Category Archives: France

Bertrand Guillotin

“My name is Bertrand Guillotin.  I have been at Duke University since 2002, thus for almost thirteen years.  I have served as the director of the International Programs Office for the past ten years.  Before coming to Duke, I got my MBA at Thunderbird in Arizona.  In fact, I arrived in the United States nineteen years ago.  In 1996, when I arrived, I got my degree and then I worked for American Express.  After American Express, I worked for Nortel Networks, and after that—at Duke.


“My role here at Fuqua: I am the director of International Programs and Internal Affairs for MBA Daytime Programming.  Thus it’s the largest, I don’t know if you know, there are nine hundred full-time students, “en temps complets” in French.  This is, in fact, the largest Fuqua program, and it’s also the Number 1 program in the United States.  So it’s quite big and quite good.

That’s one part of my job.  The second part is to organize Study Tours.  I don’t know what you would call them in French, but they are intensive, cultural, academic, professional visits where you visit companies.  We offer these in Brazil, Latin America, South America, China, or wherever someone wants to go, wherever the students are interested in going.  Thus, that’s the second part of my workload.

The third part is work authorizations.  That is to say working on student visas for students who have a visa here for as long as they’re considered foreign students.  They need my authorization to do an internship or to work more than two years at Duke.  Thus, I keep busy with work authorizations also.

And the fourth part of my job: I work with everything that has to do with international conferences here.  Thus, either with colleagues at Duke, when they organize something, for example with Canadian Studies or the Center for Caribbean and Latin American Studies, or even our international clubs.  We have a lot of international clubs here. When they organize a conference, I help them also.


The first difference that I noticed between the French in terms of workplace culture is actually based on the method of communicating, the style of working.  For example, when French people pose a question, they usually have a logical reason.  Therefore, they say, “voila, here are the important facts, this is the current situation,” and then they ask their question.  In America, Americans don’t explain anything before posing their question.  In general they just ask their question.  Voila the question.  Thus, it’s very direct.  Communication in french is indirect.

What I noticed is there isn’t a lot of hierarchy in the workplace in the United States, in particular when I worked at American Express.  One day, my boss asked me to come to his office.  And I said to myself, I’ve made an error, I’ve done something wrong, I’m going to be reprimanded.  I was nervous and when I arrived he said to me, “Have a seat. Would you like a cup of coffee?”.  A cup of coffee? No, that’s okay, thank you.  What is going on? What did I do?  And he told me, “No, everything is good. You’re doing very well, your work is very good.  You’re doing a good job, so I wanted to tell you thank you”.  This would not happen in France.  In France if your boss asks you to come to their office, it’s not good.  Thus, it was completely the inverse.

I have noticed that at noon, at lunchtime, lunchtime doesn’t exist.  People take very little time—fifteen minutes, thirty minutes. In general, in France, it’s one hour, two hours.

I would say for current MBA students, it’s very important to do something international.  When I arrived, it was a good idea, but it wasn’t truly obligatory. Now it’s obligatory.  I would say not necessarily on the level of courses or curriculum, etc., but it’s true that employers are asking for international expertise and international experience.  I can also say that for me, there is a lot more work than before.  I now have partners who help me with my work.  I have a partner for example at Duke Visa Services for work authorizations.  I have an external partner for the all the international trips that we organize.  Thus, it’s necessary to work as a team.  You have to have a lot of relationships, partners, internal help, external help, in order to do it all.


Merci Bertrand!

The interview, videos, transcription and translation were done by Susannah Roberson and Patrick Ray

Benjamin Massaoui


Benjamin Massaoui and his bakery in Durham

by Breanna Kendall and Allie Tallering 

Benjamin Massaoui is a Frenchman who currently lives and works in Durham, North Carolina. He is originally from Paris, France and now is the owner and head chef of a bakery called French Corner Bakery. We were lucky enough to be able to interview Benjamin on his life and time as a French-speaking native living in Durham. See below for the English translation or click here to view the original interview in French. We would like to thank Benjamin and his children for their time and for the delicious croissants ! Everyone should go and visit his shop in Durham to talk to him (in French or in English !) and to try for themselves his very special treats !

Find the French Corner Bakery here and on 2500 N. Pointe Drive.





Question 1: Where did you grow up and how did you find yourself here in Durham?

Benjamin: I was born and raised in Paris in the 13th arrondissement and lived my whole life in Paris. I traveled a lot around the world. I first came to the United States in 1998 to see if I liked it. I worked in New York for one year and I liked it a lot. I came back to France to get some of my things together and to get my visa. In 1999, I came here for good. One thing that is really funny is that everyday that I worked in Paris, I drove by the Eiffel Tower. The last day I was in Paris, when I was on my way to get on the plane, I drove by one last time and realized I had never been in the Eiffel Tower. I realized that I was about to immigrate to the United States without ever going in the Eiffel Tower. So I stopped by car and went inside! I grew up in Paris without ever being in yet. But I’m sure that it is a similar situation for people who live next to Niagara Falls. They wake up every morning and go about their business. They don’t open the window every day and say “Wow it’s so gorgeous!”

Question 2: Paris vous manque?

No, not really. I lived there my whole life. I know the city. When I miss something, food especially, I can just make it!

Question 3: What do you do as work and how did you get interested in this work?

As you can see, we make bread and pastries. I began when I was 15, now I’m 50. That’s 35 years that I have made bread. I had an uncle who was a baker. It was the good way to always have fresh bread. I did an apprentice and I became a baker. It took me 7 or 8 years to become a professional baker. Then I traveled a lot. One day in 1994, I was in Africa and I heard something very interesting from a man in the Congo. When an old man dies, it’s like a library burning. All the knowledge flies away. If I want to become good at what I do, I want to learn. I want to teach others. So for that reason, I began teaching classes on baking and making pastries. As you can see, this is my son. He is in the process of making cinnamon buns. And my daughter is over there too.

Question 4: Vos enfants, parlent-ils français?

No, they know “non” but not much else!

Question 5: What do you think of the French community here in Durham? Do you like Durham?

Yes, I love Durham. I have lived here 8 years now. I don’t really know the French community here. But ever since opening this bakery, I have gotten to know it better as they have started to come. Before that, I didn’t really communicate with them. Two weeks ago, the French commissioner from Raleigh called me to congratulate me on the newspaper articles in the News & Observer and the Durham Sun. He invited me to a gala and I said no thanks. I have been here 12 years and just because my name is now in the newspaper, he invited me. I am just a baker. I think there are people who are more deserving of this invitation. I just bake bread. There are teachers, nurses, and doctors who deserve more attention from the media than me.

Question 6: How long have you had this bakery?

We have been here since December 2014 and it has been a great experience. We have been very well received. We have 5 stars on Yelp, 5 stars on Facebook. I saw someone put on Facebook, “Even the pictures smell good!” I am lucky that God has given me two good hands and it is a benediction and it is a benediction for others. On a lighter note, when I realized I could not loose weight, I try to loose weight and I can’t, I decided to put people around me that are a little bit more “fluffy.”

Question 7: Des derniers mots? Mange beaucoup? Mange bien?

Bon appétit! You must come visit me at my bakery and try my bread! You can have French reunions here. We have coffee and free wifi – we have everything! Every time I can speak French, it is like I have a piece of candy in my mouth. Because I don’t speak it a lot. My kids spoke French just up until the day they went to school. And after they were exposed to English all the time, they began to respond to me in English and then little by little they lost it. It’s sad, but I’m sure they understand more than they tell me. I think it is selective! We need more people that speak French!




Sandrine Pauwels

N: Could you please explain your story a little – how is it that you speak French, why do you live here and work here..? Perhaps to begin, where were you born?

S: I’m a Parisian. I come from Paris. I spent part of my childhood in Paris and part in Portugal also because my parents were expatriates for their work. So I came back to Paris, I left when I was three and came back when I was twelve and thereafter, I always lived in Paris. I did my studies in Paris. I worked in Paris.

I was trained as a documentalist. I worked at the commission of documents of the stock exchange. A bit like the ICC here. The organization that controls the stock exchange. So I married and had a husband and a son.

My husband had lived in the US and we started to export to the US a product of French decorations. We decided to move to the US to develop this business in fact.

I came to NC in 87 because I had a friend who lived here and I was a student so doing some travel.

When we decided where to go, we decided in the end on Raleigh. Yes, I live in Raleigh, not Durham. So yes, we arrived with our two young children.

N: When was this?

S: It was in June 1999.  It’s been a while now! And so we arrived, thinking we perhaps wouldn’t stay long, that perhaps not much happens here! And in the end, we’re still here! And so my husband developed his business. He imports to the US bench tops of enameled lava. It’s lava which comes from the volcanoes in France and it’s enameled with different colors. And then sold throughout the US. He’s responsible for the whole American market.

So me, I didn’t work, I looked after the children. Until the month of September last year, when I started to work for Helen Solterer at the Centre for Francophone studies here at Duke.

N: And in doing your work as a documentalist, were you at a library as well or more in the stock exchange?

S: No, not a library, really a centre of documentation for people doing research on the law of the bourse, research on society, it was our responsibility to create documents for lawyers, for people doing studies on society. It’s not open to the public, it’s really more integrated as a business.

T: What are the obstacles that you’ve encountered in American culture?

S: It’s complicated. In my experience, as a Frenchperson you have the impression that you know American culture. So when you say you’re going to live there, it’s not like saying that you’re going to live in India, China or Africa where you’d think “Oh! That’s completely different, I don’t know what I’m going into!”
But in fact, when you arrive, you realise you don’t know much at all.
And especially, I think, because we weren’t going to New York or a large well-known city. We arrived in the south of the US in a small city. Relative to Paris, it is very small, and things are very different in fact.
The way people function… At the beginning, going to the supermarket, was very different… So in fact, every day, you have the experience of saying “I thought I knew but in fact I don’t know.” And that, it’s very interesting in fact, it’s very interesting. You might think that it’s not very exotic coming to the US, not very different. But in fact it is, there are many things to learn.

N: And they’re perhaps things that you don’t hear about in the rest of the world?

S: Exactly, it’s daily life in fact. Also the relationships between people. Many things.

N: This is very linked to our studies, the francophone community in North Carolina… Is there much of a french community?

S: I can answer this well because in fact, it’s me that keeps the list of French in Raleigh and the Triangle. And also Carey because there are growing numbers in Carey. More Raleigh and Carey, not so much Durham and Chapel Hill.

I don’t know the exact figures but there are quite a few francophones. And numbers are growing. A lot of businesses that bring them in. The Canadian francophones as well, there are quite a few of them too. And they’re quite diverse in fact. All sorts of people, careers and ages. Quite a few came to work for IBM. And there are those who retire in North Carolina.

T: Do you think it was easier for your children?

S: Yes, my elder son was 5 and my daughter was 9 months old. He went to an American school and it was very easy for him in fact. He speaks very well English, much better than me!

N: So effectively, your children are quite American?!

S: It’s not that simple, not that simple! Because they’re really of double culture. We always speak French together. We never speak English together. Because all of us have French as our maternal language. However, it’s interesting, they speak English together, because that’s the language of their studies at school.

Also, we have TV5, I’ve tried a lot to maintain French in our family. And they speak French well.

N: Do they have French friends?

S: No. Well, yes, some. There is a small French community. There are some of the same age.

My daughter has one francophone friend with whom she’s very close.

My son, his very good friends, they left when they were about ten so he has far fewer francophone friends.

N: Do you still feel connected to the French working world? For example, with his business, your husband must have to do negotiations in France, have strong connections in France?

S: Yes, because though his business is independent, he must buy from France. he must have connections… he has to go over there, make visits, have meetings, so yes, the link is still quite strong.

T: Do your children take French classes at school?

S: So no, that’s a bit complicated. Do you know CNED? It’s a French organization under the Ministry of Education that proposes French classes as if you went to school in France but by correspondence… They’re for students who are sick and can no longer go to school or for gypsies, people who travel who can’t attend a fixed school. Or for expatriates who have no French school to attend. For my son, just for French, not maths or the other subjects, we did this until about sixth grade… And after, he could do no more… which I understand! For my daughter, we did it a little but I taught her to read and write myself in fact.

And in fact, the problem is that the level of my children is too high to take High School level French so in the end, I made a deal with my son for him to do AP French in his last year of school and in fact, he tricked me, he made up a story and never did it!

Bertrand Guillotin

“Je m’appelle Bertrand Guillotin. Je suis à Duke University depuis 2002, donc ça fait treize ans, presque. Je suis directeur du International Programs Office depuis dix ans. Donc, avant j’ai fait mon MBA à Thunderbird en Arizona avant Duke. En fait je suis arrivé il y a dix-neuf ans, aux Etats-Unis. Donc en 1996 quand je suis arrivé, j’ai fait mes études, après j’ai travaillé chez American Express, après chez de American Express, à Nortel Networks, et après—Duke.”

“Mon rôle ici à Fuqua: je suis directeur de Programme Internationaux et Intérieur du MBA Daytime Programming. Donc c’est le plus gros, je ne sais pas si vous connaissez, on a neuf cent étudiants “full-time,” en temps complets en français. C’est, en fait, la plus grande programme de Fuqua et c’est aussi le programme qui est numéro 1 aux Etats-Unis. Donc on est assez grand et on est assez bon.

Ça c’est une partie de mon travail. La deuxième partie c’est d’organiser des « Study Tours. » C’est à dire des, je ne sais pas comment dire en français, mais ces sont en fait des visites intensives, culturelles, académiques, professionnelles, ou en fait des visites d’entreprises. Donc, ça on le fait sur le Brésil, l’Amérique latine, l’Afrique du sud, la chine, ou pas importe ou on y veut aller, où les étudiants sont intéresser. Donc ça c’est la deuxième partie de mon travail.

La troisième partie ces sont les autorisations de travail. C’est à dire on fonctionne des visas des étudiants ce qui ont un visa ici en tant qu’étudiante étranger. On besoin de mon autorisation pour faire un stage ou pour travailler après l’hors deux ans à Duke. Donc je m’occupe des autorisations de travail aussi.

Et quatrième partie de mon travail: je m’occupe de tous qui est en conférence international ici. Donc, soit avec les collèges à Duke quand on organise quelque chose, par exemple avec Canadian Studies ou Center for Caribbean and Latin American Studies, ou alors nos clubs internationaux. On a aussi beaucoup de clubs internationaux ici. Quand ils organisent une conférence, je les aide aussi.”

“Une première différence que j’ai remarqué entre les Français et dans la culture dans le milieu de travail, c’est en fait basé sur une façon de communiquer, une façon de travailler. Par exemple, les Français en général pour poser un question, ils ont un raisonnent logique. Donc ils disent, « voila, nous connaissons les fait intels, que c’est la situation maintenant, » et ils posent leur question. Donc, en Amérique, les Anglais n’expliquent pas tous avant de poser une question. En général, ils posent leur question. Voila la question. Donc c’est très direct. La communication en français c’est indirect.

Qu’est-ce que j’ai remarque c’est qu’il n’y a pas beaucoup de hiérarchie dans le travail aux Etats-Unis, en particulier chez American Express. Un jour, mon patron m’a demandé de venir dans son bureau. Et je me suis dit, j’ai fait un erreur, j’ai fait quelque chose de mal, je vais mon faire gronder. J’étais nerveux, et j’arrive et il m’a dit, « assieds-toi, tu veut un café? » Un café, non, ça va, merci. Qu’est-ce qui se passe, qu’est-ce que j’ai fait? Et il m’a dit, « non, ça va, tu va très bien, ton travail est très bien. Tu fais les bons travails, je voulais te dire merci. » On ne fait pas comme ça en France. En France si votre patron vous dit de venir dans le bureau, ce n’est pas très bon. Donc c’est complètement l’envers.

J’ai remarqué que pendant le midi, dans l’heure de déjeuner, n’est pas. Les gens prennent très peut de temps—quinze minutes, trente minutes. Donc en général, en France, c’est une heure, deux heures.”

“Je dirais pour les étudiants MBA maintenant, c’est beaucoup plus important de faire quelque chose en international. Quand je suis arrivé, c’était une bonne idée, mais ce n’était pas vraiment obligatoire. Maintenant c’est obligatoire. Je dirais pas forcement le niveau des cours ou de « curriculum, » etc. Mais c’est vraiment les employeurs qui demandent la connaissance internationale et de l’expérience internationale. Je peux aussi dire que pour moi, il y a beaucoup plus de travail qu’avant. Donc en fait, on a des partenaires aussi qui nous aident à faire notre travail. J’ai un partenaire, par exemple, à Duke Visa Services pour les autorisations travail. J’ai un partenaire à l’extérieur pour tous les voyages internationaux que l’on met en place. Donc en fait il faut travailler d’équipe. Il faut beaucoup de relations, de partenariats, internes, externes, pour faire tout ça.”

Merci Bertrand!

L’entretien, les vidéos, et la transcription sont fait par Susannah Roberson et Patrick Ray

Marion Monson

Marion Monson is a woman who was born in France.  She moved to the United States when she was twenty-one years old.  At the moment, Marion lives in Durham and works in the Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies at Duke University.


Can you describe to us your current job?

My work varies a lot.  The department in which I work has a lot of different projects and artistes who create different things.  There are also art historians who do theoretical research and people who create visual studies.  The term “visual studies” is a broad term that describes a lot of different things, but which includes the study and creation of visual information and visual culture.  My position is to run the department from an administrative point of view.  My duties include paying employees, buying supplies, resolving problems that come up.  These problems vary.  We moved to a new building and thus, I help coordinate this move.  My work changes a lot one day to the next.  It also can be very different one month to the next.  Depending on the time of year, the different tasks come in a cyclical fashion and others are more urgent.


What is your first memory of Durham?

It was hot and humid.  I arrived in Durham in August and it was very hot in summer.  Thus, the weather in Durham was a little bit of a shock. However, the university and teaching in the Department of Romance Studies, it was what I had done before coming to Duke and so, it was normal.  The city of Durham was different than Ann Arbor where I had lived previously.  The atmosphere and culture in Durham were different from Ann Arbor because these two cities were in different regions.  Trying to understand the southern accent took some getting used to.  Durham has changed a lot since 2002.  In particular, the downtown area has become more active: there are a lot of galleries, restaurants, and interesting businesses.  Additionally, I have had two children here in Durham at the Duke Hospital, and Durham is a great city in which to raise my children.


What is the impact of the French language on your daily life?

Very little. My husband is American. His French is not very good. He understands pretty well, but we can’t really have a conversation every day in French, so in fact at home, we essentially speak English. With my daughters I try to speak French, but it is not always easy because they speak English amongst themselves, they speak to me in English, I speak English to their father, and so it is truly an effort to adjust my mind to French. I mainly use French when speaking to my family, who are in France, but in my work I also have the chance to use French. That is what is pleasant, because… I am not sure, it is a satisfaction, using my native language for work. Our department has a multitude of collaborations with European institutes, notably Lille III and Le Fresnoy, Studio de arts contemporains, which is an art school in the north of France and so when we communicate with these institutions, I communicate in French with the employees there.

Have you noticed any differences between the business world in France and in the United States?

It is difficult for me to say because I came to America when I was 21 and I had studied all of my life before then, and I had not really worked in business in France. So I cannot make very clear comparisons, but I know, based on what I have heard from friends, that if one does not have the exact qualifications, exact experience and exact employment history, one will not be hired. So I appreciate that in America I have had the chance to learn while working, because for my job, there is not really a degree that would prepare me for all of the things that I do in my job. I am obliged, every day, to learn something new in my job. And I appreciate that in the United States, the professional world permits learning, without the expectation that everyone knows everything on the first day. I would never be able to have this position here, or even the three jobs (I had) before, in France, without having the exact degree one must have for this job. For that, it is good that I have experienced my professional life in the United States.



Translated by Lauren Taylor and Zoë Bakker

Pascal Vidal

Pascal Vidal is managing director of SKEMA Business School’s Raleigh campus. He shares his thoughts about education styles and cultural differences with students Bao Tran-Phu and Susan Wang.

Nadira Hurley

Environmental sustainability and fashion. Typically, these two words don’t go hand-in-hand. But, at vert & vogue, an award-winning bio boutique in downtown Durham, the two are inseparable. Founded in September of 2008 by Ryan and Nadira Hurley, vert & vogue offers organic classic and contemporary clothing for women, men and children. Combine this with quality customer service and a certain joie de vivre, and you have a winner.

Inspired by native Parisian Nadira’s impeccable sense of fashion and driven by Ryan’s expertise in business and environmental advocacy, the boutique sells bio as well as vegan clothing from a number of American and local designers, including Raleigh Denim, John Patrick Organic, and Matt & Nat. Their goal is simple: establishing a collection of “best-in-show sustainable fashion,” while providing their clientele with an “outstanding shopping experience.”

Upon entering vert & vogues, the francophone influences are immediately tangible. From the small but elegant selection of clothing and accessories to specialized service for each customer, both the owners and the boutique’s atmosphere exude French vibes.