‘The language does not have to be a barrier’

In The Local's new My French Career series, we ask people to spill the beans on what it's really like working in France. First up: Paris banker Gavin Doughty talks about paperwork, holidays and respecting bosses.

'The language does not have to be a barrier'

For the first instalment of The Local’s My French Career series we met Gavin Doughty, 34, from Nottingham in the UK. Gavin is a one-time English teacher, part time football player for English pub The Bombardier, who is currently plying his trade with HSBC bank just outside Paris. He has been in France on and off for about ten years and knows a thing or two about working here.

So how did you end up living in France?

Well, I learnt French at University but because I was living in Nottingham I wasn’t using my language. It was frustrating and I thought it was a bit of a waste to have language skills but not use them, so I moved over here. France is close to the UK so it’s easy to pop back home and see the family. Plus France is one the countries that I have always wanted to live in.

How did you land your first job?

I did a Tefl course in London and taught at Nottingham University for two summers. I put my CV on-line and was offered a job in Nancy as an English teacher. I worked there for a year before coming to Paris where I continued teaching for a company called BTL for another year.

Is English teaching as bad as some people say?

No it’s a great job to start out with if you come to France. It gives you time to get used to living in France and its pretty flexible so you can do as much or as little as you want. You meet a lot of people and can make some good contacts and then get the spin offs after that.

So you’ve moved on since then?

Yes, I've had a variety of jobs since including recruitment and working for a fine art transport company and I am currently working for HSBC at their Premier International Direct centre in Paris, looking after international clients both resident in France and abroad. I’ve been with the bank for just under three years. I started out working on the front desk in a high street branch near Opera and have been promoted 3 times since. The fact that I'm English has enabled me to move up quite quickly.

How is it working in France compared to the UK?

Well it was fairly difficult at first. There were some cultural differences to get accustomed to. I found a lot of French staff have this idea that because they are providing a service to customers it is them who are the most important, whereas the Anglo attitude is that it is the clients that are the most important. This can cause a few issues and I have had numerous disagreements both professionally and personally due to this. It was difficult to decide whether I should adapt to their ways because I am in France or they should change because they are working for a foreign bank, but at the end of the day this is France and you have to adapt, even if begrudgingly.

Anything else on working culture you can shed some light on?

You have to respect the working hierarchy here much more than in the UK. If there is someone above you at work then you have to show them respect at work as well as outside work. There are also a lot of old boys’ networks here. Often how well you do depends on what school or university you went to or who your parents know.

Tell me something positive about working here?

Well the holidays are fantastic and the jobs are relatively stress free compared to the UK, Paris seems to be stressful but the working culture is anything but. And if you are an English speaker you will find a lot of opportunities open up for you and you can move up quite quickly because of the fact you have English as your mother tongue. Also a lot of ambitious young French people move abroad to do the same thing so it feels like there is a real talent vacuum here. I know people who have come over here, worked their way up then returned home to work.

What about the problem of learning French?

Well a lot of companies don’t actually require it so it’s not always the barrier people might think it is. But yeah the best way to learn it is to speak French to people. I really made an effort to speak to locals when I first got here. One of the best things to do is go to the English or Irish pubs. There are always a lot of French people in there who are looking to meet foreigners to practice their English. It can work both ways.

What advice do you have for anyone hoping to come to France to work?

Do it and stick at it. Don’t throw the towel in when it gets difficult. There is a lot to put with here like the bureaucracy but you just have to accept it. Sometimes you feel like you have to fill in a form to be able to catch a bus but it all pays off in the end. Plus you will get enough time off to be able to do all the paperwork.

Anything else? Yes, socialise. Get out and meet people, join sports clubs, network. I got my current job through an English friend, who recommended me, so meeting people can be very important.

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How to get a summer job in France

As the summer holidays approach in France, many employers are looking for seasonal workers - so if you're looking for a summer job, here's how to go about it.

How to get a summer job in France

There are thousands of employment offers in France – a simple internet search for jobs d’été came up with numerous jobs boards offering work in France, while the government-backed Centre d’Information et de Documentation pour la Jeunesse (CIDJ) offers advice and information on all aspects of life for young people in France, including finding seasonal work and summer placements.

Sectors including agriculture, hospitality and tourism are always recruiting in the summer, seeking fruit-pickers, holiday camp workers and serving/hotel staff.

But what are the rules for people seeking summer jobs?

READ ALSO Vendange: What you really sign up for when you agree to help with the French wine harvest


Children from the age of 16 (under certain circumstances, the age limit drops to 14) who are legally resident in France can work as long as they have written authorisation from their parents or legal guardians. A model authorisation letter is available here

Those under the age of 18 cannot undertake certain jobs for health and safety reasons.

In the following circumstances, children as young as 14 or 15 can work during school holidays.

  • The holidays must last at least 14 days;
  • The child must work no more than half the days of the holiday – so, if a vacation period is two weeks, they can work for no more than one of those weeks;
  • The child is given ‘light duties’ that offer no risk to their safety, health, or development;
  • From the age of 15 and if the child has completed their troisieme education, a minor can register for an apprenticeship. 


Salary is usually paid monthly and will have a payslip. For those aged 18 and over, pay will be at least equal to the minimum wage.

 For those aged 14 to 17, who have less than six months’ professional experience, the minimum allowed rate is 80 percent of the minimum wage. For those aged 17 to 18, the rate rises to a minimum of 90 percent of France’s minimum wage.

  • The minimum wage in France is currently €10.85 gross per hour (€1,645.58 gross per month based on a 35-hour week);
  • the employment contract is fixed-term and can take different forms (fixed-term contract, seasonal employment contract, temporary employment contract, etc);
  • Seasonal employees are subject to the same obligations as the other employees of the company and have access to the same benefits (canteens, breaks, etc.).

Under 18s have certain additional protections:

  • between the ages of 14 and 16, during school holidays, employees on any contract cannot work more than 35 hours per week nor more than 7 hours per day;
  • They cannot work at night;
  • Those aged 14 to under 16 working during their school holidays can only be assigned to work which is not likely to harm their safety, their health or development.

Right to work in France

If you’re a French citizen or hold permanent residency in France then you have the right to work, but for foreigners there are extra restrictions.

Anyone who holds the passport of a EU/EEA country or Switzerland, is free to work in France or to travel to France seeking work without needing a visa or work permit.

Most other people will need permission to work in France – even if it’s only for a short period or for casual work such as grape-picking. Depending on your country of origin you may need a visa – everything you need to know about that is here.

In addition to the visa, you may also need a work permit, which is the responsibility of the employer.  To employ anyone in France for less than 90 days, an employer must get a temporary work permit – before the prospective employee applies for a short stay visa. This permit is then sent to the embassy at which the employee is applying for a visa.

If you come from countries including the UK, USA and Canada you can spend up to 90 days in France without a visa – but you may still need a work (convention d’accueil) if you want to work while you are here.

READ ALSO Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in France

Certain countries have specific ‘seasonal worker’ visas on offer, for certain sectors which allows – for example – Canadians to come to France and work the ski season. 

Cash-in-hand jobs

Certain sectors which have a lot of casual workers – for example seasonal fruit-picking – do have cash-in-hand jobs, known in France as marché noir (black market) or simply travail au black (working on the black, or working illegally). 

This is of course illegal and working this way carries risks – as well as the possibility of losing your job if labour inspectors turn up you are also in a vulnerable position. If your employer suddenly decides not to pay you, or make unexpected deductions from your wages, there is very little you can do about it since you won’t have any kind of work contract.