What is it Like to Work in France Without Speaking French

France is one of the world’s most cultured countries and is a popular destination. Looking for an international career move? France might be the place for you. But before that, allow us to tell you our first-hand experiences as a bunch of Non-EU professionals and who speak French un peu (a little bit).

There’s no way of sugar-coating this, it is tough to be a Non-French speaker, especially, while one is looking for jobs in this very competitive market. But the good news is that many multinational companies are moving their offices to France and more and more companies are opening up to English speakers! However, It can take a year or more to land a job in your desired industry. Yes, if there is one thing that France will teach you, it is— patience! Still, there are many ex-pats here who have made it happen. So, there’s definitely both scope and hope!


Work-Life Balance Is Real


In terms of the workweek, the legal working hours are 35 hours a week and the French people are pretty good at maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The French celebrate 10 public holidays a year in addition to the yearly shutdown around July-August, for your information! So, if you were wondering why you didn’t hear back from a potential employer during August, now you know that many people take the whole month off. And the good news is — it's a paid vacation!!

The One Word That’s Your Best Friend


Whether it’s at your work cafeteria or a local grocer, a little ‘Bonjour’, goes a long way. It’s also always a good idea to ask “Parlez-vous Anglais?” (do you speak English?) before proceeding with your request in English. Bear in mind to speak slowly and clearly and above all to be polite and you are sure to get help 9 out of 10 times!!


Network Network Network


If you are making the move, networking is hands down one of the most important things to keep in mind no matter what language you are speaking. Internal networks within your company are real here and you should get to know your colleagues on a more personal level if possible and that ensures a smooth start to your work life here. While we are on the point of networking, if you are a student, by every means be very present and engaging with your school/university alumni network and participate in the events that they host for you. These are golden tickets to your dream jobs and often missed opportunities for those who take networking lightly.


Translate Your Resume Into French


It’s important to have at least your job titles from back home translated into French with the help of a professional so that recruiters have a better idea of your past experiences and can match you with what fits best with your profile. If you are looking for Professional Resume Translators in France, click on the link and get that off your to-do list in a jiffy! Having said that, be very clear about your level of French on your resume so you are not setting yourself up for any disappointments later during the interview process or future job opportunities.


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Learn to Adapt to The Workplace Culture


If you’re considering making a career move to France, there are some important cultural differences to be aware of. While French people love ‘la bise’ to greet each other, cheek kissing isn’t used as a greeting at work unless you are also close friends with your colleague. So, be sure to shake hands just like you mostly would in your home country, barring a few countries of course. Also, COVID could very well be the end of this greeting style anyway.


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Image Source: https://www.cntraveler.com/story/a-guide-to-kissing-etiquette-around-the-world

Lunch is the most important meal and you mustn’t miss an opportunity to meet and get to know people outside of your desk. If you are lucky, your colleagues could also help you practice your French language skills while ordering a meal at a restaurant. That being said, it's important to keep your personal life private. People are less likely to share details about their private lives or asking you to share the same so be mindful of not asking any personal questions right off the bat.

Naturally, your French Language skills will be well regarded, but in reality, employees in big multinationals are mostly English speaking. So the real need is more for you to manage administration around things like healthcare, visa regulations, and tax returns. That said, we have friends who don’t speak a word of French and they get by just fine. If on the other hand, you speak business-level French, depending on your area of expertise, you might just find yourself in high demand and in a great position to negotiate your way to a fabulous life in France. All the best! Don’t forget to clap, if you find this article useful and most definitely check out our full-scale services that will help with your smooth launch in France!


Smriti Narendran for akiTalent Paris, France

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