One of the first lessons we’re learning here: the difference between French and American ideas of customer service. Imagine that you walk into the AT&T store. Not a single employee acknowledges your presence. Even the guy over in the corner filing papers stays focused on his drudgery. You wait several minutes. Nothing happens. You wait several more minutes. Finally, the guy who was filing papers is done. He looks up and says hello.
If this happened in the US, you wouldn’t have waited past the first several minutes. Here, things are different. I have already spent more time waiting to be acknowledged than I have spent in museums and at sidewalk cafes combined. At first, I was frustrated. Actually, I’m still a little bit frustrated. But I have to acknowledge the flip side of the coin. As soon as it’s your turn to buy bus tickets, ask a question, or file a form, you have the person’s undivided attention until you have completed every task with which they could possibly help you. The woman at the bus station talked us step-by-step through purchasing month-long passes as if we were sitting on her back porch drinking iced tea. Never mind the twenty people in line behind us. They’ll get good service when it’s their turn.