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JOBS

The jobs in France where you don’t really need to speak French

If you are looking to find work in France but don't yet speak the language, never fear - there are plenty of jobs you can do while you're learning.

The jobs in France where you don't really need to speak French
Learn French, but be aware that you don't always need it to get a job in France. Photo: AFP

It’s clearly easier to navigate everyday life and to find work in France if you speak French. But if you want to move while you’re still learning there are plenty of jobs where fluent French is not a requirement – and some of them will help you polish your language skills as you earn.

Nanny/au pair

This has long been one of the most popular routes for young people to come to France and learn French, while earning enough money to keep body and soul together.

English-speaking nannies are popular with many families, as you can give the kids a basic grounding in English which will stand them in good stead later in life, while they teach you some French.

The au pair route is the more formalised version of this – you stay with a host family who pay you a nominal amount but also take care of bills, food etc and you look after the kids as well as taking formal French lessons. So common is this that there is a dedicated au pair visa, if you’re coming from a non-EU country.

If you don’t fit the criteria for an au pair, or prefer not to live in, you can find work as a nanny or childminder instead.

READ ALSO 7 things to know before becoming an au pair in France

Freelance Writing/Editing

Looking for a job where you don’t even have to leave your bedroom? Working as a freelance writer/translator/editor could just be for you, then, and there are a wealth of companies eager to make their content understandable for the rest of the world.
 
Some are just after native speakers – you don’t even need experience writing before. While you might need to be able to read French for some positions, some jobs will just have you correcting English texts, already written by French people. 

Remote working

The rise in remote working means that for some jobs, it is possible to move to France and keep your old job back home, simply working remotely online from France.

Likewise, you could move to France and work remotely and in English for a company in another country, an option that is especially popular for journalists, copy-writers, digital or social media sector workers or teachers offering online tuition.

While this is undoubtedly a practical option, you do need to check out the implications for your residency and tax status of living in one country and working in another.

READ ALSO Working remotely from France: What are the rules for foreigners?

Bartender

Often considered the golden ticket of a non-French speaking job, this is a great opportunity to practice your colloquial French when you work up the courage to chat with customers.

In the big cities, there are often English or Irish bars that have a predominantly English-speaking clientele, and French young people often like to frequent pubs like this because it gives them a chance to speak in English.

If you’re in a smaller town you might find it a bit harder to find these and will need to speak at least some French, but the advantage of bar work is that you can start off just knowing the basics like the name of drinks, French numbers (for prices) and whether or not your business accepts contactless card payments (sans contact).

As your confidence grows you can branch out a bit and you’ll really learn to speak French as the locals speak it.

English teacher

Statistically, if you meet a non-French speaking expat in France who isn’t a bartender or nanny, then they’re highly likely to be an English teacher.

This can range from teaching at one of the universities or language schools to giving private lessons – either in-person or online.

The advantage of this is that classes are conducted entirely in English to help the students learn, so you can concentrate on their grammar mistakes and not worry about your own.

The disadvantage is that there are a lot of English-speakers in France – especially in Paris – chasing these positions, and language schools know this, so the wages are often very low.

READ ALSO How to move to France on an English-teaching programme

Tour guide

Are you a good speaker with a good memory and a penchant for facts? Then you sound like the ideal tour guide.

France is the most visited tourist destination on earth – and those non-French-speaking tourists often need to a good guide. 

While many English-speakers work as certified guides with travel companies that give you a ‘script’ to follow, there’s also the option of relying on your impressive knowledge to land yourself a job.

Speaking an extra language besides English can be a big advantage too.

But be warned, taking 20 people around the Notre Dame Cathedral is no easy task.

READ ALSO 7 ridiculous stories from French history that your guides love to tell

Ski instructor

The biggest skill set here isn’t knowing how to navigate a language – it’s how to navigate the slopes.

If you want to work as a ski instructor in France you will need to have the relevant qualifications in place, and your qualifications need to be recognised in France in order for you to get work teaching. If you qualified in an EU country this is not a problem but if your certificates were earned in a non-EU country such as the UK or USA, it’s likely that they won’t be recognised in France.

If you don’t have the relevant qualifications to be a ski instructor, there are plenty of other seasonal jobs in ski resorts that have traditionally been popular with young people seeking short-term work and some travel/adventure.

However, be warned the competition for jobs is often fierce and if you’re coming from a non-EU country you will need a visa and work permit in place, and most companies offering short-term work in the ski industry do not sponsor visas. Some countries, including Canada, have bilateral agreements with France to offer ‘seasonal workers visas’ but these are not available to everyone. 

If you do get a job the pay is likely to be low and the hours long – but there’s usually a lively social scene and plenty of skiing on offer, so while you won’t make your fortune you will probably have fun.

READ ALSO What are the rules on short-term and seasonal work in France?

Practicalities

If you have the passport of an EU country then you have the right to move to France to live and to work, and do not need to apply for a residency card.

If you’re from a non-EU country such as the UK, USA or Australia, then you will need a visa if you intend to stay in France for longer than 90 days. The type of visa you will need varies depending on what you want to do once you get here. Although much of the administrative process is in the French, there is no formal language requirement in order to get a French visa.

Check out our Moving to France section for more.

If you’re intending to work freelance or remotely, you have the option to set up as a micro-entrepreneur (formerly known as autoentrepreneur) which offers a simplified tax and registration process for small businesses and freelancers.

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For members

FRENCH BUREAUCRACY

Everything you need to know about your vital French ‘dossier’

It's a crucial part of life and an incomplete one can bring about a whole world of pain - here's what you need to know about your French dossier.

Everything you need to know about your vital French 'dossier'

The French word un dossier simply means a file – either in the physical sense of a plastic or cardboard item that holds documents together or the sense of a collection of documents. You might also hear civil servants use dossier to refer to the responsibilities they hold, as in English we might say their ‘brief’. 

But by far the most important use of dossier, particularly to foreigners in France, is its use to indicate the collection of documents that you must put together in order to complete vital administrative tasks, from registering in the health system to finding somewhere to live.

When you begin a new administrative process, you will need to put together a collection of documents in order to make your application. Exactly what you need varies depending on the process, but almost all dossiers will include;

  • Proof of ID – passport, birth certificate or residency card. If a birth certificate is required check carefully exactly what type of certificate is being asked for (and don’t freak out if they’re asking for a birth certificate no more than three months old, it doesn’t mean you have to be born again).

Birth certificate: Why you need it in France and how to request one

  • Proof of address – utility bills are usually the best, if you’re on paperless billing you can log into your online account with your power supplier and download an Attetstation de contrat which has your name and address on it and also acts as proof of address
  • Proof of financial means – depending on the process you might have to show proof of your income/financial means. This can include things like your last three months payslips or your most recent tax return. If you’re house-hunting you might be asked for your last three quittances de loyer – these are rent receipts and prove that you have been paying your rent on time. Landlords are legally obliged to provide these if you ask, but if you can’t find them or it’s a problem you can also ask your landlord to provide an attestatation de bon paiment – a certificate stating that you pay what you owe on time.

Paper v online

The traditional dossier is a bulging file full of papers, but increasingly administrative processes are moving online, so you may be able to simply upload the required documents instead of printing them all out. 

If you have to send physical copies of documents by mail, make sure you send them by lettre recommandée (registered mail), not only does it keep your precious documents safe, but some offices will only accept documents that arrive this way. 

If you’re able to send your dossier online, pay careful attention to the format specified for documents – usually documents like rental contracts or work contracts will be in Pdf format while for documents like a passport or residency card a jpeg (such as a photo taken on your phone) will suffice. If you’re sending photos of ID cards, residency cards or similar make sure you upload photos of both sides of the card.

If you need scanned documents there is no need to buy an expensive scanner – there are now numerous free phone apps that will do the job and allow you to photograph the documents with your phone’s camera and convert them to Pdf files.

Some French government sites are a little clunky and won’t accept large files – if you get an error message telling you that the file you are uploading is too big, you can resize it using a free online photo resizing tool. 

Payment

If the process requires payment (eg changing address on certain types of residency card or applying for citizenship) you may be asked for a timbre fiscale – find out how they work here

House-hunting

If you are looking for a property to rent you will need to compile a dossier and if you’re in one of the big cities – especially Paris – landlords or agencies usually won’t even grant you a viewing without seeing your dossier first, so it’s always best to compile this before you start scanning property adverts.

The government has put together a tool called Dossier Facile which allows you to upload all your house-hunting documents to a single site, have them checked and verified and then gives you a link to give to landlords and agencies, which makes the process a little simpler.

Find a full explanation of how it works here.

Attestations

For foreigners, especially new arrivals, it’s often a problem getting together all the documents required. It’s worth knowing that if you don’t have everything you need, you can sometimes substitute documents for an attestation sur l’honneur, which is a sworn statement. 

How to write a French attestation sur l’honneur

This is a legally valid document, with penalties for submitting a false one, and needs to be in French and written in a certain format – the French government website provides a template for the attestation.

Vocab

Déposer un dossier – submit your file

Pièce d’identitie – proof of ID eg passport, residency card

Acte de naissance – birth certificate. 

Copie intégral – a copy of the document such as a photocopy or scan

Extrait – a new version of the document, reissued by the issuing authority

Sans/ avec filiation – for birth certificates it might be specified that you need one avec filiation, which means it includes your parents’ details. Some countries issue as standard short-form birth certificates that don’t include this, so you will need to request a longer version of the certificate

Justificatif de domicile – proof of address eg recent utility bills. If you don’t have any bills in your name you can ask the person who either owns the property or pays the rent to write an attestation de domicile stating that you live there

Justificatif de situation professionnelle – proof of your work status eg a work contract – either a CDI (permenant contract) or CDD (short-term contract)

Justificatif de ressources – proof of financial means, such as your last three months payslips (employers are legally obliged to provide these), other proof of income or proof of pension payments or evidence of savings.

Avis d’imposition – tax return. Some processes ask for this separately, for others it can be used as proof of resources – this is not a copy of the declaration that you make, but the receipt you get back from the tax office laying out your income and any payments that are required. If you declare your taxes online in France, you can download a copy of this document from the tax website. 

Quittance de loyer – rent receipts

Attestation de bon paiment – a document from your landlord stating that you pay your rent on time

Un garant – for some processes, particularly house-hunting, you might need a financial guarantor. This can be tricky for foreigners since it has to be someone you know reasonably well, but that person must also be living (and sometimes working) in France, and they will also need to provide all the above documents. If you’re struggling to find an acceptable guarantor, there are online services that will provide a guarantor (for a fee).

En cours de traitement – this means that your dossier has been received and is in the process of being evaluated. Depending on the process this stage can take anywhere between hours, months or even years (in the case of citizenship applications).

RDV – the shortened version of rendez-vous, this is an appointment. Certain processes require you to first submit your dossier and then attend an in-person appointment.

Votre dossier est incomplet – bad news, you are missing one or more crucial documents and your application will not proceed any further until you have remedied this.

Votre dossier est validé – your dossier has been approved. Time to pop the Champagne!

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