How to Make Money as an Expat in France
Expats around the world are an enterprising bunch, and perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in France. When you’re surrounded by so much natural beauty, and some pretty amazing food and wine to boot, you tend to want to stick around.
I’ve been able to carve out a niche for myself by working as a manager for an English language school in southern France and by serving as IL‘s correspondent here. As part of my latter role, I’ve met expats up and down this beautiful country and what I’ve discovered is that if you’re willing to be creative and embrace new opportunities, there are many interesting paths to earning a living in France. Here are some of the most enjoyable and accessible ones I’ve encountered.
This is a quick and easy route to gaining an income. Getting certified to teach English is just a few mouse clicks away. You can earn a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification relatively quickly online, and a few language schools will even pay for your training. Once you have this, you can apply for positions at language schools across France.
Schools accept applicants from a wide range of backgrounds, and many don’t require prior teaching experience. Amanda Altman, an American expat from South Carolina, moved to France in 2016 after working in real estate and the airline industry. When she found a position teaching English in the south of France, she was surprised by how much the job helped her get settled in her new home.
“Teaching English is not only a flexible job that gives you plenty of free time to enjoy France,” says Amanda, “but also a great way to get to know the French culture as you’re discussing topics with students.”
Of course, in this age of remote working and online freelancing, you don’t have to limit your work options to businesses based in France. Many expats here are working for U.S.-based companies or freelancing online for clients around the world. Obtaining the freelance work visa necessary to call France home, called the entrepreneur/profession libérale, is actually not so hard, though you will need a good bit of patience. Alternatively, you can pursue this strategy part-time.
Keith Van Sickle and his wife, Val, fell in love with France during an expat experience in the early 1990s. Looking for a way to maintain their careers in Silicon Valley while staying connected to Europe, the couple became consultants in their respective fields—Keith in finance and Val in economic development.
“You can work a lot part of the year,” says Keith, “and then not as much for another part of the year. And we structured things around that, so we could spend three months in France and mostly not work, but do some, as needed. We started it as an experiment, and it worked well, so we’ve been doing it since 2008.”
Become a Tourism Professional
Before the pandemic, there was huge demand among travelers for English-speaking tour guides or for help arranging itineraries—or both. And given that France is one of the most visited countries on the planet, there is going to be pent-up demand for such services when travel resumes.
Numerous American expats have opened travel-related businesses across the country. Julie Mautner, a writer and travel planner based in Saint Rémy de Provence, runs The Provence Post website and creates south of France trips and experiences for travelers from around the world.
“I don’t book plane or train tickets,” says Julie, “but I do just about everything else: finding the perfect hotel or rental villa, hiring the perfect guide, planning day trips and activities, booking restaurants, and much more.”
Open a Bed-and-Breakfast
For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, and a healthy dose of patience, opening a bed-and-breakfast (known as a chambre d’hôte in French) can be a rewarding experience. Once you overcome any initial teething problems, a stake in France’s booming hospitality industry can be both profitable and personally fulfilling.
Delaware native Dan Blagg kick-started his retirement by turning a three-story townhouse in the tourism-rich town of Sarlat-la-Canéda into an elegant hotel. The business is now financially lucrative and fully occupied during the high season. When looking to launch a B&B or similar establishment, Dan stresses the importance of choosing the right location. “The power of Sarlat itself, and the attraction of the Dordogne, has been sufficient for us to thrive.”
With a bit of creativity, and a touch of enterprising spirit, earning an income as an expat in France is not only possible, but can be both financially beneficial and personally enriching.
By Tuula Rampont