• France's news in English
My French Career
'Paris is where it all happens, suck it and see'
The Apple store in Paris, which Nick Ord (left) was involved in managing the construction of. Apple store photo: Zoetnet/flickr

'Paris is where it all happens, suck it and see'

Ben McPartland · 10 Apr 2013, 11:00

Published: 10 Apr 2013 11:00 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Nick Ord, 43 knows a thing or two about finding work in France. He has worked in Paris on and off since around 2000. He currently plies his trade as a quantity surveyor at a British firm in the French capital, where he commutes to work each week from his home in the Charente region of western France. He lives there with his French wife and two children aged 15 and 12.

How did you end up in your current job?

Well I met a guy on the tenth green while I was playing golf in Charente, where I had been doing a few different jobs at the time. He told me his daughter worked for an international recruitment consultancy for quantity surveyors.

I started off back in the UK but then applied for a job in Paris for a US firm. They wanted an English speaker who knew the British system of working, rather than the French way, which is often just measuring stuff and then not really doing anything. I then changed jobs and now work for the British firm Gleeds.

What’s the best way for someone to get their foot in the door in Paris?

Having done both - going the traditional route of responding to adverts, as well as posting my CV online and sending it around - I would advise people not to wait for job adverts to come up. They should contact companies directly.

Put your CV out on the internet and get it to as many firms as possible. There are hundreds of international companies in Paris for all kinds of professions. People just need to find one that suits their experience and contact them.

Whether its law firms or banks, they will have a need for native English speakers who speak French. You just have to be prepared to move to the capital because, Paris is where it’s happening.

Is there a glass ceiling for foreigners working in France?

I can only speak for my own profession but getting in is clearly the hardest part, but once you are in then your qualifications and experience will be recognized.  It might not be like that in the media or legal sector however.

What about the F-factor? How important is French?

Well it didn't seem to cause me a problem. Most of my second interview for my current job was in French so I had to prove my language skills. I was pretty fluent back then so it wasn't a problem.

But you just have to throw yourself in at the deep-end.  I joined a local rugby club, which helped a lot. You just need to socialize, mix with the locals and not just stick to the ex-pat scene.

What is a quantity surveyor exactly?

We are concerned with all the financial and legal matters of big developments. Here in France we have been involved with developments at the University of Toulouse, the new Apple store in Opéra, as well as the adjacent W hotel in Paris.

What are some of the cultural differences in working with French people?

Well, one of the more general issues is that if you ask a question or make a request, the first answer always seems to be “no” here. Then you have to work from there to try and change it. They also work more in their set hierarchies or positions, whereas the Anglos are much more likely to work as a team.

Story continues below…

Does the difference in working cultures cause problems?

At first, perhaps. We waste half an hour every morning and evening kissing each other to say hello and goodbye. There’s not a lot you can do but go along with it. It has been made clear to us that it would be considered blatantly rude if it’s not done. You have to try to fit in with the culture here. It’s a case of “suck it and see”.

How is it commuting to Paris from Charente?

I come every Monday, stay in Paris all week, and go home on a Friday, which involves taking a train and then a drive because I live in the middle of nowhere. It’s fine in the summer but it can be hard in the winter on an icy morning.

What do you miss about working back in the UK?

One thing I miss is the after-work drinks, and going out on a Thursday or Friday. But it’s probably too expensive to do that here anyway.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Where exactly in France are Calais migrants being sent?
Photo: AFP

Here's where the 8,000 migrants in Calais are heading.

The annoying questions only a half French, half British person can answer
Photo: Beery/Flickr/AFP

Being half French, half British is means you get asked a lot of questions (and some of them can be a little annoying.)

Migrants bussed out of Calais Jungle to all corners of France
All photos: AFP

Hundreds of migrants are being bussed across France on Monday ahead of the demolition of the Jungle camp.

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
A Prophet. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

Looking for something to watch?

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part Two
Rust and Bone. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

The newest French films you need to see before you die (or alternatively when you get some spare time).

Election Watch
Presidential hopeful reckons a pain au chocolat is 10 cents

So France happily takes the pastry out of him.

French ministry of defence officials die in plane crash
Screengrab: eddydeg/Twitter

The French Ministry of Defence officials were killed on Monday when a light aircraft went down on the island of Malta.

Revealed: The ten most stolen cars in France
A Smart car in Paris. Photo: JR_Paris/Flickr

Thieves in France are getting a taste for luxury cars, it seems.

Analysis - France migrant crisis
Migrant crisis won't end with Calais 'Jungle' closure
All Photos: AFP

The Jungle camp may be being cleared but this won't be the end of the migrant crisis in France.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie 'to sell their French chateau'
All photos: AFP

Want to live where Brangelina got married?

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available