Living and Working in France
Whether you are thinking of moving to France for business or pleasure, there are a number of questions you likely need answers to. From common courtesies to faux pas to avoid, holiday entitlement to working hours, we have you covered. And if you are thinking of expanding your business to France, take a look at our guide to French payroll and HR.
Living in France
What languages do they speak in France?
French is the official language of France. Whilst some of the population can speak English, French is the dominant language, and it is necessary to learn at least the basics of the language if you are looking at living and working there as the French are extremely proud of their language.
What are the legal requirements of moving to France?
American citizens are not able to stay in France without a visa. You will need a visa for a long-term stay in France, if using a 3-month tourist visa, American citizens will not be able to stay once this is up. Visas can be arranged via the French embassy.
How long do you have to live in France before becoming a resident?
You will become a resident in France if you live there for at least 6 months of the year. You do not need a permanent residence for this to apply, you are still a resident if you are in the country for 6 months or more.
How do you buy a property in France?
Property prices are fairly reasonable in France, especially in comparison to Spain and the Netherlands! Once you have found a property you are interested in, it is wise to find a realtor (agent immobilier) who can communicate on your behalf if French isn’t your strong point. They can help organise the sales contract and liaison.
You should also keep an eye out for the following – FNAIM, SNPI, UNIS or CNAB, which shows the company selling the property belongs to a registered organisation.
Can I drive in France with a US license?
If you plan on staying in France for less than 90 days, you can drive on your US license. If you are planning on staying in France for more than 90 days, it is permissible to drive with your US license for up to one year. After this, you must exchange your US license for a French license.
How much does it cost to live in France?
If you are renting, you can expect to pay approximately €650 ($739) a month if living in a city, or €530($602) a month if you are further way from a city centre.
If buying, it is worth noting that some charges are hidden. In France, notaries’ fees are charged on a scale according to the purchase price of the property. For example, a €350,000 ($397,773) property could charge around €26,000 ($29,548) in fees.Often buyers are also made to pay the estate agent’s commission, unless disclosed otherwise.
Transport-wise, a one-way ticket on local transport can set you back around €1.60 ($1.82) or €56 ($64.00) if paying for a monthly pass.
How do I open a bank account in France?
To open a bank account in France, you will need your passport, visa or residence permit as proof of identity, you will need proof of residence in the form of a utility bill or other proof of address, and finally, an example signature. It is often easier to become a resident before trying to open a bank account in France.
How expensive is education?
Tuition fees in France are reasonably low compared with the rest of Europe. Bachelor’s average tuition fees are around €190 per year, €630 for engineering, and €450 for medicine.
Does France provide healthcare?
Fortunately, France offers universal healthcare, which means anyone who legally resides in France is eligible for cover. Once you have lived three months consecutively as a resident. you can apply.
Working in France
What are the usual working hours in France?
The legal length of a working week in France is 35 hours. Employees can work more than this under a collective agreement, but it must not exceed 44 hours per week on average over 12 consecutive weeks. The average working hours are often between 9am-5pm or 8am-4pm.
How much annual leave are you entitled to?
Employees in France are entitled to 30 days annual leave a year. This is prorated for those who have worked less than 12 months a year.
What benefits are you entitled to?
If you live in France with one or more dependent children, no matter if you are a French national or not, you are entitled to family benefits. This includes CAF (Caisse des Allocations Familiales), which helps families with crèche, childcare centres, education, holidays, family allowances, pregnancy benefits and housing benefits.
What taxes are there?
In France, personal income tax is deducted yearly, and social security contributions must also be made. To find out more, visit our payroll and HR in France guide.
Do I need a visa to work in France?
If you are a non-EU/EEA citizen, you will need a permit to work in France. The responsibility lies with your employer, which means a confirmation of employment is required before the process.
Once you have secured a job, apply for a long stay visa through the French embassy or consulate in your home country.
How should I conduct myself in a business meeting?
During business meetings, be prepared to answer direct and detailed questions. In France, agreements take a long time to finalize! They will almost certainly be conducted in French, so make sure an interpreter is organized ahead of time if your French isn’t too advanced.
You should always shake hands when entering a meeting, and the handshake should be initiated by the highest-ranking individual. If you are greeting a woman, initiative is her decision to make.
The use of first names is seen as disrespectful in France, that is until you have been invited to do so. When greeting someone for the first time, make sure to use their family name and courtesy titles.
- Be polite in your addressing
Politeness is everything in France. In business, courtesy titles should be used for men and women. For men, ‘Monsieur’ should be used, and ‘Madame’ should be used for women (married or single). These should always be used to address superiors or people you are meeting for the first time.Attempting to understand when to use tu or vous is also important and can inadvertently cause offense in France. This is not simple to grasp; however, the general rules are that ‘vous’ should be used as a plural or out of respect for when you do not know the person, they are a lot older than you or they are superiors. ‘Tu’ is generally used for someone who is close to you, i.e. friends and family or close colleagues of a similar age bracket. If you aren’t sure, it’s safer to use ‘vous’!
- Understand when to exchange la bise
The ‘la bise’ or the well-known French ‘kiss on the cheek’, is something that other cultures struggle with most, as a handshake can sometimes be a faux pas. The ‘kiss’ is not actually a kiss (another big faux pas), instead, you touch the other person’s cheek with yours and make a kiss sound.In the workplace, it is a common understanding that it’s only practiced between people you know reasonably well. However, outside of the workplace, it’s used between friends and family. A big no is shaking hands whilst exchanging la bise.
- Shake hands with your colleagues each day
In the morning it is seen as rude to not shake your close colleagues’ hands and say ‘Bonjour’. This includes any management you pass on the way to your desk. You won’t find anyone greeting the whole room and immediately sitting down at their desk.
- Open a conversation in English
The French respect those who attempt to speak French. People in France have a huge amount of pride in their language, and will respect someone far more if they open a conversation in French than in English. Even if your French is not very good, learning basic vocabulary and improving your French over time will make living in France a lot easier.Your politeness to speak in their language will go a long way, and it is more likely someone that speaks English will come to your rescue if you get stuck.
- Say ‘Hello’ more than once in a day
One of France’s more eccentric customs… If you pass someone at work that you have already greeted in the morning, you don’t say Bonjour again!
- Talk business at dinner
Business relationship building takes time in France. When it comes to business meals, the French like to discuss their food and drink whilst eating and focus on building a personal relationship. This allows them to discuss shared interests in food and wine, getting to know each other. Therefore, it is recommended not to discuss business matters until the end of a business meal.
Is your Business Expanding to France?
IRIS FMP are international payroll and HR experts. We can help with compliance, legislation and employment law in France. We can help streamline your expansion.