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La Belle Vie: The benefits to working in France and 'new' French words

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
La Belle Vie: The benefits to working in France and 'new' French words
People sitting on the stairs during their lunch break in La Defense area, near Paris in September 2023. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

From new French words in the dictionary to tech and work-related lingo to memorise and adapting to life in France, this week's La Belle Vie newsletter offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like a French person.

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La Belle Vie is our regular look at the real culture of France – from language to cuisine, manners to films. This newsletter is published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to your newsletter preferences in “My account”.

The French language is always evolving, and here at The Local we try to keep up with it by publishing 'Words of the Day'. But it would take us a while to get through all of the new words that have been added to France's Larousse dictionary this year.

Personally, I enjoyed the addition of 'skatepark' (pronounced à la française). Skateboarding in French is 'faire du skateboard' so it's perhaps not very surprising that the English word for the sports venue is now in the dictionary. This year, Larousse also included several dozen celebrities with enough name recognition to deserve a slot in the dictionary.

Revealed: The ‘new’ French words in 2024

As you might've guessed from 'skatepark', France does borrow from English pretty often, especially when it comes to the internet and tech.

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Still, one of my greatest challenges after moving to France was memorising how to say my birthdate, phone number and email address out loud. Honestly, email lingo deserves a dictionary of its own.

How to talk email, websites, social media and phone numbers in French

Once you've mastered saying the word arobase aloud (pronounced ah-row-bazz, otherwise known as the @ sign) - which can be challenging to locate on a French AZERTY keyboard - you'll want to review all numbers above 69.

When I first moved to France, I tried to spell out my phone number to someone by saying 'zero un huit neuf' (01 89) and so on. The blank look on the other person's face probably should've been my first hint that in reality I ought to have said 'zero un quatre-vingt-neuf' instead. 

Five years later and French numbers still trip me up from time to time, but apparently there is some logic to them. 

How did the French end up with their 'crazy' numbers?

If you want to work in France, there will come a time when you will have to write down someone's phone number as they dictate it to you. You might also find that once you have memorised your own French phone number, saying it in English will be surprisingly challenging.  

Aside from the numbers, professional phone calls in France can be tricky on their own, luckily the pros to working in France certainly outweigh the cons. From at least 25 days of statutory paid leave for all employees to the 35-hour work week, long lunches, strong legislation protecting workers' rights and subsidised travel, there is a lot to love.

The perks and benefits that employees in France enjoy

For all of those benefits, there are some small cultural differences to be aware of. For example, you might be confused why people seem to be frustrated at you for taking a short lunch break at your desk - after all, you are being more productive. But the French see this as failing to participate in an important social part of the day.

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French lunches tend to run long, and don't be surprised if your colleagues eat a full meal, rather than just a small sandwich.

The mistakes to avoid when working in France

Over time, you might see yourself judging the other foreigners in your office for scarfing down a sandwich at their desks. Whether consciously or unconsciously, once you've been in France for long enough you start to assimilate.

We talked to some readers to find out the different ways their lives, perspectives and habits have changed since moving to France.

Complaining more: How foreigners in France become 'more French' to fit in

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