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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

LIVING IN FRANCE

MAP: The 20 cheapest French towns and cities to live in

The cost of living is a hot topic in France and across Europe right now - so where are the cheapest places to live?

MAP: The 20 cheapest French towns and cities to live in

At a time when purchasing power has never been so central to French people’s concerns, French daily Le Parisien has compiled a list of towns and cities where your money will go the furthest.

In order to produce this ranking, Le Parisien compiled the average salary in each location and then looked at the price of the average supermarket shop, the cost of transport (fuel as well as public transport), property prices (to buy or rent), property tax rates and the cost of a cinema ticket. 

READ ALSO Food, fuel and transport: Which prices will rise in France in 2023?

And it turns out smaller is better.

Of the 96 towns and cities tested, Niort, in the département of Deux-Sèvres in south west France (population around 60,000) came top,

Laval, in Mayenne (population around 50,000) was third; Saint-Brieuc, in the Brittany département of Côtes-d’Armor (population around 45,000), was 8th, and Rodez, down in the southern département of Aveyron (pop: c 25,000) was 10th.

The 20 most wallet-friendly towns in France are:

  1. Niort
  2. Châteauroux
  3. Laval
  4. Nevers
  5. Belfort
  6. Chaumont
  7. Épinal
  8. Saint-Brieuc
  9. Saint-Étienne
  10. Rodez
  11. Châlons-en-Champagne
  12. Quimper
  13. Arras
  14. Foix
  15. Poitiers
  16. Le Mans
  17. Colmar
  18. Montauban
  19. Bourg-en-Bresse
  20. Nantes

READ ALSO The 20 small towns most popular with house-hunters in France

Niort gains, the study found, in part because it has offered free local public transport since 2017 - a policy that other towns that rank well also implement, including second-placed Châteauroux (Indre), Bourg-en-Bresse (Ain, 24th) and Gap (Hautes-Alpes, 63rd).

For various reasons, including infrastructure, offering free public transport that meets higher levels of demand in larger cities is unviable, the report said. 

In fact, France’s larger cities are noticeably low in Le Parisien’s rankings. Lyon stumbled on to the list in 58th, Paris in 77th, Marseille 84th, and Montpellier 90th. Nantes, coming in 20th, is the only ‘large city’ representative in the top 20.

READ ALSO Wild boar, fast internet and kindly neighbours – why small-town France has the best of all worlds

The report stated that, despite salaries being little higher than average in larger conurbations, people also pay more for shopping, public transport, movie tickets, and housing.

The survey found that, on the whole, your euro goes further in the west of the country - where supermarkets are cheaper, and towns aren’t too congested, while the cost of a tank of fuel is lower, as are - researchers discovered - the more abstract costs, such as insurance, for the same level of service as elsewhere.

READ ALSO OPINION: An inflation ‘tsunami’ is about to hit France

Eastern France, the study found, benefited from relatively cheap property prices - offering more bang for a house-buying buck than the expensive ‘coastal bounce’-affected south or the Ile-de-France region, which orbits the cost-of-living singularity that is Paris.

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