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Working in France

Your guide to expat life in France. La vie est belle for expats in France.

Want to work in France?

With short working hours and long holidays, France offers expats an enviable work-life balance. The country’s main industries are agriculture (most notably wine), fashion and tourism – Paris is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

Business in France

It may have a ‘work to live’ attitude, but this hasn’t stopped France from becoming one of the world’s leading economies, while Paris is one of Europe’s largest urban economies. The government is heavily involved in business and there are many regulatory processes. Despite this, starting a business in France is relatively straightforward and a good legal framework protects investors. The country has an unemployment rate of around 9%, but the workforce is highly skilled, and the services sector is dynamic.

French business culture is hierarchical. Business interactions are formal and ceremonial, especially at the outset. Despite the top-down structure, there’s a lot of healthy debate and deliberation before a decision is made. Women are treated equally and hold many senior positions.

The French value their privacy and there are clear boundaries between people’s personal and professional lives. It’s best not to discuss your private life in the office or ask colleagues questions about theirs.

Practical details

French is the main language, while English is rarely spoken in business circles. Business hours are usually from 8.30 to 17.30, Monday to Friday. France has a standard 35-hour working week set by the government. And many companies have flexible hours, giving employees the option to work shorter days or take Friday afternoons off.

Appearance is important in France and business dress is stylish, formal and understated. Men tend to wear dark suits while women choose tailored suits or elegant dresses. Many people wear accessories to pull together an outfit, but they avoid anything too gaudy.

A brisk, light handshake is the standard greeting for both men and women. Friends and close colleagues will kiss on one or both cheeks. It’s polite to address people by their title followed by their surname. If you don’t know someone’s name, use ‘Madame’ or ‘Monsieur’. Gifts aren’t expected and it’s better to express your appreciation by hosting a dinner or social event. If you’re invited to a French colleague’s home, take flowers, quality chocolates or liqueur.

Expat salaries in France

Earning potential for expats in France is roughly the same as in other Western European countries, but it can be considerably less than in Asia and the Middle East.

Top tips for working in France

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in France.

The job market is very limited and competitive. Speaking French is a big asset.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you are aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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