Get a job as an expat in France with no qualifications

If, like me, you don’t have any formal education, there is still hope. You don’t need to be a software developer, engineer, marketing wizard, or top business person to get a job and live in your dream country or city.

There is one thing you possess which people all over the world want: your native tongue.

That’s right! Companies in Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, you name it; they want native English speakers to help their international development. While it’s true that everyone speaks the Queen’s now, it’s extremely difficult for anyone to ever truly speak like a native.

This is where you come in; the top jobs will almost always be reserved for people who have studied to do them. Business development managers and the like will still tend to need formal education, but there are still a host of opportunities for people like you and me to find work, simply by taking advantage of our biggest asset.

If you don’t speak the local language

It can be daunting to go and live in another country when you don’t speak the language. Especially when you’re not sure what you’ll do for work. But there are still jobs out there if you don’t yet know the difference between merde and mère de.

1) Those who can, teach!

A classroom

If you do not speak any of the local language, the best way to find work is to become a teacher. “I’m not qualified to be a teacher,” I hear you say, and it’s a perfectly understandable point of view. You’ve probably never considered teaching as a job, but there is a relatively simple qualification you can earn which is like a golden ticket.

You can start with a weekend TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course. This gives you the basic skills you need to teach your mother-tongue to speakers of other languages. From there you can supplement your certificate with further qualifications in grammar and advanced teaching techniques.

In some countries, the moment you have a basic TEFL certificate you will be eligible to teach in schools. In other places you may need to gain a little experience before providing formal education. That being said, almost anywhere in the world you’ll be able to find work giving what’s known as “conversation classes”. This is when you simply give students experience of speaking with a native. This way they can learn the nuances of pronunciation and comprehension right from the horse’s mouth.

Speaking specifically about where I live, Paris, there are dozens of English schools which are always on the look-out for new teaching talent. The most well-known is Wall Street English, but there are many others such as Formalangues, Adomlingua, and Speaking Agency.

Another option in France, and one that my sister did, is English speaking nannying. Not sure what this is? It’s exactly what it says on the tin. You look after children and speak to them in English. This is a perfect way to take that gap year you always wanted in France. No qualifications necessary. Just demonstrate a capacity for working with children (babysitting your neighbour’s kids does count) and there’s absolutely no reason why you won’t be considered for a position. There are agencies you can work with to be placed with families such as Babylangues, Mary Poppins Services, Baby Speaking.

Another way of generating a little extra work is to give one-on-one tutoring. There a number of different ways you can find students such as putting notices up in local shops, asking your local friends if they know anyone looking for a tutor, or even posting on online message boards. Here are some places you can post your adverts online: Language Connexion, Superprof.

2) Work in customer support/community management

Your language can also come in very handy in terms of customer support jobs. Most companies are not happy simply to provide support in multiple languages, they want native speakers.

Generally you’ll still need a bit of experience working in customer service and have a basic level of computer skills, but it can also be a gateway to a higher position within the company, as it was for me. I started in customer support, but as one of only two native English speakers in the company it wasn’t long before I was helping with a whole load of other things. This eventually led to working on some really interesting projects as well as managing English speaking communities and working the company Twitter account.

Your best bet for finding English customer support or similar roles is to scout the local start-ups. Most such companies have a strong focus on growth and their ambition means that they are looking outside of France long before they’ve even reached their local potential. Due to the fact that such businesses often operate with a small number of staff, they are also therefore the best way to go if you’re looking to use it as a stepping stone to bigger things.

There are a number of places where you can find a wide range of start-up jobs in France: HIRE, Angel List, Join Startups, Startup4Me, 1001 Startups, AZERTY Jobs.

3) Give guided tours

Much more inventive than the average tour guide, Abbie illustrates his talks with photos of the area.

Tourism in France is big business. People love visiting almost every part of France, from the beaches of Normandy to the romantic streets of Paris, and from the castles of La Loire to the sunny Riviera. And guess what, the majority of people who visit don’t speak a word of French… well maybe bonjour and merci but that’s about it.

As such it is possible to earn money by giving guided tours. You’ll obviously need to learn about the places you’re showing people, but it doesn’t take too long to learn enough to get by. You can work freelance, asking your contacts back home to refer people to you and by putting adverts online. One particularly cool site to use is With Locals where you can list your activity and the cost of taking part.

Alternatively you could work through a company that provides you with people or groups to show round. Some popular tour styles in Paris include bicycle or even segway! Popular tour companies include Fat Tire Tours, and Localers.

If you do speak the local language

It is much easier to find work in another country if you speak the local lingo. This opens up a number of different opportunities for you and it may therefore be worth doing a bit of swotting-up before buying your plane ticket.

For example, before I moved to Paris I already spoke a little French. Admittedly it was not anything close to a professional level and consisted mainly of curse words, but it was nevertheless very helpful when beginning my search for a job.

1) Get a job as a translator

If you have a good comprehension of the local language, one of the most common ways to find work, aside from teaching, is to work as a translator. On a basic level, this kind of work requires a decent understanding of the language from which you will translate, as well as a capability to write in English too. Of course, the more complex the source text, the higher your level in the second language must be.

There are a couple of different ways that you can find work as a translator; either working freelance, job to job, or alternatively by finding a position in a translation agency or as an in-house translator for an international company.

Working as a freelance translator works pretty much in the same way as freelance tutoring. You can put up a notice in local establishments, find work through your local friends, and also post adverts on online message boards or marketplaces such as Domicile Emploi, Codeur, and Textmaster.

To work for a translation agency you must be very good at translations. You must be fluent in your second language and be able to work on complex texts. These are probably the hardest types of translation positions to find due to the broad range of work you’ll be required to work on.

In my opinion, the best type of work to look for (and what I do personally) is as an in-house translator; Finding such a position helps when you have a high amount of knowledge about the field. This helps to set you apart from other candidates. If you know a lot about cars and you’re applying to work as a translator for a website about cars, you’re going to be offered the job ahead of an identical candidate who doesn’t know a spark plug from a carburetor.

Some time after starting work where I am now, my boss told me that there was another candidate who was perfectly bilingual (whereas I wasn’t) and much more qualified than myself, but that my knowledge of our specific field (10 years playing the game) made me much more suited to the position and is why they offered me the job.

2) Find a job in a bar or restaurant

As we spoke about in our previous post on this topic, tourism in France is huge. There are some places where people will look at you funny if you DON’T speak English, such is the amount of foreigners who visit.

One of the easiest jobs to get in France is therefore as a waiter. If, as well as being native English, you have enough French to get by with the locals you’ll be high on almost any coffee shop or restaurants hiring list. There is one chain of pub/restaurants which somewhat specialise in native English staff members, FrogPubs.

A French waiter

Alternatively you could work on a holiday resort where there are all kinds of job types you could go for such as an activities coordinator or general holiday rep. You can look for jobs on holiday resorts on websites such as PGL, Acorn Adventure, Work A Season, and Eurocamp.

In conclusion

Moving to your dream city and getting a job as an expat is therefore totally within your reach, even if like me, you have no qualifications. There are many opportunities out there such as teaching and translating, you just need to know where to look. Good luck out there!

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