Back in my early years in France, after I had finished my French classes and was starting to look around for a job, there was a statistic that shocked me: 50% of French people earn less than 1500€ a month.
Of course at the time, I still had my American salary expectations and I hadn’t quite understood yet how the French just pay up front for a lot of the things we pay out of pocket for (insurance, retirement, etc). But the fact of the matter was, I was making more than that as a college student, and I could not wrap my head around the fact that half a country was making less than I was earning while in school. And unfortunately, I just heard on the news the other day that ten years later, this fact is still true, and it still kind of floors me.
Because of the nature of my job, I spend a lot of time talking to your average French Joe (or maybe that should be Jacques). People who might or might not have their BAC, but who have most certainly never gone on to college. The working class. The ones who consider Paris to be far away and things like Paris Fashion Week and who wore what when to be alien. But because part of my job entails convincing people to take good care of our equipment even though they won’t be paid any extra for doing so, I talk to them. Not so much about family since family tends to stay out of work conversations, but about the weather, politics, differences between our countries. After all, it’s a lot harder to say no to someone that you have a connection with.
I might not always agree with what some of these folks have to say – “All foreigners should be kicked out of France,” for example – but I have learned a lot from them and it’s been an eye into the mindset of a certain class of French people (and yes, IMO, there are still distinct classes in France).