another market, you should get to know them! Otherwise, you risk scaring away customers and losing talent.