Back in May,
long before Paris started burning again, Therese Rein told the Australian Institute of
Company Directors annual conference a story to illustrate some of the cultural
problems she faced when setting up her business in France.

Rein is
managing director of the Ingeus group (and also happens to be married to Kevin Rudd) – a job placement agency she
started in Brisbane in 1989 that now employs 1,000 people in 60 offices
around Australia, in the UK and in France.

Exporting the Australian “workforce participation
provider” model to France inevitably faced cultural differences. An example was a series of posters for the Ingeus
France employment services pilot in Lille and Rouen.

The posters featured photographs of Ingeus staff and
clients, but the bureaucrats funding the pilot objected to one poster showing a
black man.

It could not be used, the officials ruled. Why not?
He’s one of our clients, said Rein.
Because, French bureaucracy replied, he does not look French.

And some French folk complain that certain migrants
haven’t assimilated…

Disclosure: Michael Pascoe MCed the AICD conference.