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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a very simple work-related question for everyone who has come to France.

How many of you have managed to settle into a French way of life work-wise? I mean, how many of you managed to get a job in the French system (I'm talking about having no help from other expats or their communities) ? Only speaking French, only dealing with French people?

Could we have a show of hands to see the percentage of people here who have gone solo and succeeded? For those of you who had no help, who had to deal with the ANPE, who had to struggle along in a dodgy French accent and get interviews and finally a job, how was it for you? How did you do it? What do you have to do to be accepted into the French system?

I'm asking because I'm having difficulty getting a job, or finding a course I want to study. I don't know any expats, only French people. I'm not unhappy that way, I just wan't to know how to be accepted into the French bureaucratic system.

I have good French friends and they don't really think of me as a foreigner, but talking to the forces of administration makes me feel like an alien with three heads. I get the impression they look at me as an aberration of nature who somehow ended up in France. They seem determined not to let me integrate into their society despite the fact they moan about people who don't try. Is this normal?
 

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I have good French friends and they don't really think of me as a foreigner, but talking to the forces of administration makes me feel like an alien with three heads. I get the impression they look at me as an aberration of nature who somehow ended up in France. They seem determined not to let me integrate into their society despite the fact they moan about people who don't try. Is this normal?
Talk to your French friends. I'm betting that none of them enjoy dealing with the administration either. Certainly none of my French friends do (including my husband, who is French).

Consider, too, the current "debate over French identity" which is causing nothing but controversy amongst the French themselves. It's kind of like the old line on pornography, "I can't tell you what it is, but I sure know it when I see it."

Now, in my situation, I kind of cheated (but that's sort of the French way) in that my husband started his own business and so I'm now employed by our company (of which I am a part owner). As "directeur financier" (got to pick my own title) it was up to me to enroll myself in all those nifty "caisses" - but that's all relatively simple and involves little or no contact with real live fonctionnaires.

And ever since I actually got my French nationality, people have been insisting to me that I'll "never be really French." So, to a certain extent, you can't win.

So, what part of the French bureaucratic system are they trying to keep you out of?
Cheers,
Bev
 

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As an observer of French culture, as I don't live and work there, my impression is that the French people are tied together with an invisible cord of being French, and their Frenchness - to do with identity, culture and esp language - instinctively casts suspicious eyes on any foreigners and anyone who isn't native French. It may in part be racism, but they can be equally dismissive of white English expats as migrants from Africa and Asia. That may explain why jobs tend to go to the French instead of often better qualified foreigners, and many occupations are protected behind the wall of French civil service partly designed to keep out foreigners, such as teaching, which is all to do with perpetuating French identity among coming generations.
Don't get me wrong, the French are as hospitable, generous and friendly as any, but there seems to remain certain reserve, certain barrier that prevents us outsiders from truly becoming one of them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Yup, all this sounds pretty familiar. As I say, I have no bother with ordinary French folk in a friendly setting, but put them in an office and it all goes pear-shaped. My partner is also French and agrees (and she works in an office, haha).

My beef is primarily with the ANPE, but it could be anything anywhere and I've had bother elsewhere.

They struck me off their list of chômeurs because I forgot to update my situation donkeys ago (big deal). I tried registering again but their system is shoddy. They seem to enjoy doing everything by computer but my details have been blocked online for ages. I should really register again but I can't register as a new job seeker and they don't seem to want to reopen my old details. They don't reply to emails despite advertising an address for that very purpose. I refuse to waste my time on the phone (ANPE on the phone, no way!) and the thought of dealing with the old hags in person, turning up without an appointment...well, you know how it is here.

Before when I was registered they sent me to external agencies, for no apparent reason other than to waffle about my CV. They can't conjure up a job I want out of thin air so they're generally useless. I talked about this at many pointless ANPE interviews but my opinions were waved away and scoffed at. I have qualifications, speak good French, am able to study further, etc, but they tried to shove me into the retail sector against my wishes, i.e, they just don't listen. I know they're thinking, "anglo-saxon git, let's get him flipping burgers". It's frustrating because I need a long term plan if I'm going to think about staying in this country, but they're just so unhelpfull, non-supportive and unfriendly to the extent you feel they're doing it on purpose.

My only idea was to get registered again to see if I could get some funding to do a course. Even that's not straight forward. I asked about courses before and the woman said "Oh no, it doesn't work like that. You can't just pick what you want to do off a list and go." I saw the list on her table, AFPA and the Greta but she wouldn't give it to me when I asked for a copy.

No, of course not, how silly of me!

I wasn't even getting benefits so I guess they were annoyed about not being able to hassle me into the McJobs, so they had to get some kind of compensatory revenge instead. I got the impression they were hacked off I wanted to have a long term goal and a good future (especially in their country) because they were tired of working at the ANPE. Not really my fault they don't like their jobs. One other woman there wanted to spend all day quizzing me about certain French words and if I knew what they really meant. I quickly realised I spoke better French than she did. She couldn't spell neither.

Anyway, I got fed up with the lot of them for a while. I'm only thinking about trying to access some government dosh to get on a training course. Can this be done? I think I'll get better info on here than from the ANPE!

In an unrelated old story, another lady at the mairie tried to convince me Britain was not part of the European Union because it doesn't have the euro as its currency. I had to laugh. How do these people get hired?
 

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In an unrelated old story, another lady at the mairie tried to convince me Britain was not part of the European Union because it doesn't have the euro as its currency. I had to laugh. How do these people get hired?
Believe it or not, competitive examinations! Heavens knows what they test.

Actually, France isn't noted for sending chomeurs to school to learn anything worthwhile. (Germany is actually quite a bit better in this regard. Their Arbeitsamt is really quite good.) But I wouldn't hold my breath trying to get them to pay for you taking up a new trade.

Even when they do, it works a bit like the health care system - you pay up front for your courses, and then when you have the little certificate of completion, you get fully or partially reimbursed.

France really isn't into career planning. You study what you decide you want to be when you're 18 years old and then that's what you are, and that's the kind of job you look for. Theoretically, it's possible to go back to school to change careers, but I haven't heard of anyone actually doing that.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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As an observer of French culture, as I don't live and work there, my impression is that the French people are tied together with an invisible cord of being French, and their Frenchness - to do with identity, culture and esp language - instinctively casts suspicious eyes on any foreigners and anyone who isn't native French. It may in part be racism, but they can be equally dismissive of white English expats as migrants from Africa and Asia. That may explain why jobs tend to go to the French instead of often better qualified foreigners, and many occupations are protected behind the wall of French civil service partly designed to keep out foreigners, such as teaching, which is all to do with perpetuating French identity among coming generations.
Don't get me wrong, the French are as hospitable, generous and friendly as any, but there seems to remain certain reserve, certain barrier that prevents us outsiders from truly becoming one of them.
Well, yeah, you can't become one of them unless you have French blood. So, that's pretty cut and dry. IMHO I would be happy just being in Bevs shoes, I don't need to be 100% French French. I'm not 100% American because just because I was born here my parents were born in Europe (well I do have some French Blood but probably not enough - but that's not a big concern to me) so I can't be full on all American (and would NEVER want to be) a land that was once great but now basically full of ignorant people who are letting their own Government rob them blind. They take our tax money and instead of giving us top level Health Care they start war after war after war for God knows what (well, we all know it's oil, one way or another) while Obama gives us this "Change We Can Believe In" mush and everybody PRETENDS he's changed things, he's just a much brighter (not hard to be), better speaking GWB (and I vote for the man, Obama, won't get fooled again on that one -ha). If you have permission to work in France, and have French health care, and you're children are considered 100% (or near 100%) French, be happy. At least you live in a country that cares about it's own people. When in doubt, remember these 3 things - US Health Care vs French Health Care, TGV vs Amtrak, Parisian Mass Transit system vs our junkie systems (pick ANY big city) When a Brit (or whoever) moves to Spain and slowly assimilates (like they do in France) do they eventually become 100% Spanish? I don't think so. Why should it be any different in France?? It shouldn't, makes no sense to me. Zoom
 

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Don't worry, you aren't the only one. It is extremely difficult to find a job and to understand or deal with the fonctionnaires.

I was lucky and found a French company hiring for a new office in the US and through the interview, jollied my way into having them place me in their Paris office instead. But that wasn't the end of it.

I have had to "do it alone" as you've quoted. It definitely has not been easy. I've had to deal with bad fonctionnaires before, but the worse was at the DDTEFP (Direction Départementale du Travail, de l'Emploi et de la Formation Professionnelle). I went to their office (taking days off work and waiting an hours in the cold, mind you) 3 times - getting a different list of documents required every time - before the 4th time I finally got someone different who said I had to go to the Prefecture instead. Even then they were wrong and I ended up contacting an immigration lawyer to get advice. It took me about 5 months just to get the DDTEFP to accept my documents, not neccessarily approve them!

My advice, be passive. You are going to run from office to office, search and be disappointed, wait on the phone for 30 minutes just to have them hang up on your automatically...just be passive. Let it happen because unfortunately, we can't do anything about it. They have the red pen, they make the decisions, and you must bend to them. Let it pass, say "c'est la vie!" and keep trying. Don't try and take shortcuts, don't try and be sneaky or crafty - that'll only make it harder. At some point if you've followed their web of instructions, hyprocitical advice and spent all your money on photocopies, they will let you pass.

Try searching for companies based in your home country that are international, trust only the government for information (that way you have support for the advice you're following - the ANAEM, DDTEFP, Prefecture, OMNI), get everything in writing, and keep telling yourself it's worth it. If you're a European Union citizen, trust me - it's easier for you than the rest.

Good luck!
 

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Start throwing stones now if you like ....

I'm sorry but I get excessively cross when I read posts from people who don't want to get their head around doing things the French way. I have sympathy for people who want to know what the French "way" is, so that they can comply, and that poses difficulties in itself.

Yes, we do all live in a global, free-market environment, but what attracts us to make the move from "home" is an alternative lifestyle elsewhere, or a drive from work/family etc. I'm an advocate of "when in Rome", and, basically, if you don't want to play their game, then just B* off back where you came from !

Of course there are ways of beating them at their own game, but the fundamentals are that you have to learn their rules and then manipulate them, in the way that the French do themselves.

I have run up against my share of administrative frustrations with bureaucracy, but I have also learned that once you keel over and admit defeat, there is an endless supply of people willing to prove why France is the ONLY place to live, and to make it possible for us to continue here.

To be honest, I do not have any problem at all with the "natives" who feel that, whilst the UK has become a "sink estate" for other European Nationals, and that discerning Brits wish to escape, THEY should not have to bear the cost or effort for their integration.

I'm sorry, but if you failed to meet their demand for paperwork in a timely manner - which they DO make eminently clear, then it's not THEIR fault, and you should be grovelling to get yourself back into the system. You cannot expect them to bail you out if they do not see that you are willing to make some effort and investment in yourself - why should they invest in you if you're not prepared to invest in yourself ?

OK OK - I know this is probably highly controversial, but my advice is to stop wimping & if you feel you're getting a raw deal then go back where you came from to see if you get a better deal there - my bet would be that you won't!

Any, that's said my piece for now.

Hils
 

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Actually, well said, hils!

The French make a big deal to us foreigners about "assimilation" and to be honest about it, it's just like the Borg (if you're a Star Trek fan) - "resistance is futile." I spent seven years fighting the system and hating France and the French until I figured out that the Borg are right - it IS futile to resist, and kind of pointless.

Once you start trying to learn the system and going with the flow, you find ways to at least have some fun with it. But first you have to accept that any simple request is going to take, on average, three trips to whatever office you have to deal with. Add two or three more if you resist or fight back in any way - especially if you point out contradictions in the system.

The other thing is that ANPE (now called Pole d'emploi) is not really an office you should put alot of faith in. If you're off the chomage rolls, then you really shouldn't rely on them for either finding a job or getting some sort of alternative training to qualify for a different sort of job. Check the ministry that regulates or oversees the line of work you want to get yourself into.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Thanks Bev {mwah} lol
 

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Good for you Hils I agree with every word.
& there I was cowering away thinking I was about to be shot down for heresy or something

Just to be fair, there's a {mwah} there for you too xxx
 

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I have to say I also agree with you hils. Maybe its because before I came to France I was a state employee in the US, so I understand the sometimes silliness people are put through for no good reason other than because "this is the way things are done."

I've been in France for about a week and I've already had an experience with the "system." I had to register and pay for my classes here in France, so I had to go to one woman to have her check, copy, stamp off on, and sign my documents. I was then told to go to another person in another office to arrange payment. I was given a paper by this woman and told I had to go to another building to pay, then bring the receipt back to her. I went and payed, brought the receipt back, and was then told that the director had to sign off on the paper. When this was done I would receive notification in the mail, which I had to bring back to another person, and then I would be able to receive my student card. Now when I went to school in the US all I had to do to get a student card was to prove I went to the school and the card was given to you right there, but hey, I'm in France so when in France...

I just take it as a part of life. It's no different than being in a hurry at the DMV or the bank in the US and there is only 1 window open, and it's the busiest time of the day. If you need the services what can you do?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Hills, I forgot to update my situation, what's the big deal? It doesn't cost ANY time OR money to just leave me on the list, does it? I don't receive allocations. I'm not involved in any retraining or any other programs. It's a name on a virtual list and that's all. They've crossed me off the list because I forgot. How old are these people, 12? If childess pettyness qualifies as a reason to isolate someone even further from a life and a country they're trying to integrate themselves into, then yeah, you can bet I'm not happy at all.

Do you never forget anything Hills? What's it like being perfect? By the way, for your information, I'm not here because of an alternative lifestyle, I'm here because I love a French girl who couldn't integrate into British life. Foie gras, warm weather, wine and barn conversions are quite superficial reasons to jump ship, but for the most part that's why the Brits are here, whatever floats their boat, but I am not in the same one. I didn't bail out on my country because it's a dump and I can't be arsed trying to help to make it better neither, this is strictly a love story.

As for the b* off back home idea, sounds like the perfect formula for RACISM if you ask me. With such an argument you can justify anything against anyone with any old crap reason because at the end of the day one can just b* off back home, it's wonderfully elegant. What about the French who get shafted by the ANPE, Hills? Where do they b* off back home to? As for not bearing the cost of integration, don't you think it's slightly unrealistic to let foreigners into a country and there be no costs attached? The only way to do it would be to not to let them enter in the first place, and being from a country in the EU, a concept that France loves, I have as much right as anyone to come here and try to access government help.

It took me weeks and weeks just to get enrolled (from a form I completed in five minutes flat.) Why should one be happy or content with such blatant nonsense just because "It's the French way"? I don't see French people being happy about it because they themselves are French and it's their way. These services aren't free, people do pay for them you know, in one way or another. My French partner never ceases to moan about the way things are done here (and she's a fonctionnaire too), are foreigners not permitted this option? Such a concept seems blatantly racist to me.

As for crossing me off the list because I forgot to update the situation, it's hardly a balanced decision is it? I wasn't even warned beforehand. Just gone. In any case, they did nothing to help me during my time on their books. Again, why should one be content with it because it's the French way? Sometimes when people complain they have a point. Part of improving any society is saying "Hey, this is crap, let's make it better" and not saying "Oh well, it's always been like that, just swallow it down and shut your mouth." How, for example, do they know my phone/internet connection hadn't packed in? I don't even have my own transport, the bus service is non-existant where I am and it's too far to walk. These aren't excuses but represent very real possibilities that were completely ignored. As it happens I simply forgot (Yes, human, shoot me), so no, I'm not going to be happy about it.

The ANPE sends god knows how many people to agencies like Retravailler and INFREP and who knows how many others. These are leeches who bleed the public purse dry in the guise of "helping" people back into work. They do nothing of the kind. They are there to put salaries into a few privileged pockets in order to perpertuate a grand lie. You've got some idiot telling you how to rehash your CV (yeah, because THAT's the reason that so many people are unemployed you know!) If you pay taxes in this country you should be very concerned, irrespective of your nationailty.

The fact is that they couldn't care less. I could have floated away in a hot air balloon and they would have been none the wiser and wouldn't have bothered to find out WHY I hadn't been in touch. I could have even been dead. Had I come back from the dead they would have still told me I had been struck off the list. Simply because they are a bunch of w*.

It saddens me people are willing to content themselves with lack of progress because "that's the way it has always been".

You should read "Vous croyez que ça m'arrange d'être chômeuse?" by Patricia Sudolski.
 

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Wow !

Believe me, I'm not advocating that you should roll over and die (or even float off in a hot air balloon), and your love story is touching ... BUT ...

it IS true that French bureaucracy is a nightmare, but - actually - so is English bureaucracy, which sought to meddle BIG-time with my life, which is one of the reasons I am here. Admittedly, I don't know your actual circumstances, but I have experienced very similar DISadvantageous circumstances in both the UK and France. I find France more benevolent and sympathetic, and certainly more gracious, than I ever found in the UK (being a UK-born white educated national).

I potentially make apologies for my tirade, but your original posting read as a "whinge" and as an outrage against French (granted sometimes reluctant) hospitality, and I found that unacceptable, since, although we have every right to be here and to claim whatever is our due, we ARE still guests in this country.

The rational points you made were valid, but nothing extraordinary to those of us non-French who live in and within the French system. Yes, it can be frustrating; yes, it can all seem duplicated, pointless, small-minded - but this is not something which is exclusive to France.

In respect of my B* off comment: I directed it to yourself - namely a national (I presume) of a (supposedly) civilised and (perceived) advantaged European country. My comment was based upon the number of expats of many nationalities I have encountered here who keep telling me that their quality of life was much better in the "old" country !!!

I find it interesting that your reason for being in France is that your partner couldn't assimilate to British life. Do you not feel that perhaps you are having the same problem in reverse ?

Your comments about civil servants are possibly valid; I suspect their validity is not restricted only to French civil servants. But, as you have found yourself, if it is a question of keeping body, soul, hearth and family together, you do what you have to do. AND therein lies the nub of the matter; do what you have to do if you want the French system to support or assist you - OR go find somewhere else that will support you without you doing what you have to do - from my experience, it won't be the UK !

Get over it & play the game, or at least stop whingeing. Life's too short ...

Hils
 

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O - & as for progress, I do find that France is more progressive than the UK. I really feel strongly that "le peuple" has a voice which is heard to a far greater extent than in the UK.

It is surely no accident that "fair" inheritance rules were implemented by Napoleon, that non-religious education was implemented by Napoleon, and a multitude of other fair-minded advances over England & Wales have been implemented by French rule. It is surely not that French Law and ways of doing things is so extraordinarily bad that most of Europe (including Scotland and Ireland) has similar laws and ways of doing things. It is England & Wales that are the aberration in Europe (and possibly the world), and perhaps it is to our disadvantage that we maintain an empirical arrogance.

As before, "when in Rome ..."

Peace my friend ...

Hils
 

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Hils, UnLandais - we're not just guests - we're for the main part uninvited guests. ranting about the system achieves nothing apart from getting it of your chest. What can YOU do to change the system, and are you doing it? Maybe it's better to shout and scream in a darkened room rather than trade insults on this forum.

My wife and I admittedly have had few problems with administration here - but that might change as my wife chases her carte vitale now that she is an autoentrpreneur. Losing your patience when dealing with a fonctionnaire will probably only make matters worse - eventually most people come across a sympathetic one. Or find someone who knows someone who can pull strings - we have our contact in place if need be.

The only people to have given us problems are Orange/FT - but so far they have not implemented my response to their customer satisfaction survey as to how they might improve their service - I simply suggested they sack all the staff at the Orange/FT shop in town.

Isn't Napoleon also responsible for people driving on the right, and females giving birth lying down?

As a Scot I'll say this only once - I don't think England is an aberration but I have no truck with Brits who still remember the classic newspaper headline - thick fog in Channel - Europe cut off.

I also agree with Hils about expats declaring that life back home was better - they seem unable or unwilling to put 2 + 2 together.

Vive la France - but whether I'll be saying that when I'm back in Edinburgh for the France/Scotland rugby match is another matter - fortunately all my travel and accommodation costs are being paid for by some French friends - how do I do it?

I suppose I'll support the team that is playing attractive, attacking rugby.

As has been said - peace
 

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Dear Landais

If you rely on Pole emploi or ANPE to give you a real idea of France, this is wrong. France is composed of thousand of nationalities and ethnic background. We 've got a Hungarish President with an Italian wife. Job competition is so fierce today that is it increasingly difficult if you don't speak the language.

Depending on what you want to do as a profession, you can find a nice Bakery job without perfect French or even a High Flying Finance job where you will never speak French. But for "standard" jobs where interaction with co-workers or the public (customers) is needed , you need to speak the language. Counter example: I have a friend, Neil, A British guys who went solo in TV and Sat Dish installation in a remote part of central France, where no one who have thought to settle down. And he is successful, by himself. Solo.

Of course he did not speak good French when he started, all his customers were French, but being the only guy with the knowledge, the tools, and the courage (working on roofs all day), he made it (and he did not take any lessons).

My advice,
1- look for a downgraded job that will sustain you, learn the tricks, and you'll succeed.
2- value your skills and expertise before the language
3- if you are highly qualified, look for a job in your country of origin .

Alternatively enter "English" (anglais) in your key words on a web search. See what I found for you in your region
Offres d'emploi anglais - Aquitaine | optioncarriere.com

good luck
 
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