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Destination France

August 22, 2006

Everything ends this way in France - everything. Weddings, christenings, duels, burials, swindlings, diplomatic affairs -everything is a pretext for a good dinner. Jean Anouilh


As someone who has lived in France for the past eleven years, I have become more comfortable in this country than anywhere else. English language teachers have plenty of opportunities here but you have to be willing to go where the work is. Inevitably the greatest demand is in the major cities.

The good news for EU citizens is...

... that no visa or work permit is needed, You simply need to find a job and then complete the necessary residence formalities once you have been in the country for six months. The most important step is to obtain your social security number so that you have entitlement to health care and all the other protections covered by the high social charges you and your employer pay. However, non-EU citizens need to enter the country on a work visa and this is a much more difficult and time-consuming route.

English language teaching takes place in state schools and universities and private schools. Despite the theory of free employment for EU citizens, it is difficult to enter the state education system for non-French nationals. Teachers are civil servants and the system for training and obtaining a post is not for the faint-hearted. Being a native speaker is not seen as an advantage in this system. There are some exceptions. Native-speaker teachers are employed as teaching assistants in schools and posts in universities and in adult education are available on the basis of a temporary and hourly-paid contracts.

Undoubtedly the best chance of job is in the private sector, where you are likely to teach a mixture of group classes and in-company courses. In big cities you may find it pretty exhausting to criss-cross the city going from one company to another to deliver the courses.

Salaries are adequate but not high, especially in the private sector. Employers have to pay almost the same amount as the salary in social charges and this keeps wages down. It also encourages a lot of work “on the black”. Avoid this at all costs as you will have not health insurance and you risk being taken to a tribunal if caught. Make sure you have a legally enforceable contract that sets out your teaching hours, duties, holiday entitlement and salary. Contracts are tightly prescribed by law in France and give the employee a high degree of protection.

The cost of living is not markedly different from other western European countries. Energy costs are relatively high but public transport is attractively priced. Rents for accommodation can usually be found at a reasonable level except in the fashionable areas of the major cities. Commodities of all kinds can be found cheaply but price reflects quality. Health care is reimbursed 70% by the state. You can take out a supplementary private health insurance to cover you for the other 30%.

Pay attention to your dress in France. The French are very image conscious and if you want to present a professional front, you should be well groomed. You can dress casually but not scruffily.

People often complain that it is difficult to get to know the French. This probably stems from the importance placed on the family. Social events such as Sunday lunch are very family-oriented and outsiders are not likely to be invited. But you can socialize easily by joining in the group activities so much loved by the French: cycling clubs, group rambles, bird-watching groups, sports clubs.

The French are fairly conservative, respecting their lifestyle and traditions and valuing a sense of social cohesion. People get involved in politics in a very direct way, demonstrating or taking strike action with alacrity if they disapprove of any government measures. However, the hand of the state is very heavy and French bureaucracy is notoriously tedious and labyrinthine. The way to handle any difficulties is to remain calm and polite but to explain the points you don’t understand. Avoid losing your temper with civil servants as they have numerous ways of exerting their displeasure!

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  1. Leon Says:

    Very informative article on ESL in France. Although, there are some matters which were not touched on. For example, are all EU passport holders allowed to teach or only those from the old EU - 15 and not from the new accession states such as Poland? And are such teaching qualifications as TESOL looked on favourably in the private sector?

  1. Brenda Townsend Hall Says:

    Leon, France was among the countries that gave restricted entry to the new accession states. It has recently relaxed restrictions for certain jobs but English teachers are not among these. Recognized TESOL qualifications are indeed well regarded in the private sector.

  1. Leon Says:

    Thanks, Brenda. Still looking for the right job board to find job postings in France (especally for Business/Legal English) or for that matter Europe. Your site has some interesting European postings.

  1. Rashna Says:


    Are only EU passport holders eligible for teaching position in France? I am from India and learning French. Also i am doing a Diploma course in Online TEFL. So after i get the Diploma, will i be eligible for a teaching position in France?

    Pls reply.

    Regards, Rashna.

  1. Brenda Townsend Hall Says:

    Hello Rashana,

    EU passport holders can work in France without needing any other documents. Non-EU citizens have to apply for a work permit. The best thing would be to enquire at the French Embassy in your country to see what steps you would need to take.

  1. virginia Says:

    Hello, my name is Virginia Diaz, I am Spanish. I hope you can help me with my problem. I am currently in England studying my PGCE on modern Languages in order to become a Spanish and French teacher in the UK. I have a BA Honours Degree on English Studies and the Spanish "certificate of pedagogical aptitude", subject: english.
    For personal reasons, I may have to move too France after my PGCE and, hopefully, after gaining experience working in English high-schools. I also have some experience as an english teacher in spain.
    I would like to know how difficult it could be for me to find a "proper job" once in France. I am thinking mostly of private centres as I see a national "concours" too hard for me.
    Will it be possible to get a real job as a teacher in France with my qualifications, which will be good by then, but not french?.Is it a realistic possibility?. thanks a lot.

  1. Brenda Townsend Hall Says:

    As a Spanish national you have the right to work in France so there are no visa or work permit barriers. I think it may be difficult to find work as an English teacher, however, as native speakers are usually preferred and are in plentiful supply. Spanish, on the other hand, is a popular subject and you have several options. A private language school is one possibility although for a school teaching several languages you will probably have to be in a major city. Another possibility is to offer courses through a branch of the Chambers of Commerce.
    Universities and High Schools also offer "assistante" posts and "vacataire" posts for which you do not need a "concours".
    Hope this helps.

  1. virginia Says:

    thanks a lot for your reply. I would like to know, and that would me my last question, how easy it is to get a job in a "lycée privé" o "college privé", not as an assistant, but as one more of the teachers. I heard they work as private companies and it would not be impossible to get a job with foreign qualifications. Is it possible to find a stable job as a teacher as the one I will have here in England?
    Thanks again.

  1. Brenda Townsend Hall Says:

    Private establishments are certainly more flexible in theory, although a look at staff lists shows they are dominated by native teachers. You can find lists of private lycees by region at this URL:http://www.enseignement-prive.info/recherche/lycees_prives/index.html/. I f you find some near your destination, you could make enquiries to se what is available. If you are offered a post, you would have the same protection under French employment law as anybody else. Good luck!

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