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I started my new job as a DevOps engineer last week. During the job interview I was told that I would be able to choose my own laptop/setup and they will take care of organizing it for me.

Last Friday a colleague of mine, who is in charge of ordering new tech stuff, finally approached me and asked what kind of laptop I want (Currently I am working with a temporary device). I told him what kind of laptop I had in mind and also that I am working with a US keyboard layout (This is not very common in my country since I am French).

In the evening I received a mail from my colleague asking me if it would be okay to buy the laptop with a French keyboard layout. He did not tell me why.

So now I am in a dilemma: Of course I don't want to sound ungrateful but I have been working with a US keyboard for a couple of years now and adapted to it. Switching back to a french keyboard layout is not an option for me. Typing "american" on a french keyboard could work because on 99% of the time I am looking on the screen while typing, but sometimes I need that super special character and that would suck if I can't see where it is.

What should I tell my colleague? Should I just go with it? Is it rude to ask why it has to be a french keyboard?

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    If they do insist on the French layout, is it possible to request and use an external US keyboard? Hopefully it's not a big deal though, seems possible your colleague forgot you use a different layout. – user812786 Jun 6 '17 at 21:16
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    Just another tip; I bought Stickers and just glued them over my german layout keyboard, according to the US layout for my coding. This way, they can order whatever they want, you just switch to the US layout in the OS and using the stickers, you see the correct keys. – F.P Jun 7 '17 at 7:11
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    Depending of the company, it is possible that they have some contract with suppliers and those supplier seems to not provide US keyboards. So they may be able to propose some choice, but are limited. – Walfrat Jun 7 '17 at 7:19
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    Just remember you can always change the BIOS on the machine for the keyboard to suit your needs; as long as the keys are in the same place, it doesn't matter what's written on them. Hell, my keyboard doesn't even have visible letters on it because it's so worn out. – DCON Jun 7 '17 at 11:46
  • If they can't get you a US layout for whatever reason, you can always print and glue your own labels on the keys. – BlindSp0t Jun 7 '17 at 11:56
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He's asking if it's okay - whether it's a matter of minor inconvenience or something relatively important. If it was not an option, the email would probably be informing you that you'd be getting one with a French keyboard layout, not asking if you'd be okay with it.

It is entirely possible that his email is "telling" you, but he's too polite to be that direct.

Respond with what you told us - that it is kind of a big deal for how you've been acclimated to working, and that it would make a difference in your work productivity.

Request, "if at all possible" that they get one with the setup you requested. Maybe throw in a "if it's not possible, and your note was more telling me vs asking me, I understand. However, if we do have a genuine option, US keyboard layout, please."

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    Good answer, though I would just leave it with "if at all possible" without adding "if it's not possible, and your note was more telling me vs asking me..."; since "if at all possible" already leaves the option for denying if not possible. – JMac Jun 7 '17 at 10:46
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    Especially communicating the "it would make a difference in your work productivity"-part is important here. Make sure they understand it's in their best interest to provide you with a US keyboard layout. – Martin Tournoij Jun 7 '17 at 11:29
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    and on top of that, you may want to ask if it's okay to put keyboard stickers in case you cannot get us keyboard laptop. – Vylix Jun 7 '17 at 19:44
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    @Vylix - Sounds like the kind of job I'd decide I can do myself (take blank label/stickers, write on them, cut and stick) that would look so shoddy and appalling that immediately the employer would decide to pay for the original requested setup. – PoloHoleSet Jun 7 '17 at 19:47
  • although you can do that, you might be not be authorized to do that. The laptop belongs to company, and whatever you do to it should be authorized first. They may frown on stickers, any sticker, because they want to keep it clean, and looks professional – Vylix Jun 7 '17 at 19:53
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They want to purchase the French layout because the laptop may last longer than you do with the company (smile). In such case, they'd have to return it to the office pool, and who'd want to use it, if everyone there is used to the French-layout keyboards????

The IT director probably doesn't want to get stuck with a useless piece of equipment -- nor would I. But see, you (or the company) can always purchase an external US USB keyboard and use that. A decent one could be had for 20-30 USD. This would be a good compromise.

Insisting, on the other hand, might not put you in a favorable light and might be considered as rude.

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    -1 Wild guess about the other side's motivation (don't guess, ask). Highly situational workaround (external keyboard on a laptop that is stationary is fine, but not if the laptop is actually used as such). And finally not actually answering the question. – Peter Jun 6 '17 at 22:24
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    @Peter Seeing that I'm in the top 1% on this site, and have worked in IT since 1995, I'm gonna stick with my hunch. It's not really something that needs to be spelled out by the management. An equipment accommodation for a disability would be deemed much more reasonable than just one based out of preference. – Xavier J Jun 6 '17 at 22:32
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    "Don't guess, ask" is not at all useful in this case. "Are you offering me a laptop with French keyboard layout so that you can use it after I leave the company?" won't get you a honest answer anywhere. There is no way any company will tell you how unimportant you are, so don't ask. Agree with this answer, nobody really cares about your personal preferences when it means spending $$$. I guess what they meant in the interview was that he could choose the specs of the laptop or maybe the brand or whatever, provided it fits within the company's long term use plans. – Masked Man Jun 7 '17 at 3:22
  • @MaskedMan You suggest asking if your guess is correct, which is the worst of both worlds. Many companies don't really care about spending an extra $50 (or even an extra $10'000) to onboard a new $100'000-200'000 a year employee. Some do, but assuming that's always the case is jumping to conclusions. – Peter Jun 7 '17 at 8:00
  • @Peter I don't suggest asking anything at all, I wonder why you got that impression. – Masked Man Jun 7 '17 at 8:11
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What should I tell my colleague?

Dear Collleague: Thanks for checking with me on the laptop. I would really prefer US keyboard because I am used to it and switching back to french would be difficult. Would it be too much of hassle having a laptop with US keyboard?

Should I just go with it?

Try not to but do not put your foot down on it. In the worst case you can buy an external keyboard as someone suggested in the comments.

Is it rude to ask why it has to be a french keyboard?

It is not rude but you should not be concerned with their reasons unless they tell it yourself. Your concern mainly should be the keyboard itself.

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  • "Would it be too much of hassle having a laptop with US keyboard" sounds rather confrontational to me. It's the not the wording I would choose. "Would it be possible" is a lot better. – Martin Tournoij Jun 7 '17 at 11:30
  • Now that you mentioned it, I see what you are saying @Carpetsmoker. I was just trying to frame it in a way to hint that you don't want to hassle them too much. However better to avoid something which can be left for interpretation. – PagMax Jun 7 '17 at 12:19
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Since noone touched on this:

Keep in mind the issue they face is most likely them only being able to get the FR keyboard version from the french market. Doubt it would cost them anything extra to get you the US one over the FR, if they were both offered, I mean they did offer to get the exact model you asked for, doubt they would make a fuss over keyboard layouts to begin with.

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  • they're french, they most likely never envisioned anyone wanting anything different from french localised equipment and software... – jwenting Jun 7 '17 at 10:49
  • @jwenting Its the same for all big non-English countries more or less, but yeah :D – Leon Jun 7 '17 at 11:16
  • hmm, in the Netherlands people'd look weird if you wanted a Dutch keyboard rather than a US one. In fact I don't think I've ever seen one (and they do exist). Many companies will also provide English software as standard rather than Dutch (even though the likes of Dell and Apple ship Dutch operating systems as standard, and Adobe flat out refuses to sell non-localised versions through their web store). – jwenting Jun 7 '17 at 12:20
  • Good to know, same here as well, its boils down to a cultural thing after all. – Leon Jun 7 '17 at 13:10
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    Even if they can easily get a keyboard for any locale, it's likely that their preferred supplier only has French keyboards. – mhwombat Jun 7 '17 at 14:47
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"Hi, [Colleague],

Thanks for your question about giving me a French keyboard.

Unfortunately, I'm a touch-typer and have got used to the US keyboard layout, so switching to a French keyboard would cause a big drop in my productivity.

Is there some reason I can't have a US keyboard?

If a US keyboard is really out of the question, are there any other options? Perhaps an external US keyboard I can use when I'm at my desk?

Thanks for your help."

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I don't know what the policies at this company is, I'm assuming that you probably aren't too sure either yet because you have just started, but what I do when I get a work laptop is just buy my own components. No one that I've ever worked for has had an issue with it. I've never really had the luxury of being able to specify what machine I want to work on, I just get what they have or what they've decided to order. I usually end up popping in some more RAM, maybe an SSD if there isn't one already. I can't stand working with something that just doesn't cut it.

What you might be able to do is just order yourself a US keyboard layout for that laptop and switch it out. For some laptops this isn't that hard of a thing to do, but it depends on the laptop. Then, if and when you leave, you can swap the French keyboard back in there and give it back to them. Most laptop keyboards are pretty cheap.

Just thought this might be an option, asking them if you can get your own keyboard and swap it out while you're using that laptop.

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It is very comprehensible to stick with a keyboard you are familiar with, especially if your are used to type without looking on the keys for typing text and if you are used to the arrangement of some hotkeys (no, not simply the F1...F12) like Ctrl / Meta, etc and combinations for efficient (i.e. mouse-less) coding and editor use.

Show him / her that placing stickers on the keys only sometimes is a solution (German vs. Swiss French / Swiss German). In other instances, especially on notebooks, keys are not simply to be labeled differently, but that there are different arrangements of the rows. Like in your case, for azerty-France

enter image description here

(source)

and qwerty-US

enter image description here

(source)

An other mis-match example of keyboards are Polish (for typists) and Polish (for programmers, more US like), too.

This already leaves out the typical exchange of Fn and left Ctrl key on ThinkPad laptops.

P.S. After passing four or five times the irritation (and slow down) by changing the keyboard in Western Europe and Northern Americas I eventually opted for US international as good balance of the two latin-characters based worlds. The delivery outside the US indeed took some days, but it was well worth to spend the effort, facing the local IT.

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