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Beyond the Vineyards: Working in the South of France

Greetings from a still sunny, albeit chillier South of France.  I’ve started pulling a few of my sweaters out of storage and also looking around town for the latest fall trends…mainly scarves, scarves, & more scarves.  So far, no big surprises heading into the fall season (my wallet is happy).

I’ve also started a new job, moving from part-time to full-time work, which has left me with less time for blogging but with more money in la banque.  I’ve still got lots of time for traveling around on the weekends, and especially looking forward to the fall festivals coming next month – can already smell those roasted chestnuts in Collobrieres.

And if you happen to follow other France blogs, you may or may not have picked-up on the fact that finding a job in the South of France is not easy – for expats and locals alike.  Frankly, I love living in the South of France & we made the decision (quite a while back) not to move to Paris (where the job market is understandably larger) for cost-of-living and convenience issues.  I think our “big city” days are a bit behind us and I find myself dreaming of lounging lazily on the terrasse instead of zipping around on the Metro.  Although that’s kinda awesome too.

Plus we live in the land of the TGV – the parfums of Paris are roughly four hours away by train. Mais oui….

So, if you’re anything like me, with a passion for Provence but in need of a way to finance it, here’s a few tips for “living your dream” in this very special job market.

Prepare

It probably goes without saying that you should pick-up a French course or two (in my case, more like 5) before hitting the job market. Although not all employers will require you to be fluent immediately, it will of course give you a “leg-up” on the competition.  Another factor to keep in mind is, as a foreigner, the special “skills” you have to offer.  Be it in language-teaching, tourism, or a particular way of looking at business, we all bring something unique to the table as expats.

Be Pro-Active

Depending on your location and how large your city is, it may or may not be easy to access an “expat network”.  In any case, try to get hooked into one as soon as possible.  These networks are where you will find out about unadvertised positions or someone may simply pass his or her work on to you.  Also, be ready to pound the pavement and visit companies with your CV in hand.  I found face-to-face contact generated many more leads than email alone.

Present Yourself Well

The French are quite impressed with diplomas, certificates, and any extra training you might have done in your field.  Remember to include everything of relevance on your CV and be prepared to discuss your qualifications and really “prove” yourself in an interview. It can be a real “testing ground”, and more than a little intimidating, but it seems like the French-style of hiring (quite different from the U.S. version) really focuses on testing the candidate’s credentials.  Thankfully, once you’re “in”, it’s a different story.

Have (a lot of) Patience

If you come to the South without a job-contract awaiting you, be prepared (in many cases) for a long job search.  There are usually part-time opportunities in teaching English or seasonal work (tourism and/or agriculture), and everyone’s work situation is different, but it’s a good idea to be realistic vis-à-vis financial responsibilities. Granted, it’s not as expensive as Paris, but there’s still all that cheese and Rosé to pay for!

Viola, just a few of my thoughts on finding a job in le bel South.  I’m now quite concentrated on this weekend and the time we’ll get to spend at the Fête de la Gastronomie (can’t wait…)  A très bientôt!

 

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8 thoughts on “Beyond the Vineyards: Working in the South of France

  1. I should probably know this but I am curious what “papers” you have to have from the French government in order to work? I hope the weather stays nice for another month as it looks like we are headed to Provence for a few weeks in October.

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    1. So true Michel, I didn’t mention anything about the work qualifications… There are several programs that allow you to work short term in France, but after that you would need a work permit as an American. Several years back, I got Finnish citizenship through my father, so I am working on an EU passport. And so excited for you and your October travels, it’s still sunny here so crossing my fingers that you’ll have nice weather! Bon weekend 🙂

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  2. Great blog Tuula. I appreciate you putting me in the international job searching and interviewing mindset. I have been reading a lot on that, and it is half-shocking for me, as I still remember the absurd questions they would ask…not lying.. I was asked at 19 in ES, “do you wear skirts? the boss like them” really? don’t take me wrong, it was for a administrative assistant position, not …something else. needless to say, i told them i wasn’t working for that other industry.

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    1. Many thanks Kenya… I can only imagine that interview experience in ES – and I thought I’d had some pretty “interesting” interviews! Makes you really appreciate cultural differences in the world of work, and also prepares you for what to expect in an interview outside the US. Well, they certainly missed out on having a pretty amazing admin assistant, lol.. bon weekend Kenya!

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    1. That’s very kind of you Corinne – feels great to be working in a field I enjoy…and being able to pay for more belle travels 🙂 Thanks so much for your comment!

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  3. Lots of chèvre to pay for! 🙂
    So far, I’ve only been able to find summer work here in the south, even though I have a University degree, speak almost fluent French and have been trained in many fields. One gives up earning money for a less stressful lifestyle, which isn’t such a terrible thing.

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    1. That’s for sure Jennifer! Thanks for your comment – it is really difficult, next to impossible almost, to find a job in the South of France. But, like you said, it’s the lifestyle is a pretty excellent trade-off (of course cheese is included in that equation.. 🙂 Appreciate your feedback!

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