Guess what? Did you know that France is the only country in the world where you can retire at the ripe old age of mid forties? And if you’re a bit unfortunate it’s late fifties?! I’m just kidding with you. Of course France isn’t the only country in the world where you can retire to at this age! What were/are are you even thinking about?! Have you actually lost your mind?!
It is very likely that if you are contemplating moving to France or are already here – you’re going to need some income coming in. If you were to believe, in the many forums on moving to France, you haven’t got a cat in hells chance of finding gainful employment, except if you want to cut grass, run a gite changeover service or generally anything that doesn’t involve working with the French.
Yes you can buy a lot of property for your money – it’s extraordinary cheap compared to the UK but, alas, that’s where the cheapness stops I’m afraid. If anything, that cheap house will be a lead weight around your neck if you’re not careful. The lovely pile of equity (if you are in that position) will soon whittle down to the last few hundred pounds and then you’ll be burning the furniture – as one person merrily told us in our first day of setting foot on French soil. Be smart people. You are not going to be living off the land and that will see you alright. You will be haemorrhaging bills like you did in the UK and then double your weekly food shopping bill. Right. Ok. Now we have you back in the land of reality and not The Good Life. I shall begin.
Actually people bang on about the tax but in real terms, for your average person, it is more or less the same as the UK. Plus if you earn under certain thresholds you are miles better off in terms of allowances, benefits etc. What is higher is the equivalent of national insurance contributions – cotisations. If I’m not mistaken its about 6% in the UK. Here it can be between 6 – 22% if you are set up as a Micro Entrepreneur and 0-8% for employed. So it is actually far cheaper in that respect to be employed.
Most people will naturally want to set up as self employed. Why? Because, there is a good chance that your French is either non existent or existing in a 1980s G.C.S.E illusion you can string a sentence together. None of these are going to make you think you can get a job here in Normandy. And anyone that has never applied for a job in France will tell you that the “French only employ their own” “you should focus on being fluent before applying”. Well guess what? You’re never getting fluent or getting a job waiting until your French is better. The only way your French will get better is if you get a job with the French. Yes, yes, yes I appreciate we are in a bit of a catch 22 but bare with.
Firstly, it is Mr Normandy’s experience the the Normands are actually open to many things. They are open to 1) someone being good at a trade 2) having the business sense to employ someone when they are struggling to get a good tradesperson 3) giving them a days trial allowing someone to demonstrate they are good at what they do and 4) not giving two hoots that they don’t have French qualifications.
Now, primarily I am talking about a trade here and I will talk about other options later, as, believe it or not, I do not have a ‘trade’. Unless, Wonder woman is one and in that case yes I have a trade!
Remember those cotisations I was talking about? Yeah the one that makes people get all grumpy about France and how “socialism doesn’t work” (like capitalism is and that’s why you’ve moved out of a capitalist society that has broken down..mmmm #ironic).
Yes, those high payments actually get pumped back into the country and by jove you can actually see it with your own eyes. You can see it with roads being maintained, signs being cleaned and houses being built all over the place. Which leads me to my point that there is a hell of a lot of house building here in Normandy and infrastructure works. There is, therefore, a high demand for builders, carpenters, roofers, electricians, plumbers and whilst I’m at it, in the local paper, they’re always wanting mechanics.
Tradesman have been in steep decline, not just in the UK but also across Europe. So let me tell you this, there is work and you don’t have to produce your city and guilds to get it nor do you have to speak French. Well that has not been our experience here in Normandy. I am sure there are plenty of people who will disagree but I can only write from personal experience.
So how do you go about this? You need to go and register with an employment agency just like you would in the UK. Google everything you need to say (write it down), smile and hand over your drivers licence etc and ultimately explain you want to work and learn French.
I would suggest this for other jobs as well – whatever you can do. Ultimately it is open to you. Yes your French ‘dream’ (is anyone living a dream? What is this even?!) may not have been filing or working in a chocolate factory (hold the phone!) but you will learn French, you will get all your papers very quickly and if you don’t like it you can go and do something else. Plus that pot of money you may have come over with, might actually see you right for your actual real life retirement.
Look at it this way you will be paid for learning French. You will be interacting and being amongst the society you have chosen to live in. Oh and you might actually enjoy yourself.
Mr Normandy had, let’s be honest, piss poor French. I mean one year we went to Brittany (9 years ago) and he used to say “bonsoir” to the lady in the morning as he genuinely thought it was another way to say “bonjour”. He would also just repeat what the French person would say followed by “oui, oui, oui”! Classic example at a tourist attraction woman says “bienvenue” he replies “bienvenue”. So we’ve established Mr Normandy’s level of French was zero.
Get this. He now takes the piss out of my accent and word order. How very dare he! He walked into an agency, as bold as brass and within a few weeks was offered several jobs e.g manning a digger for fibre optic cables 25,000 euros a year. Ta muchly. Granted he had to wing it in an interview and one interviewer was mildly put off he couldn’t speak French, however, they needed people with experience. He turned it down as how much speaking would that involve? Not much I would wager.
He got a job as a mason (builder). He phoned up after seeing an ad and eventually we worked out they wanted him to try out for the day. They didn’t hang up even with him handing the phone over to me. I didn’t want to be a builder but they still threw us a bone!
They gave him the job and whilst it was certainly an experience, the hours were very long and not what he wanted. They also offered him a permanent contract and were most upset when he left. He thanked them for the opportunity and went looking for something a little more semi-retired.
He then worked for a landscaping company (his natural role) and again was offered a full time position.
But whatever your background, I think the same principles apply and the same mindset. If you want to, you will and can get a job here in Normandy, France. There are several ways of going about this but my advice would be to contact the following:-
Pole Emploi (job centre) – here you may be able to attend an intensive language course free of charge and with the added bonus of being paid to go there!).
Local Paper/Newspaper – there are many adverts in our local paper each week.
Newspapers On Line – don’t forget to like your local newspapers on facebook as they often advertise in this way and also the local buy and sell French groups.
On line agencies – Indeed, jobrapido and this is why you should get French TV! They advertise on all these sites! And don’t forget there are lots of ‘remote’ jobs advertised on the UK versions on these agencies.
Signs – there is a huge sign near us with a permanent recruiting banner for a pharmaceutical factory.
Volunteer – go and see your Mairie, food bank, school and library. I saw one advert asking for French speakers to help with newly placed immigrants/refugees into the country to take the shopping, explain the system. I am still working out the systems but I would have loved to have done this. Mind you, I think I could do with a volunteer helping me! I digress. No, you are not going to get paid but you will get some experience and confidence and will look good on any letter of motivation and CV.
Cold calling – I personally have my eyes on a local firm that I am going to ask for one day a week filing or doing their social media during term time for whatever they want to pay me to improve my French. People have snorted at this but they can only say no can’t they? I’m not all zen like but I am a believer in positive thinking and the law of attraction believe you’ve got this and you will!
Now there is nothing wrong with starting up a business but the whole grass cutting, gite changeover and all that jazz is a small over filled pond. You’ll be chasing after the same business – the English speaking community. Your net is then far reduced and you are reliant on their income. If you can come up with something original which will entice the French as well as the English then great – but that is very tricky. The French have an entirely different mind set. They are not massive consumers and they make do. They aren’t going out to have a cream tea although they will queue endlessly for a sausage. If its food and hand made and they like it you will be onto something. Either way wait and see for yourself and observe before you start chucking money at a venture.
I hope you have found this in some way useful. I have included some handy links at the end of this post. If you have any other tips, please feel free to share them in the comments below. Bonne Chance!
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