I had the pleasure of spending a week working with our team in Paris as part of our Tour de Zeno initiative. I’d been awaiting my trip with excitement, not least at the thought of all the great wine and cheese I’d be able to stuff my face with (telling myself it’s okay because I’m kind of ‘on holiday’). But also because I was keen to see how our French colleagues combine doing communications with living in the city of love.
Let me set the record straight – perhaps some French workers do benefit from the 35-hour working week, but creative industries operate differently. Much like London, comms in Paris is intense, fast-paced and exciting. You leave when the work is done and let me tell you - our French colleagues work for some amazing brands, and do some really creative work.
For all those who wonder if everything stops here in the summer, the answer is yes… unless you work in communications. Most companies and offices are closed in August and clients emigrate to the south of France or somewhere similar for a full month, all while their agencies tirelessly put together planning decks for the year ahead. Everything picks back up in September with tons of strategy meetings. It’s a very intense time for the French.
Lunchtime is a much-treasured chance to take a break from work and catch up on latest gossip. It’s taken early – usually around midday and stretches for at least an hour, with the team getting together on one of the amazing terraced balconies in the office - our colleagues in Paris work in the same building as our sister agency ElanEdelman. People are friendly and passionate about their work, and I’ll no doubt bring back a few fashion tips to try out in London.
Amazing as this week has been though, I’m writing this blog post with an unrelenting feeling of sadness. It’s hard to not look at this experience through the lens of today’s news of the UK voting to leave the European Union. I woke up early this morning to quite a different reality and an atmosphere of shock and disbelief, as the French media so poignantly announced the end of Britain’s affair with the EU - “l’Europe– c’est fini!
The Britain I left behind will be a different country when I arrive at St. Pancras on Sunday – and that’s coming from a Polish citizen with an EU passport who lives and works in the UK. Who knows, a few years from now, another Zenoid might not be able to have the chance to visit a foreign Zeno office without an undue amount of paperwork and perhaps - even a visa.
What makes this even sadder is the fact that for the last week, the streets of Paris have been overtaken with celebrations of Euro 2016. It was quite exhilarating to see fans from different countries coming together to cheer or cry for their teams. This spirit of European comradeship is somewhat gone today and there’s a clear feeling that for many of us the future of how this will all unfold is uncertain.
“No individual can win a game by himself” – is one of Pelé’s most famous quotes. Today, I feel like it applies to much, much more than just football.