Money, Get Away

One Way - Road Closed

One Way — Road Closed

This is my last week of work at school, and I’m fac­ing what is per­haps my most tricky mis­sion so far.

Last Fri­day, my boss asked my to teach a three-days class to total begin­ners in the pri­vate sec­tor. I’m pretty much the only teacher who can actu­ally speak Eng­lish so I obliged. The rea­son why the employ­ees only get three days of French? They are being laid-off and these classes are part of their sev­er­ance pack­age. Because the top employer in Ottawa is the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, and because a lot of posi­tions there are bilin­gual at some level, their employer thought it would be a good idea to get them started on their French.

I arrived Mon­day morn­ing won­der­ing how to deal with the whole sit­u­a­tion. How much French could I teach in three days, and how will­ing would the employ­ees be to learn? How would they han­dled the fact that they were los­ing their jobs?

I found my stu­dents already sat at the meet­ing table, eat­ing break­fast. All smil­ing and all friendly. Phew. I decided to not over­look the “ele­phant in the room” and asked a few ques­tions about their plans con­sid­er­ing the news.

The employ­ees were obvi­ously not happy with it. None of them can retire yet, and some had been work­ing in their posi­tions for over ten years. They are qual­i­fied employ­ees, yet not that young that they can eas­ily be retrained. And above all, none of them ever thought their jobs would be cut, because their employer is semi-public. The whole sit­u­a­tion just sucks, and as one of them said, given the cur­rent eco­nom­i­cal times and Christ­mas com­ing up, it’s not a good time to be unemployed.

I know North Amer­i­can medias tend to exag­ger­ate the news, but I can’t help being a lit­tle bit wor­ried myself about this whole eco­nomic cri­sis thing. We will be trav­el­ing for a few months, so we will rely on our sav­ings. I plan to find another job when I come back, although I could always teach again for a period of time if needed. But we have to be money-savvy.

Strangely, even though I still get paid by the hour, have no ben­e­fits and no guar­an­tee of a steady income when I work at the school, I feel bet­ter off finan­cially than a lot of peo­ple. I think I have man­aged, so far, to avoid to big North Amer­i­can pit­falls. Fist of all, I have no debts. I went to uni­ver­sity in France and didn’t have to pay tuition fees since edu­ca­tion is almost free. I don’t own a house, so no mort­gage. I pay for all my pur­chases cash, because I usu­ally save before­hand. I pay off my credit card every month and to be hon­est, the bal­ance is usu­ally ridicu­lously small. Sec­ond of all, I have never invested money in stock mar­ket: I only have a reg­u­lar low inter­est sav­ing account. It doesn’t make me rich, but doesn’t make me poor either. That’s all I ask.

What wor­ries me? Maybe know­ing that get­ting a nice job will be harder in the next few months, or next few years. Maybe know­ing that the cost of liv­ing may rise much faster than my wage. Maybe know­ing that I need to take care of my finan­cial health because no one else will: after all, banks go bank­rupt and gov­ern­ments around the world are doing a nice job of show­ing peo­ple how to get deeper and deeper into debt.

But there is noth­ing new for me. France has been in cri­sis for quite a while now. By the time my gen­er­a­tion had fin­ished uni­ver­sity, we had real­ized that hous­ing was gen­er­ally speak­ing not afford­able, that we couldn’t get a proper job with what­ever degree we had and that, on top of every­thing, the cost of liv­ing was steadily get­ting higher and higher. This is one of the rea­son I didn’t plan my future in France. I like the coun­try but I found times very depress­ing, and appar­ently, it hasn’t changed. Most of my friends there are smart, have great degrees, speak a few lan­guages and yet can’t get a per­ma­nent posi­tion. They go from unpaid intern­ships to two-months long con­tracts, from tem­po­rary posi­tions to min­i­mum wage jobs and mean­while, live with their par­ents because they can’t afford their own place. It sucks.

There isn’t much we can do dur­ing a finan­cial cri­sis (well, trav­el­ing is my option!). We just can’t con­trol it. How­ever, we can con­trol how we spend our money. Given that North American’s life is based, cen­tered and directed on con­sum­ing and that we are con­stantly bom­barded with ads and com­mer­cials to buy this and to buy that, to sub­scribe to this and to bor­row from that… it may not be easy. But maybe some­thing good will come out of this. Maybe it’s time to rethink the way we live. Maybe.

How about you? Are you worried?


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. The amount of bor­row­ing that has occurred over the past 10 years has been amaz­ing espe­cially in the UK. Credit Cards, 100% mort­gages, huge loans, etc have all assisted and the bub­ble had to burst at some time.

    Luck­ily I’ve got some sav­ings and am in a secure job, but there are many who are not in this sit­u­a­tion and are fac­ing ruin.

    A les­son to be learnt.

  2. @Linguist-in-Waiting — Euro­peans are pretty fatal­is­tic too… we have been through a lot in his­tory so I guess ups and downs are expected.

    @Bluefish — I work for pri­vate sec­tor as well, and since we depends on gov’t bud­gets, work is pretty unsteady too. But even in pub­lic sec­tor posi­tions can be cut so…

    @Celine — I think tak­ing con­trol of our finan­cial health is the best thing we can do so far.

    @Scarlet — Did you get the job, by the way?

    @Agnes — Well, being debt-free was prob­a­bly eas­ier for me than for most North Amer­i­cans. As I said, no stu­dents loans needed in France, and I don’t have a house, so no mortgage.

    @Guillermo — I feel the same. This is vir­tual money we are talk­ing about most of time and I find it hard to grasp the real­ity of it. Even stock mar­kets are weird for me… I’m too down-to-earth for that kind of finan­cial game I guess.

    @Gutsy Writer — It can be dif­fi­cult… I know most of my friends in France had to move back with their par­ents at one point because they just couldn’t afford rent.

    @Caroline — We should see things like you do, no point in wor­ry­ing after all. Maybe you haven’t been brain­washed my Amer­i­can media yet 😉

    @Gail at Large — I know a lot of my stu­dents who grad­u­ated from uni. at the same time as you said they went to Japan to teach Eng­lish, or to Europe for fur­ther edu­ca­tion. They came back right on time when things picked up again. Good point!

    @Khengsiong — I hate being paid by the hour but I have never expe­ri­enced some­thing else… so I’m used to it. I only have 4 sick days… per YEAR!

    @expatraveler — I’ll be look­ing for a job too when I come back from trav­el­ing, hope­fully I won’t search too long. Good luck!

    @RennyBA — I under­stand what you mean. But it’s a vicious cir­cle too, the more gov­ern­ments tell us we are in deep trou­ble, the less peo­ple want to invest, the more the econ­omy is down…

    @Brenda — Peo­ple are more fru­gal appar­ently, but hey, this is North Amer­ica. I don’t have high hopes. This con­ti­nent was build for consumerism…

    @NewWrldYankee — I’m stay­ing pos­i­tive and it is a great time to go trav­el­ing after all!

    @Adem — I heard the hous­ing mar­ket was crazy in the UK, sim­i­lar to France’s. I can see peo­ple get­ting into debt… I’m not surprised.

  3. Hey Zhu. Inter­est­ing thoughts here. I feel bad for those peo­ple you’ve been teach­ing, but (don’t call me heart­less) they’re just more sta­tis­tics really. Already in my home coun­try Britain there have been lots of lay-offs announced, and two fairly big retail names have gone into admin­is­tra­tion. Here in France things are look­ing shaky. It’s not quite as bad as the US or Britain yet, but in another cou­ple of months it will get worse I feel.
    Maybe I’m just cross­ing my fin­gers and hop­ing I’ll be spared, but I don’t feel imme­di­ately con­cerned for my own posi­tion. I am con­cerned about the plans Hubby and I had been mak­ing though. Now is not the time to be look­ing for a new job, even less to be think­ing of sell­ing our house and mov­ing!
    I guess we’ll just see what the next months bring. I’m not too wor­ried for you though, you have your head on straight and both feet on the ground!!

  4. I’m con­cerned, but not pan­icked. My finan­cial situation/habits are very sim­i­lar to what you described as your own, how­ever, as a prod­uct of US uni­ver­si­ties, stu­dent loan pay­ments do loom over my head.

    I tend to view the whole eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion and frenzy sur­round­ing it as overkill. The econ­omy goes and up and it goes down — has for as long as “economies” have existed. Humans have short mem­o­ries. When it goes down, we think it’s the end of the world. But in real­ity, it’s nor­mal. And it will go up again.

  5. Just some months ago I real­ized what finan­cial cri­sis means… peo­ple are obliged to take vaca­tions for sev­eral weeks, pro­duc­tion sites close down, I see peo­ple loos­ing their jobs. Actu­ally I’m not quite sure if I will keep mine next year due to the fact that my com­pany doesn’t win projects to the same extent as they did in for­mer times. The bad thing about the cri­sis is that I will have to post­pone my plan to move to Canada as find­ing jobs won’t be eas­ier at the other end of the world I sup­pose. So let’s see what hap­pens in 2009 and maybe there’s a chance to move in 2010. Can’t wait to expe­ri­ence a new country…

Leave A Reply

Enjoying this blog? Please spread the word :)