Living and working in France, expat tales

We are lucky to have an international team with 12 different nationalities and offices in 4 countries. Amy, Caroline, William, Fhenon, Ruben and Goretti are all from another country or bi-national. Today, they live in Nantes and work for iAdvize. We asked them to share their stories and thoughts about what it’s like to live and work in France when you’re a foreigner! The perks and the realities :-) 

Meet Amy from Ireland

Where are you from? Tell us about where you grew up.

I was born in Cork City, County Cork which we like to call the real capital of Ireland. Cork is known for having its own language and a very unique sense of humour. It’s a small city but with a lot of heart and we pride ourself on our city culture. It’s a very historic and artistic city which is great as you will find many different cultures and races. The city has also become one of the biggest tech cities in Ireland, with the likes of Apple, Dell, EMC VmWare having their European HQs there; this has lead to great opportunities for the city.

How did you end up in Nantes? 

I followed a boy here! My boyfriend had been living abroad for over 7 years between the UK and Ireland, and after some time he wanted to return home. Moving to France was not something I was overly excited about so we had many options to way up. Paris was great for me as I had more options with international companies, but Paris living I was not so keen on. Then Nantes became an option as we have friends from Nantes who moved back and I started to look into it more and I fell in love with the vibe of the city, and now here I am almost a year later!

What do you miss about home? 

FOOD!!!!!!! of course I miss my comfort food I think anyone that moves away from home will always miss their food :-) Sunday roasts which were a family tradition every Sunday, my mum would put out a full spread, which brings me to missing good red meat! But I am lucky enough that we get parcels from home with sauces and chocolate and of course Irish Tea. Even my boyfriend looks forward to these packages I guess he grew to love some things from Ireland ;-). 

What are the biggest cultural differences you see between France and your homeland?

After almost a year of being here in Nantes, I’m still adjusting to the French culture which can be very difficult at times. Regardless of where you go to live there will always be cultural differences. One of the biggest differences I think is the openness in Ireland. Irish people are always very welcoming and open to meeting new people, whether it’s in the office or at a bar or an event and will always make an effort. For me the French are the opposite, its takes along time for them to even interact with you and it’s not always down to the language “barrier” and that was strange for me to feel almost “left out”. But you get used to it and the French you do meet and bond with are great. Nightlife in France is also very very very different, its almost too relaxed and almost always includes food! My nights out used to consist of just going out, enjoying drinks and dancing. In France it’s “let’s have a 4 hour meal then drink then dance!” Still adjusting to that part the most ;-)

Meet Caroline from Germany (and a little bit from Vendée)

Where are you from? Tell us about where you grew up.

I grew up in Germany. In Bavaria near Munich to be precise. 

How did you end up in Nantes? 

My mother is French and I spent all my summers on the Atlantic coast in Vendée. After my studies I wanted to live in France to explore that side of my identity. And unsurprisingly, love played a role in this decision ;-)

What do you like about living in Nantes? 

I don’t actually live in Nantes but I love living in France and near the Atlantic coast. Whenever I have a free moment, I’m at the beach by the sea with my feet in the water, looking at the sun set on the ocean, sometimes after a days work… pure happiness !

What do you miss about Germany?

I miss the snow in the Winter and of course, my friends and family.

What are the biggest cultural differences you see between France and your homeland?

There’s mainly a big difference when it comes to food. In France, meals are extremely important. Starters, main dish, cheese, dessert. In Germany, that’s really rare. In Germany the concept of the « apéro » doesn’t even exist… unbelievable for some French people! 

I also feel that people complain more in France. At the beginning, this bothered me but with time, I’ve understood the difference between really complaining and just grumbling. 

What still surprises me are the preconceived ideas that the French have about the Germans and vice-versa. There are so many stereotypes… It’s a pity. So I just wanted to reassure you, I’ve never worn socks and sandals and I do not reserve my deck chair on the beach with a towel at 6am ;-).

How is the experience of working in a French company different from your other professional experiences?

The way people work is very different. In France, the meeting starts at 9:05, in Germany at 8:59. That’s just an example and I have also noticed that it varies greatly from one person to another.

A big difference is the working hours. In Germany, we have between 45 and 60 minutes lunch break, here we have 2 hours to give us enough tome to eat a three course meal at the restaurant! There are lots of great things that exist here and that we don’t have in Germany like lunch vouchers or free food at work. In Germany, the norm is a 40 hour week whereas in France, it’s 35 hours. And there are no toil days (RTT) !

Meet William from the States (and a little bit from Paris)

Where are you from? Tell us about where you grew up.

I am originally from Paris. I was born there and lived in the city of love for most of the time until my 14th birthday. Afterwards, I decided to take up a unique opportunity, and go live in another country, with a very different culture, the United States of America. I grew up in the State of South Carolina, where I went to high school and college.

How did you end up in Nantes? 

I ended up in Nantes completely randomly. I had been living in Paris for a few months after returning from America and decided I did not want to work there since I did not like the lifestyle I was living. I have lots of family in Paris, so I decided to look for a city not too far where I could come back and visit a few times a year.

What do you like about living in Nantes? 

I think what is awesome about Nantes is that it’s bike friendly. I love being 15 minutes away from work and being able to ride my bicycle every day. It’s really enjoyable. I’ll say the rain really sucks when it hits you for a few weeks, but when the sun is out, there are some pretty places around the city to rest and enjoy the day. Some of the bars are also great to hangout, which is pretty nice.

What do you miss about living in the United States?

Clearly what I miss the most about America is the people. I don’t think I’ve ever seen in my life friendlier people. Everyone is always smiling, having a good time, and never complaining. They are also very caring, always offering to help out if someone is in need, and they are very optimistic. I always felt like there were no limits there as to what you wanted to do with your life, because everyone encourages you when you want to pursue a dream.

What are the biggest cultural differences you see between France and your homeland?

Where do I start? I’d say one of the biggest difference is the sport culture.  I remember when we would go tailgate before football games while having a good time. Tailgating is what everyone does before a sports event, which usually consists of drinking beers, having lots of food, and playing different games with friends and family. France is known for having a fine cuisine and spending lots of time at the table. I’d say in America, they spend way less time eating, because they’d rather spend a few hours everyday watching all kind of different sports on TV and bars.

How is the experience of working in a French company different from your other professional experiences?
I feel that here at iAdvize, it’s no typical French company. We’re a start-up inspired by the American model where you can find similarities from an American company. It’s hard to really compare for me, as all of my previous experiences have really nothing to do with each other.

Meet Fhenon from Mexico

What do you like about living in Nantes?

Nantes has the positive aspects of a city and of a small town. There’s a wide variety of cultural events throughout the year.  Many of them are not expensive and there really is an offer to satisfy all tastes. People are friendly, calm and it’s quite easy to meet people. And you don’t need to spend 45 minutes on the tube to get from one place to another.  

What do you miss about home?

The food and the people. Mexicans are very happy and supportive of each other. From my experience, in France, there’s more of the every man for himself’ approach. And of course, you have to complain at least once a day. 

What are the biggest cultural differences you see between France and your homeland?

A huge difference between the French and the Mexicans is physical contact. In Mexico, I hug my friends every time I see them, even if it’s several times a day. Unlike the French, Mexicans are very tactile and use physical contact to communicate. 

Meet Ruben from Germany

Where are you from? Tell us about where you grew up.

My name is Ruben. By the sound of my name, some may think that I am Spanish. By the look of my face however, most can tell that I originate from northern Germany. Hamburg to be exact. After finishing high school, I decided to study in the UK, as I believed London would broaden my horizon in many ways. Four years went by and I felt like continuing my journey in Germany’s capital as I had been quite disconnected from home for years.  

Berlin is a an exciting and unregulated city which promises total liberty. It invites young, interesting people from around the world to experience the vast cultural diversity and sublime nightlife. It also has it’s very own dynamics and its very own culture.

How did you end up in Nantes?

After four years of endless fun, my girlfriend and I felt like entering into a new adventure. We considered Israel, the Netherlands and France. When I came across the opportunity of working for iAdvize in Nantes, I knew instantly where I wanted to go. A good friend who spends a few months per year in the city had already told me about the greatness of this place.

What do you like about living in Nantes?

Traditionally speaking, Nantes is a wealthy city. It has an interesting history, a gorgeous historic center and offers vast leisure activities due to its close proximity to the Atlantic ocean. Nantes is a real insider’s tip for those who want to benefit from a high standard of living, reasonable living expenses as well as good job opportunities for natives and for internationals.

It is an unspoiled place with big ambitions, where citizens live in harmony with its traditional cultural values and its undergoing modernisation. Being an employee at iAdvize combines the fun aspect of working at a young tech, startup with the exiting career opportunities of working for an established software company. 

iAdvize is in the phase of its internationalization. Its company culture combines a French base with European and somewhat Californian high notes :) iAdvize is an ambitious enterprise whose young talented individuals give their best to achieve a common goal. Working for a French company has thus far been very positive. Having a father from Bavaria, I can say that the French are very organised and diligent in their work. They have an understanding of hierarchy and never fail to encourage sharing knowledge across departments.

Meet Goretti from Spain

Where are you from? Tell us about where you grew up.

I’m from Tenerife, Spain, one of the Canary Islands. Before I came to France I’d spent my whole life with my family (my parents, my sister and my two dogs) in a town of 4000 people where everyone knows each other, where the children play on the streets and where buses go by every two hours. I lived in the mountains but the advantage of living on a small island is that the distances are short, so I was 10 minutes drive away from the beach. The Teide (an active volcano and one of the biggest mountains in Europe, 3718 metres high) is in Tenerife. Due to these volcanic origins, the sand on our beaches is white but also black. There’s an average of 3 days of rain a month and the average temperature in winter is 17º.

How did you end up in Nantes?

I came to France in October 2014 for a European Voluntary Service in Redon, Brittany. When I was in Redon, I came to Nantes several times and fell in love with the place. When the time came to go back home, and considering the economic situation in Spain because of the crisis, there was no doubt, I had to stay in France!

What do you like about living in Nantes?

There’s always something to do in Nantes. Lots of cultural activities, events and you can easily get from one place to another in public transport. And it’s not too far from other great cities like Paris and Bordeaux.

What do you miss about home?

My family, friends and dogs  And also seeing the ocean and the sun all the time. My mother’s cooking, eating out for less than €15 and partying the Spanish way”.

What are the biggest cultural differences you see between France and your homeland?
  • When Spanish people talk, they shout. Now, when I go home, I really notice this and it bothers me. Since I moved to France, I’ve definitely lowered my voice
  • French people complain all the time, for everything… after two years here, I’ve started to grumble about silly things ^^
  • The French fight for their rights, they are brave. The Spanish lack this revolutionary spirit.
  • Meal times, opening hours: at the beginning, it was difficult to get used to eating at 12pm and 8pm. I get annoyed every time I remember that the shops close at 7pm, even most supermarkets.
  • French people don’t express their emotions that much. They don’t like arguing” but sometimes you need that to sort out problems.
  • In France, you see young people married, with children at 25-30 years old. At that age, the Spanish still live at home with their parents.
  • We, Spaniards, think we are the most open-minded people in the world. But since I’ve been in France, I have to admit that the French are also open to meeting new people, and integrating them, more than the Spanish. For example, within my group of friends in Spain, it’s difficult to welcome a new person. We’re a sealed group. But here in France, people welcome new people easily. The Spanish can be more nicer and warmer at first, but less in the long run.
  • We are disfrutones (we like enjoying life). There may be problems in your life or in society in general but give us a beer and a terrace facing the sea and all the problems disappear”.
  • Generally, people in Spain are happy. You can see it in the streets. People smiling, smiling at each other when they’re waiting in the queue at the supermarket, in public transports or just as they pass by.
  • Spaniards, especially Spanish women are more natural, more spontaneous and less complicated than the French.
  • In France, we believe in people’s potential, their ability to have new ideas, we listen and value entrepreneurship.

If you’re interested in joining our international team in Nantes, Madrid, London or Düsseldorf, take a look at our current job offers !

Miranda is in charge of internal communications at iAdvize, where she started working 3 years ago, originally as communications officer for the UK market. She has a BA from UCL in languages and a masters degree in translation and communication from the ISIT school in Paris. Although her passport is British, she feels at home on the continent ;-) Intrigued by all things cross-cultural, disruptive and customer service-related.

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