Surprising facts about working in France!

Hurry! Finally I got my first job in France (after months and months of searching) and so I also got already my few observations about how those French people work…

Because it is my first real job contract in France (still CDD not my ideal CDI but you can not have everything), I pay attention to every little thing that concerns working in France because I want to understand better. So, so far, I figured out few interesting facts about working in France and I shall share them with you. But it would be amazing if you can add your observations, experience or tips for me to fit better in the French company. Thank you in advance and below are my notes…

Things that surprised me about working in a French company:

  • It really takes ages to get the job (from the 1st interview up till the job offer). The French prove they are quite slow in taking those decisions but also they follow many formalities and they properly check references to make sure everything is ok. They also seem to read the motivation letter (don’t even think about applying for a job without motivation letter cause it’s not well seen by the French) Anyways, at the end of the day, it is a big decision for a company to choose a good employee so let them take their time yet please let them hire us.
    It takes time to find a job
    It takes time to find a job
  • Two main types of job contract: CDD and CDI. The first one is the job with the end date and the second one is the job offer without the end date. Each type will have a probation period. For CDD, it’s usually one month, for CDI it’s usually 3 months. Of course, it might depend on the company. The thing that surprised me was the fact that after this probation period (if stated in the contract), the employer can extend it…so they test you more and more.
  • Job benefits in the typical French company: restaurant vouchers, contribution to transport and mutuelle…i love you France. Also, many big companies offer also built in canteen which serves proper meals and contribute to this.
  • The real one hour or even 1.5 hours lunch break seemed so long for me but now I realize it is needed and we should take an example from French who take their time and eat and rest so they are recharged for work. It really surprised me that the employers encourage you to take the real break and eat well rather than a sandwich in front of computer (my London’ experience).
    Lunch break French way
    Lunch break French way
  • RTT – what is that? So, normally all French should work 35 hours per week but if the company requires 39 hour week than the employee get a day or two days off per month.
  • There are some cakes involved when people have birthdays and this I understand but there is an informal rule that when you join the company you should also bring a cake. And here I was very, very shy to do it as at the beginning you don’t know many people to call: hey guys I made a cake, come and help yourself… smacznego
    Cakes at work - a very nice custom
    Cakes at work – a very nice custom
  • The French work hard. I confirm.
    French people work hard
    French people work hard
  • Médecine du travail. I think this exists in many countries that you have to get the confirmation from doctor that there are no health issues for you to work. I understood but I didn’t realize that for the office work you need it as well.
    Obligatory visit at the doctor of work
    Obligatory visit at the doctor of work
  • Good news: taxes! France decided to change the way the people pay taxes. Now, it is the employers who will pay the taxes for their employees…so much easier with (I hope) zero hassle.
  • More red tape! When you work in France, you have to have your social security number. If you have never had it, you need to apply for it here. You need to fill the form, gather the requested documents such as a copy of your passport, copy of the contract and the payslip as well as the confirmation that you have been living in France etc
    Direction - Career!
    Direction – Career!

Anything else? I guess other things are quite common and specific to the particular industry and type of work. I tried to share few interesting facts I came across when starting a job in France. How about you? Did you notice anything particular and surprising about French way of working. Please share with me. Bon travail!


I am a Polish girl who felt in love with Lyon from the first sight! Jadorelyon is my way of exploring France, the French way of life, their cuisine, sharing the experience from visiting beautiful places in France. Jadorelyon is my new way of adding some Polish influence into French lives and watching on how they like it...

6 thoughts on “Surprising facts about working in France!

  1. Know that the employee can quit his CDD (limited contract) if he finds a CDI (unlimited contract) in another company : the employee must respect a notice whose duration is calculated from the total duration of the CDD, but this notice cannot exceed 2 weeks.

  2. I guess you could definitely add on to your article and explain already the abbreviations. Otherwise, I confirm it’s a general overview. I just finished a CDD and will be able to share more when I pass the first part – search and accept. Good luck at your job.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. Noone asked me for more detailed overview. I would be happy to see any contribution from you if you wish to share. I guess once I m more settled in my role and french company I will have new observations to share. Fingers crossed.

  3. Tout ce que vous dites est vrai pour un employé standard. Par contre si vous êtes cadre ou cadre supérieur les périodes d’essais peuvent être 4 mois renouvelée une fois pour 3 mois. Ce qui porte la période d’essai à 7 mois. Et la règle des 35 heures ne s’applique pas.

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