| The French and work...
|| If you want to find a job by yourself
French Paradox ! The French way of working is clearly different
from the American one.
However, this might just be
another French Paradox (remember : "How Do They Eat
That Much And Remain Slim?" : answer in Tips
The French Paradox in Business
is : "How
Do They Manage To Be The Fourth or Fifth Economy In The World
Given The Way They Work and Strike?" : see a list of French companies, world
in their field and see that they do not export
cheese to the USA (France is a major exporter and ranks # 4 or 5)!
Just think about it: whether
they collect garbage or are firemen or teachers or even doctors,
the French always take to the streets when they're unhappy. You'd
think no one in this country is working but ironically France
is one of the most productive countries in the world! This means
that when people are on the job, they're really on it. The rest
of the time, they're ...in the streets.
To know more about the French,
click on Questions on
the French or Intercultural
Do the French actually
- The image of French work
ethics is mediocre (this is an understatement....) : 35-hour
work week law, constant strikes,
5 to 8 weeks vacation,
early retirement etc...
Only in France can you work so few hours/year compared with other
countries (the difference between France and the USA is on average
330 hours/year). Read my personal opinion about the 35-hour
It is not easy to find
a job in France ; it's a dream for many but one which is hard
to realize, especially when you think that you need official
working papers and an employer who will give them to you, etc. :
is high and employers try to cut costs
Paperwork is very complicated
for the employer : each new employee (even for a short period
of time) must be declared to many different organization, each
of them managing one of the many social benefits (see the anatomy
of a paycheck)
It is even harder for employees
who are not citizens of the European Union
Job contracts : there are basically
two sorts : CDD (Contrat à Durée Déterminée),
in which you are hired for a certain time (for instance 6 months)
and which can be renewed only once and CDI (Contrat à
Durée Indéterminée), where there is no limit
and it is rather difficult for the employer to end the contract
; CDI are, of course, especially difficult to find ; to work
and be paid by the hour, a worker has to be registred as "travailleur
indépendant" with an organization called URSSAF (and
it does not make sense for a limited number of hours). More
See my new section Job Offers
- More to come.....
We suggest four books which address
this question :
- Geneviève BRAME, Chez
vous en France- Living and Working in France, Paris, 1995
- COUSINS, HALLMARK & PICKUP,
Studying and Working in France- A Student Guide, Manchester
University Press, ISBN 071904220-8
- Frances GENDLIN, Living and
Working in Paris, France, in the Culture Shock series, Kuperard
- Carol PINEAU & al., Working
in France, Franck, 1991, Paris
- For more bibliography, click
- More to come...
Warning ! Working few hours
does not mean working badly (the hourly productivity
in France is one of the highest in the world) or working poorly
(the quality of manpower is good and working well is prestigious
: see " compagnonnage
" or artcarft). In fact, implicitly, the French society
has decided to work less, but well, to make less money but to
be protected against the major life hazards.
The amazing success of a (mediocre)
book " Bonjour paresse " ("Hello Laziness"),
subtitled " About the art and the necessity of doing
the strict minimum for your company " in September 2004
illustrates that for many French people : " the company
can fire you any day, therefore you don't owe it anything "
Writes Ted Stanger, author of
Français ! : " France is the only country
in the world where you can find a tennis partner on Friday afternoon.
But the 35-hour week is your Iraq or your Vietnam and nobody
here realizes that you are going to lose the economic war "
- See a list of strengths
and weaknesses of France.
- Read about sick leaves in France.
- Working with the French.... click
Some suggestions to find a job in Paris
- Web resources :
- FUSAC (free,
bimonthly) contains many classified ads, indispensable if you
are looking for a temporary job. From the U.S.A. France Contact
P.O. Box 115, Cooper Station, New York, NY 10276 Tel (212) 2777-5553
- The billboard at the American Church can be very useful
- The International Herald
Tribune runs many ads
: Tel. 33-(0)1 46 37 93 00
- CIDJ (Centre d'Information et de Documentation Jeunesse)
is a good source for temporary jobs for students (101 Quai Branly
75007 tel 01 44 49 12 00)
- To identify US companies in
France, you may contact the American Chamber of Commerce in France,
77 rue de Miromesnil 75008 Paris, tel. (0)1 56 43 45 67 or the Chambre
de Commerce Franco-Américaine, 104 rue de Miromesnil 75008
Paris, tel (0)1 53 89 11 00.
- More to come...
|| Job-hunting in Paris
A working France does exist
! An important fact is
that the situation is very different between people : those who
work the most (people working for private companies, open to
international competition, shopkeepers, middle-aged people, artcraft,
...) and who contibute to the economic ranking
of the country and its world leaders
And those who work the least
in big public transport companies
such as RATP, SNCF (more than 8 weeks vacation per year, work-week
between 32 and 37 hours, retirement
age between 50 to 60),
high school teachers (28,9 to
30,3 hours/week, 16 weeks vacation),
people under 25 or over 55 (among
the lowest activity
rates in the world for both categories of young and old workers).
Very few shops are open on
Sundays. Why ? Because,
as a general rule, the law forbids it and only the Prefet
(i.e. the representative of the State) can waive it on a case by
case basis. Why ? Because the French society believes that, if
there was no regulation, the most powerful (i.e. the employer)
would always win over the weakest (i.e. the employee) who would
get no benefit at all (even paid overtime) out of this attack
on his " art de vivre
". The unions fight valiantly against it : read a very interesting
expression of their view about working
The pernicious effect of the
35-hour work week law (1998) was that it made it much
more difficult for workers to get paid overtime (very constrained
by the law) : many have to work on the black market to make ends
meet. This is the main explanation of the electoral defeat of
the left in 2002.
DID YOU KNOW
THAT ....? If one of your grandparents was Irish, you can make
a claim for Irish citizenship (and keep your US citizenship).
As a citizen of the European Union, you can live and work wherever
you want without any formality.
In Paris Voice, free-lance journalist Rose Marie Burke
gives 10 valuable tips about finding a job in Paris :
- " pinpoint the hot sectors
", namely telecom,
high tech, hotels, restaurants, secretarial and teaching
- " wake up and smell
the café ",
it is a very competitive market
- " work around the system
" and look for firms
that cater to expatriates
- " target new subsidiaries
" of U.S. firms
- " become a known quantity
" and start with
a temporary contract
- " redo that franglais
CV " : your resumé
(CV) must be palatable for the French
- " forget the thank-you
note " after the
interview (but do not dress too casually)
- " don't knock open doors
" and join English-speaking
- " don't get stuck in
a rut " and try
different searching methods
- " try temping ", it's easy (if you're a EU citizen)
Rose Marie Burke is the author
of " Working and Living in France: the Ins and Outs ",
published by WebFrance
about what you get (minimum) if you lose you job in Europe, click
Remember that American companies in France, very often, do
not respect French laws : make sure you are treated the same
way you would be with an equivalent French company (salary slip,
payment to Social Security, pension, etc...)....
DID YOU KNOW
THAT....? Now, all over Europe, the labor market is fully open
(no working documents required as is the case for other nationalities)
to other European nationals. Jobs which Americans could
have filled before because of their English language skills are
now being filled by British citizens.
| If you are sent to France
as an expat...
|| The anatomy of a French paycheck...
It is a waste to live in foreign countries and have
the same kind of life everywhere !
- See a few DOs
- See a list of fifty
questions about living abroad (established by the State Department)
with tentative answers for France
- Working with the French is "different": less organization,
less discipline, etc... : read the page about it.
- Remember : taxes
are high (for executives : more than 60% of salary vs. 40% in
the USA) ! Check with a tax lawyer.
- The most helpful French bank,
focused on helping expats in France is probably : Banque Transatlantique
RepOffice in the USA : 1819 H Street NW Suite 620 Washington
DC 20006 Tel. 202/4329 19 09
- Be ready for a
shock when you go back home.
- Read the page for Chinese
or the page for Japanese visitors
- Useful links : visit the website guide
for managers, a site for expats and
search engine for people moving or living abroad.
- If you need help for administrative tasks : Imagic2015 provides the best service for foreigners, guiding them through French administration processes in a smooth and serene manner (Administrative forms assistance, secretarial tasks, writing, …)
France in a nutshell : understanding
many aspects of the country by analyzing what's in a paycheck
- Case : a young professional,
hired one year ago, first job, administrative position, annual
salary 36 000 Euros ($ 45 000).
- Employer : a successful investment
- Working time : 162,5 hours/month
(full time) if
they work more than the mandatory 35 hours, employees (except
for top management) can recuperate up to two or three additional
weeks of vacation (in addition to 5).
- Monthly Salary : $ 3 719
- In fact, he/she will actually cash
: $ 2 724
- But he/she will cost his/her boss :
$ 5 988
This is a French Mystery : to understand it, click here to see the
detail of a real paycheck.
Doing business in France...
However, the attractiveness
of Paris for international headquarters is very high. In
2005, Paris was first (before London) : see the figures.
However the USA are the largest foreign investor in France (read
the page on US corporations
in France). The main reasons are :
The 2005 issue of the World Bank report
" Doing Business " infuriated the French (Les
Echos, Sept.13, 2005).
- The top five countries to do
business with are New Zealand, Singapore, USA, Canada, Norway
while UK, Japan, Belgium and Germany (# 19) rank honourably
- France ranks # 44 AFTER Namibia,
Tonga, Saudi Arabia, Botswana and Jamaica to name a few ; Italy
(# 70) and Greece (# 80) do even worse.
- High quality of infrastructures
- Skilled manpower
- Location at the center of Europe
- Quality of life
- The poor image given by strikes
and demonstration does not seem to be a negative factor and,
as declared by Christopher Coonen, CEO of PayPal "Our
managers are perceptive enough not to believe everything they
see on CNN...".
French benefits : if you work
in France, you are entitled (by law) to the following benefits
Be careful : many US firms in France
do not follow French laws...
And now a question : you are a cleaning lady and your boss dies : what happens to you ? Click here for the answer.
USEFUL TIP .......Do you kow what a "
cadre " is ? All the French use this concept which
has no real equivalent outside France. Literally, it means "
manager " : a cadre is someone who manages (" encadrer
") other workers or has the qualification to. Practically,
being a cadre is a sign of social status (that you keep forever)
. It indicates that you belong to the white-collar world, instead
of the blue-collar one. For the employer, it is a specific category
: the pension systems are different from " non-cadres",
the participation rates in social programs too. In the elections
for staff delegates in corporations ("Comité d'Entreprise", " délégués
du personnel "), there are two electoral colleges ("
cadre " and " non-cadre "), there is a specific
labor union for " cadres " (Confédération
générale des cadres), two boards of judges in
labor courts (" conseils de prud'hommes "), etc If
you are are a young job-seeker, the first question to ask is
: "Shall I be a cadre ? ". For some positions and some
qualifications, there is no doubt but for others it is wiser
to ask before (because becoming a " cadre " is a major
promotion). If you are not recruited as a " cadre ",
you know the position is not considered a high one. Try at least
to make it a well-paid clerical or blue collar job.
du travail (labor
medicine) : an annual visit to the company's doctor
- your lunch partly paid by the employer : a cafeteria or lunch vouchers
- 1% patronal : a priority-access to low-rent housing
financed by a tax paid by the company
- Comité d'entreprise (companies>50) : read
more about it
- More to come...
The study does not take into
account such important parameters as "organized crime"
and "macro-economic policy" which, in my opinion, make
doing business in Kingston a little more difficult than in Paris
It over-values "common
law" as opposed to "civil law" : in other words
it should be re-named "doing business the American way"
There is no doubt that the French
legislation is invasive and that bureaucracy
makes it more difficult to do business in France than in many
other countries (see anatomy of a paycheck)
This ranking is one of the many
examples of the influence of the choice of criteria of a dominant
culture on value judgements (see the ranking of universities).
See my unbalanced opinion in
page on how to build a ranking so that a given countries comes out
Similar comments with the ranking
of the World Economic Forum 2005 : France ranks # 30 in terms
- Read the page about American firms in France
- More to come....
This page is under construction,
please visit our site later : we welcome comments
and suggestions. Click here
for more information (Hall).
||DO YOU KNOW WHAT A " COMITE D'ENTREPRISE"
(C.E.) IS .....? It is the employee's association, legally required
for companies over 50 ; its members are elected among candidates
proposed by the unions ; the C.E. manages the various benefits
offered to the staff with a grant from the company ; all of them
offer services such as tickets at reduced price for theaters,
sport events etc.., summer camps for children, cheap trips and
cruises, retirement homes, and sometimes more. At Electricité
de France, the largest utility in the world (state-owned), the
C.E. receives 1% of the electricity bills ; in 2004, it employed
around 3,600 people ! If you work for a French company, check
out what the C.E. has to offer : you'll be impressed ..... By
law, employees can devote part of their (paid) time to the company's
employees' bodies and associations in which they have been elected
: "délégué syndical" (representative
of an union : 30 hours/month for each of the 5 main national
unions), "representative of an union in the Comité
d'Entreprise" (CE : 20 hrs/month each), "other member
of the Comité d'Entreprise" (CE : 20 hrs/month each),
"délégué du personnel" (and their
deputies : 15 hrs/month each), "members of the Comité
d'Hygiène et de Sécurité" (CHSCT :
20 hrs/month each), etc
|To related pages : anatomy of a
paycheck (#2), education,
life in France, etc...
To top of the
Back to home
Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French.
Order her books :
- "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
- "French Toast, An American in Paris
Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press,
New York, 1999
- "French Fried, The Culinary Capers
of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001
More on Harriet's books (excerpts, upcoming
events, testimonials, etc..)
or separately, Harriet and Philippe speak
about Intercultural Differences : click
here for information.