A guide offering advice on how to find a job in France
There are as many reasons for moving to France as there are ex-pats living there. Some people move to France in retirement, ready to enjoy a different way of life and having a retirement fund available to enable them to do so without worrying about finding a job. (Retirement in France.) (Retirement in Perpignan.) Others are simply independently wealthy (lucky them!), whilst still more run their own businesses such as bed and breakfast establishments, or gîtes. (Owning Gîtes and Chambres D'Hotes (B&Bs) in France.) Then there is another sector, those who move to live in France and need to find a job, either full-time or part-time. If this is you, don't panic... it isn't always easy to find a job in France, but if you do your homework and get your preparation right it can be done, and there are plenty of ex-pats out there earning a living and proving the point!
If you are contemplating a move to France, or have already committed to living in France and now find yourself in the position of looking for a job, there are a few things you need to consider. Will you set up your own business, or would you prefer to let someone else deal with all the social charges and paperwork and work for an employer? What type of job will you look for? Where will you begin your search? And finally, what happens if you find yourself stuck without a job in France?
Some people will tell you that it is impossible to find a legal, gainful job in France unless you speak the language fluently, but this is not necessarily the case. There are some jobs where you can get by without the language (or with just a smattering) but these jobs tend to be menial or seasonal jobs which don't pay much, such as cleaning gîtes, or picking grapes. It is possible to find jobs working for other ex-pats too, and this is how many British people avoid the problem. Learning French is, however, the single biggest thing you can do to help yourself, as employers who can't communicate effectively with you are unlikely to employ you. (Learning to speak French - Misadventures in a Foreign Tongue.)
The first and most obvious choice of career is to continue doing the same job in France that you were doing in the UK. It makes sense, you know the job, you have the skills, you have the qualifications. But are you sure? Not all qualifications from England travel well... some become "lost in translation". The French, for example, do not accept English teaching qualifications for teaching in French state schools, even if you are a fluent French speaker. To teach here you would have to undergo complete teacher training in the same way as any unqualified person would. This applies to most of the professions in France, from teachers to architects, so if you have a professional job in the UK do make sure your qualifications "translate" to French!
Remember the anguished cry from Yozzer Hughes in the celebrated play "Boys from the Black Stuff"? Well, the cry for jobs can resound in certain parts of France too, so if it is vitally important that you find work quickly, research and choose your area carefully. (Introduction to France.) Clearly, the large towns and cities in France offer more job possibilities than the countryside and small towns, but in some cities, particularly in the south of France, there is a high rate of unemployment. Here, home grown applicants tend to be first in the queue for those sought after jobs.
The best qualifications to have, in terms of ease of finding a job in France, are the trades. Skilled craftsmen such as builders, metal workers, stone masons, plumbers and decorators can usually find work, especially in areas where renovation of old properties is popular... which is most of rural France! The vast majority of British property owners in France have bought properties to renovate, so there is plenty of work out there for those skilled in the necessary arts. (Building or extending property in France.) Ex-pats, particularly the older ones for whom language learning can prove too difficult, like to deal with native English speakers to avoid confusion, so use this to your advantage and apply for jobs with them. Ladies, take note... you don't have to grow muscles and be a builder to "muscle in" on this idea... possible jobs for the ladies include English speaking travelling hairdressers, beauticians and aroma therapists, which are all in great demand.
The advantage of looking for a job in France as opposed to looking in countries less popular with the British, is that there is a huge ex-pat market to tap into. Wherever you go in France, you will find at least some British (or English speaking) people who have settled here, and many have set up their own businesses. These people are usually keen to employ other ex-pats, often largely due to the common language, and this may well prove to be your best chance of finding a job.
Be wary, however, of any employer who wants to pay you cash in hand... no questions asked... this practice, known as "working on the black" is greatly frowned upon in France, and it is common practice for reports to be made to the authorities resulting in a visit from the gendarmes! The quality of life in France is generally excellent, but you don't get something for nothing and much of this is down to the high social charges that workers pay to maintain systems such as health care and education. (Health Care in France: a French Hospital Experience.) (French Education System - Schools in France.) Therefore, people who pay these charges do not take kindly to seeing ex-pats arrive, set up illegally, undercut prices and take jobs away... whilst still benefiting from the systems they are not paying into! If you are going to run your own business, you need to declare yourself at the appropriate office. These vary according to what you plan to do, and you can obtain advice from your local Mairie or Hotel de Ville.
If you are hoping to find a job working for and with other British people, then you should look at basing yourself in the areas where there are already well established expatriate communities. Broadly speaking, you will find large amounts of British in the Dordogne department (Dordogne Property Guide), specifically near Eymet; in Brittany (Brittany Property Guide) (Property for sale in Brittany) (Brittany Property - an insider's guide), the most popular departments being the Côtes-d'Armor (Côtes-d'Armor Property Guide) and Morbihan (Morbihan Property Guide), although most of Brittany has British enclaves these days; and in Provence (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Property Guide). And this means all of Provence! British people have lived in the region for many years now and have established themselves in all areas from the coast to the mountains… and everywhere in between. Of course, many other parts of France are becoming "Anglicised", and each region will have towns which are known to have more than a sprinkling of our fellow countrymen. In the Midi-Pyrénées (Midi-Pyrénées Property Guide) and Languedoc-Roussillon (Languedoc-Roussillon Property Guide) (Languedoc-Roussillon Property - an insider's guide) for example, the towns of Mirepoix (Mirepoix Property Guide) and Quillan (Quillan Property Guide) are very popular with Brits... you only have to walk down the main streets on market day and listen to all the English voices to discover just how popular these places are!
This can prove to be an ideal solution for people who have a suitable business or amenable employer. The Internet is, of course, a virtual office for some people whose entire business life is conducted via the laptop, and of course, for these people it makes no difference where they are based in France. Other jobs which work well from home include writing and arts and crafts, and certainly some parts of France seem full of artists and writers, taking their inspiration from the beautiful landscapes and fascinating characters around them.
An extension of this can be to run residential courses in these skills as your job, and these can prove very popular and successful in France. Artists and craftspeople, such as potters and jewellery makers, often rent a spot in the local markets to sell their wares, and this is usually quite inexpensive and a good way of getting to know the local people and improve your French.
There are people who have jobs working for an English company and who commute periodically for meetings. Yet they manage their day to day work from home in France, thanks to the modern miracles of the computer and the Internet. Quite a lot of businesses can be largely run from France, necessitating only a few trips back and forth, such as managing rental properties in the UK. Some ex-pats work all week in the UK then fly over to France for the weekends, while others make their travelling between the two countries pay their wages by transporting goods from one to the other. Of course, daily commuting is probably impossible unless you live in the far north of France or have a private jet... and if you have that much money you probably won't need to find a job anyway! (French Connections.) (French Connections - Travel to North-West France.) ( French Connections -Travel to Paris and North-East France.)
Teaching EFL (English as a foreign language) and translating are, of course, two areas in which speaking English can be a positive advantage when looking for a job in France. Of course, in the case of the latter you will need to be skilled in French also, but for the former you can get by with very little French as the lessons are taught in the target language as modern good teaching practice dictates. However, as with all jobs, preparation is the key. If you think that this is a career for you, then take an internationally recognised training course... the best one is the CELTA (Cambridge English Language Teaching to Adults) so you not only have the necessary skills but also the all important certificate. The French love to see bits of paper, and the more qualifications you can provide that they recognise, the better chance you have of getting that teaching or translating job!
The burden of this article has been employment and job prospects, but we will consider for a moment the worst case scenario, and look at the position you might find yourself in should you not be able to get a job in France. There is a very complicated set of criteria which governs entitlement in terms of unemployment benefit, and the scenario varies with each set of individual circumstances.
The first move, whatever your circumstances, is to contact ASSÉDIC, the Association pour l'Emploi dans l'Industrie le Commerce... or, in other words, the Unemployment Office. You will need to register here before you can go any further, and they will assess the validity of your claim and calculate your benefit. Whether or not you are entitled to benefits from France depends on several factors, the most basic (for European Nationals) being that you are of employable age and health, are legally resident in France and have worked in France for at least one day, have paid a determined number of social security contributions in your previous country, and are in a position to attend interviews and start a job. If you haven't ever worked in France, you will probably need to apply to your previous European country for benefit or certificates stating your entitlement.
After you have registered with ASSÉDIC, you will need to register with ANPE (Agence Nationale Pour Emploi), or the Job Centre, who will be your resource for finding suitable work. Once more, if you do your homework and arrive in France with all the right "E" certificates and other paperwork in hand from the British authorities, the process will be much easier... and faster. For further information try the websites, ASSÉDIC (www.assedic.fr) and ANPE (www.anpe.fr) A useful link to the ANPE website in English is ANPE.FR - Working in France. It may also be worth looking at Manpower France, an agency that has details of many temporary jobs, which at least may help you get a foot on the ladder and qualify for benefits whilst trying to find permanent work. Their website is www.manpower.fr.
The Boy Scouts motto is a good one to adopt if you are planning to move to and find a job in France. The above information is in no way exhaustive. The possibilities are endless and job opportunities vary greatly from place to place and from individual to individual. It may, however, give you some ideas about what to expect and may help you avoid some of the pitfalls which can trouble the unwary! Bon chance!
Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.
Hello, I hope you are able to help or offer some advice as to where I could find some useful information. I am a primary school teacher in England. I would like to move to France for a year or two and I was wondering if you knew;
a) Where I could find a list of international schools, in particular the ones that teach the British National Curriculum or are mainly English-speaking?
b) If there are actually many job opportunities for English teachers in France?
I would very much like to end up in a French school and be fluent in French but don't have the confidence at the moment and an international school in France seems to be a way of getting to France and easing myself into the language! I would be very grateful for any advice!
Thanks for contacting us. In answer to your first question, you can find a list of international schools in France at http://france.english-schools.org/. If you click on each school, you will find what curriculums they teach.
In answer to your second question, I have been in contact with my colleague Joanna in France who offers the following advice:
"Being a UK qualified teacher doesn't qualify you to teach in state schools in France, though international schools are probably ok, as are private schools, though in practice it is hard to get the jobs over and above the French teachers. You may find you need the CELTA for teaching English as a foreign language. You can get this in a month on an intensive course in the UK. It is internationally recognised and the best of the TEFL qualifications by far. To do this, try INTERNATIONAL HOUSE schools, there are several in different areas of the UK.
Also you might get work in business schools and other ecole superieurs type places, preparatory schools which are for post bac students. All are post-16 stuff though.
You can also maybe find work in primary schools teaching English, but as an assistant, which means that you don't get much pay. This isn't great but this can be a way in. Language schools are also ok, if you can find the work which isn't easy. I have been teaching for GRETA., the adult education body, which has had me teaching adult courses in lycees and for companies. I also work privately, teaching clients I have found through advertising, but mainly through word of mouth. It grows a lot once you get going though it can be hard to make a start.
I would say that it is possible to find work, but easier or harder depending on where you are. Cities have more possibilities than the country, and probably the south harder than the north.
To teach as a permanent teacher in a state school you would have to qualify all over again in the French system, so need to be fluent in French and able to finance a 3- or 4-year qualification. Then they can send you anywhere in the country... even if you stay in your department you may have a long way to get to the school from your home. In my neck of the woods, teachers often travel from Narbonne to Castelnaudary, around two hours each way.
I hope this helps. Really in my experience I would say be flexible, get the CELTA, and be tenacious! It doesn't happen overnight, but there is work and it does build up. If you can move to adult teaching there is probably more chance of work, though I do get a lot of extra BAC prep lessons (this is the point at which parents start looking for extra private teachers for their kids)."
I do hope this information will be of use. And good luck should you decide to go for it!
I was wondering if I could do some work as a dentist in France. I am an Australian qualified dentist and worked in England back in 1978/1979 and can work in the UK. I have a dream of buying a French house, but won't be semi-retiring for five years here in Brisbane.
I have asked my colleague in France about this and she says that you will most probably have to complete French dentistry qualifications (in French), in order to practice in France, as you do if you want to practice as a doctor or teacher.
I am 54 and my husband is 63. We both have the TEFL certificate and want to live in France and use our qualification. Are we too old?
Thanks for contacting us. I have been in touch with my colleague Joanna who
"OK, you probably won't get work in schools, but that is hard to get in France anyway. But you could try contacting private language schools and GRETA branches. There is one in most decent sized towns. GRETA is an adult education organisation who supply academic and professional training for post BAC aged students. I worked in schools for a year as a language assistant, but for five years for GRETA which would have continued had I not had to leave France. I'm 54 too!
However, that sort of official work takes time and contacts usually. Private teaching can be easier to find. Again, it does take a while to build contacts but advertise. Put cards on supermarkets, a sticker on your car etc. Maybe go to see the director of the local lycee and see if you can speak to the English team who may pass on your details to students who are struggling with English and may need private tuition. All of those things helped me get work. You could also approach local businesses, but you will have to register officially with the powers that be in the prefecture to be able to do this. You need Siret numbers and so on for businesses.
For private lessons you may be able to just take cash, or you can declare a company, or you can be paid by cheque d'emploi, which takes tax and cotisations automatically as you pay in the cheque. I would say cash or cheque d'emploi is best until you build up a good business, as cotisations are quite high and running a business in France takes a lot of paperwork.
Another way to begin is to offer free conversation classes in your community, say an hour or two a week. The Mairie should supply a room for this, if it is free for learners. It sounds odd, but it is a great way to build contacts and a reputation as well as getting a foot into the community. You can then add that you have proper one to one lessons available for those wanting to progress further, and then charge.
I hope this helps. I did this for seven years, also with a CELTA. But obviously I only really know my area in the Aude. Universities also often look for extra teachers, so they could be worth a try."
Joanna also says that if you need further information, she would be happy to help.
Hi, can you help us? We are starting on the road to look at moving our family (three children of nine, six and three) to France. My husband is a GP, can he practice in France, or can he set up privately and look after the English community?
Thanks for contacting us. I have just checked with a colleague, whose wife is British and practicing as a GP in France, who says that UK qualifications are fine, no re-training is required. Your husband would have to be self-employed (no jobs available usually for ex-pats) and register and set up his own practice. Obviously a fluency in French would be an advantage, but if he is serving the UK communities, which is perfectly possible, this is not so much of a problem.
I hope this information is of use, and good luck with your move!
I am a qualified hairdresser (level 2). Do I have to be a level 3 to be recognised as being qualified in France? I am also an accredited BACP counsellor/psychotherapist and have worked extensively with sencondary aged pupils in schools. Do you think there might be opportunities to do similar if not the same in an English speaking school? (I don't think the French recognise therapists as being qualified if they don't already have degrees in psychology etc before qualifying as a therapist. Unfortunately, I fit into this catagory.)
Thanks for contacting us. I have been trying to find out some answers for you but haven't got anywhere I'm afraid. Though regarding job opportunities in English-speaking schools, I would suggest you contact some to find out. International Schools in France can be found from the site http://france.english-schools.org/, while a list of private schools can be found at www.fabert.com.
Otherwise I would suggest searching the internet about both jobs, as you probably have been doing, and asking in forums such as Total France.
Should anyone reading this be able to offer further advice, please do get in touch.
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