Monday, February 28, 2011

The unstoppable French mailman

Forms of modern communication evolve everywhere in the world as digital platforms gain ground in the market. But ever since I have moved to France 6 months ago I gradually realized French people are a bit different than other Europeans, in terms of communication habits. Whereas in most European countries Internet has long ago been crowned as the favorite communication way, in France the post has not yet been dethroned. Emails seem to remain insignificant facing the serious competition with written/printed letters/documents, which continue to be regarded as of outmost importance.
It is true that the number of Internet users increased in size over the past few years, but the percentage hardly reaches other countries’. France, a modern, emancipated country, chooses to remain conservative, who would have imagined?

The postal system has always been a major institution here and the cyber revolution did not affect people’s confidence. The French mailman delivers not only official letters (and there are piles of them!) but also all kind of envelopes containing more or less important notifications issued by banks, other authorities, retailers, bills, etc. Sometimes such papers might contain confidential information. Leaving them in the mailbox is a bit risky, as there’s a small chance someone else gets hold of the letter.

Internet does not currently have so much power in France as it does in other countries. For example, if you send your resume by email there’s little chance to get an answer at all. (I can tell you that from my own experience). But if you apply by post, the chances visibly increase and you will surely receive an answer within several weeks, whether positive or negative. Imagine my surprise when I got a reply by post after having applied for a job online! Unbelievable but true.

Most companies have unlimited access to Internet and even encourage employees to explore its opportunities but seems like thousands of emails are often lost on their way, delayed or deleted without any specific reason, simply because the information does not come along printed on paper, in an envelope and with a stamp on it.

Blogs and social networks’ popularity is undoubtedly growing in France as in other countries, but after 6 months observation and talking to people there is clear evidence that French are not so crazy about sharing their life on social networks. Most of them have a Facebook account but rarely go online or display a visible tendency to deny any request from people they don’t know (unlike Americans, for instance, who seem to be much friendlier to strangers). Apparently lots of parents forbid their kids to use social networks thus intending to keep them away from negative influences.

Every country has its own habits, and each individual is given the option of choosing between email and classic mail, but seems like the French mailman will probably still be busy for the next few years, until people decide to break with tradition.