Teaching English in France, Is it Right for You?

by Gyl Golden

Being an English teacher in France may not necessarily be for everyone. There are certain characteristics and motivations that might suggest whether or not you’d enjoy living and teaching in France. Decide for yourself how many of the following statements apply to you to discover if teaching in France is the right job for you.

Eiffel Tower France Paris

1. You enjoy or are curious to learn and discover French culture.

Being an English teacher in France is ideal if you want to study French, join a wine club, learn about the typical local French cuisine and/or read classic French literature with discussion groups. These are what make France shine and a large part of the culture. In many ways it is still the “Old World,” but this is what has allowed France to maintain its old heritage which draws people from all over the world.

2. Earning a lot of money quickly is not your primary motivation.

If you want or need to earn a lot of money fast, then France is not the right country for you. The best countries with high earning potential are the United Arab Emirates and other wealthy Middle Eastern countries. While you can definitely earn a decent living with enough money to do some side traveling, you will not become rich. That said, the cost of living is reasonable and health care is typically provided so it all depends on what’s most important to you. To live and teach in France is not about the money, but the quality of life.

Harbour port of Menton, France

3. You are willing to be flexible and patient with timelines and accomplishing tasks (especially when the government is involved).

This statement applies to living in almost any country as a foreigner. You will have to wade through some government bureaucracy if you want to live and work in a foreign country long term. Also, almost everything will take longer at first because you won’t be familiar with how things work in your host country.

4. You desire to speak and/or study French.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you speak French as soon as you show up. Most of us expatriates didn’t when we arrived. What matters is that you have a willingness to try as well as ultimately speak/learn the language. There are some countries where this is not a huge deal; the locals are more flexible and accommodating to English speaking expats – Southeast Asia comes to mind in this case. In France, however, if you plan to live here, the locals will expect an effort on your part in terms of communication. And indeed, you should want to acquire French if you plan to live here long term. It’s only through language that one discovers the richness a culture has to offer.

Paris, France

5. You enjoy the small face to face interactions throughout the day that may slow things down.

So this may not necessarily apply to Paris, but most elsewhere in France, it’s the small exchanges throughout the day that indeed make the day enjoyable. So yes, when standing in a line at your neighborhood fish shop, the owner or one of his employees will stop and chat with each of the patrons while serving them. The time adds up by the way; it will take longer than if he or she just asked what they wanted and handed it over. Some expats detest this sort of thing, but it’s not going to change. Therefore, decide if this very normal type of situation is something you can appreciate on a daily basis.

6. You have the patience and are willing to follow the process of finding a teaching position.

Finding an ESL teaching position in France is not the same as in many other countries. This is not the type of country where you can spontaneously show up and immediately earn cash in two weeks. It is one of the most popular locations for all types of meaningful travel opportunities. You need a game plan (which is laid out for you in part two of this article). This requires more rigor during the job search and some money for start-up costs. That said, despite France's high unemployment rate, it’s becoming easier and easier to secure a job.

Rocamadour, France

Should You Teach In France?

If the majority of the items mentioned above suits your disposition then you already have the right mindset for living in France. If many of the items mentioned above turned you off, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try France. It does mean you should question your motivations for wanting to be in France as well as be willing and prepared to change your mindset. One person cannot change a culture or a country; it is you who will have to change.