Why everyone should work in a bar in France at some point

Working in a pub in France is often a rite of passage for many expats who end up on these shores. Here's seven reasons why everyone should consider pulling pints for a living in France.

Why everyone should work in a bar in France at some point
Seven reasons why you should work in a bar in France? Photo: Shutterstock

1. Make friends

If you’ve only just arrived in France it can take a while to make new friends. Given you’ll be spending most of your time with them, your fellow bar staff will soon become your new buddies and family rolled into one and you’ll also be warmly welcomed by the general fraternity of bar workers in other pubs too.

And you might even make friends with customers too. In Paris the locals aren’t exactly known for their warm and welcoming attitude towards strangers but even Parisians have a tendency to loosen up after a couple of drinks, so working in a pub is an ideal opportunity to make connections that along the road may turn into actual friendships.

2. Brush up on your French

Job hunting in France without knowing at least the basics of the language can be rather daunting. But there are certain jobs out there that are perfect for new linguistically challenged arrivals and working in a pub is certainly one of them. For a start, speaking French isn’t necessary in order to score a job in most pubs, as most bar owners want native Anglos rather than fluent French speakers. Even once you start, you don't need to be daunted as most French customers will probably enjoy ordering in English.

Secondly, working in a bar will give you the perfect environment to practice your lingo. Knowing the words “demi” and “pinte” will be enough to start with but give it a few weeks/months and you’ll be able to interact with the locals sitting on the other side of the bar.

3. France's minimum wage

Not many people can get by on a pub job in the UK these days but thankfully in France there is a decent minimum wage (€1.445.38 per month), which means if you land a full time job behind a bar, you should be able to survive, even in Paris. Many pubs may even pay slightly more than that. 

And then there’s the tips. While the locals aren’t exactly big on tipping, there will always be the hordes of tourists from America, who love nothing better than popping into an Irish or Scottish pub on their trip to France. They will throw a few euros into the tip jar. The more sympathetic bartender might explain to Americans the true tipping culture in France, but the more clued-up ones probably won't.

Then there’s the fact, you’re working most nights, which means you’re not blowing your salary on getting drunk, plus if your pub has a kitchen, you'll get free meals. So not only does life in France suddenly become affordable but many young expats even find they can save money when working behind a bar.

4. Cheaper drinks

Drinking in France and particularly in Paris can be costly especially when you’re as thirsty as most young expats are. With pints soaring towards €10 in some pubs a young expat will soon find themselves out of pocket and probably heading home if they continue to drink they way they did back home. But working in a bar can offer a solution. If you stick to the 'I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine' philosophy, you could save a lot of money. For example give fellow workers in other bars happy hour prices and they should respond in kind. You’ll soon have a list of bars where it will be cheaper to drink, although you'll probably find you never deviate from these venues ever again. You could also just drink from your own pub’s beer pumps (It has been known), when the boss is not looking but that'll probably get you sacked.

5. Enjoy Paris when everyone's at work

Working in a place that people turn to for their entertainment does have certain drawbacks. Starting a shift when everybody else gets off work can be a little frustrating, and it can be difficult to find time to hang out with friends and family who have different working hours. However, that also means you have time to yourself during the day that you can dedicate to experiencing everything France has to offer. You can go to the Louvre when there’s no queues or you can go swimming to the local pool without feeling you’re in a tiny fish bowl with lots of fish. And you can get a seat on the Metro. 

6. Frolic with customers

Few people are lucky enough to work in a place that provides a never-ending supply of potential love interests. Whether they need to be male or female, old or young, tall or short, blond or brunette, lean or mean, you’ll certainly come across a few customers that'll make the cut. Whereas in the UK the barman or barmaid is seen as the middleman, standing between you and beer, in France, bar staff tend to be looked up to or even considered cool. So you’ll probably find yourself getting some unexpected attention from starry eyed French customers. Most bar staff in Paris will be able to regale you with stories of numerous romantic flings with customers, so if you’re struggling to find accommodation, working in bar might allow you to bed hop around Paris, whilst practicing your French pillow talk.

7. Go out during the week

Waiting tables or pouring pints all weekend long can seem very exhausting, but there is an upside to it. For a start you’re not stuck in a stuffy office, there’s normally music playing while you’re working and when things are going slow you have time to strike up conversations with all kinds of people. Plus, when you’re done at the end of the night you can unwind with a few drinks yourself (that may even be on the house). And in Paris pubs at weekends can often be crowded and sweaty but you'll be able to go out during the week, when you won't have to queue for a drink and you can easily pick up a velib' or a taxi to get home.

by Simone Flückiger

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


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.