By Marion Parquet
Have you, like us, binge-watched each season of Emily in Paris? If not, you’ve likely heard about it! In the latest Netflix hit series, protagonist Emily moves from the US to work in Paris and is trying to navigate the Parisian agency culture. Similarly, a few months back, we welcomed Marion, who is continuing her career in Canada, moving here from France where she worked in various Parisian communications agencies. She made the leap and travelled 5,000 km to experience a new work environment, joining the Montréal team at K&P, which works jointly with our offices in Toronto and Ottawa. With the Season 3 release of the hit show, we wanted to see how much truth there is in the show’s portrayal, and ask Marion her opinion on the differences that can exist between two cultures and their approach to work in PR and social media. Welcome to our reverse version of Emily in Paris: Marion in Montréal!
As in the show, have you noticed any differences in terms of workload and how employees are treated? I’ve noticed that in Canada, working remotely is much more accepted, encouraged and widely democratized. Employers build a real relationship of trust with their employees, which I believe leaves a positive impact on employee loyalty and productivity. I feel that Canadian employers show more care for their employees and their wellbeing. They are more recognized, and their work is really valued. Perhaps this is because the labour market is much more dynamic here, and changing jobs implies less red tape than in France.
What about the social aspect at work? In my opinion, the general atmosphere at work is lighter and warmer in Canada and especially at K&P. This is due to several elements, starting with our main communication tool: the way we talk and address each other. In French (and Roman languages in general), we have two ways to address people: “tu” (“you”), a more informal way to speak with someone and that you use with people you know (family, friends, etc.), or “vous”, the more formal way to address people (your boss, stakeholders, and in other professional instances, or simply if you don’t know someone and they are your elder). This doesn’t really exist in English, and in Québécois French, everyone uses the informal “tu” no matter who you talk to. As a result, conversations can be friendlier here, helping to break down barriers, particularly when it comes to hierarchy in the workplace, which is more pronounced in France.
From my perspective, relationships and communication between employees are simpler and more fluid in Canada. Moreover, interpersonal relationships within the workplace are valued, as can be seen with the afterwork culture which is celebrated in Québec (“5 à 7”). Unfortunately, we don’t drink champagne every day during lunch on Parisian terraces as portrayed on Netflix, but it’s still common to have a drink with colleagues in France every now and then as we do here in Canada.
Tell us more about how agencies are structured?
From my experience in agencies, the structure and organization of the teams in France and Canada are very different. There are more structured PR agencies in France that deal with specific issues and are often specialized (e.g. lifestyle or even just fashion, tourism-hospitality, finance, etc.) or function more in silos, with their different practices (e.g. PR, influence, events, etc.) often working in separate physical spaces. In Québec, I find there is more collaboration between the different practices, which work hand-in-hand more than in Paris.
Working hours: early risers or late sleepers? From my point of view and from the stories I’ve heard from people around me, the Québec culture emphasizes respect for schedules and it’s not common to see employees working “nocturnes”, as we say in France. Even though, I must admit, in French agencies, the day often begins with a coffee break and work starts between 9 and 10 a.m., whereas in Canada, agencies rise earlier. Here, everyone is also encouraged to maintain a healthy work-life balance to prioritize mental health throughout the year, which is appreciated.
Media relations and influencer marketing: differences? I’ve noticed that the media landscape in Québec is less extended than in France. There are much more media outlets in France, mainly in Paris, since newsrooms are mostly located in the capital. In Québec, we operate with a small network of journalists, which increases the need to create real relationships of trust here. I’ve also noticed that Québec media seem less politicized and more neutral than in France. As far as social media is concerned, I’ve noticed that in France, there is a rather balanced distribution between organic and paid content, whereas in Québec, there is more of a preference for paid. The French influencer market is also more experiential and event-driven, which is likely related to Canada experiencing a delayed return to “normalcy” compared to France following the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, in the end: Emily in Paris, or Marion in Montréal? In the end, France and Canada have two completely different work cultures, each with their own unique learning opportunities! From my personal point of view, my work life is more pleasant in Québec. I feel like my work is valued and my wellbeing is taken into account at K&P, which increases my desire to invest in my professional life and help drive the agency’s success. That said, I can’t wait for season 4 of Emily in Paris!