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Travel & Work in France: The Ultimate Guide for Canadians

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Are you dreaming of living the French life in Paris? This is your official invitation to let your imagination run wild. Picture yourself impeccably dressed, having long champagne lunches and tasting exquisite French cuisine.

© Claudia Amendola / Nomad Junkies

We had the opportunity to speak to a fellow nomad who quit her cushy job in Canada to follow her destiny in France. Claudia Amandola shares why a Working Holiday Visa is the perfect tool to turn your travel dreams into reality.

Here’s Claudia’s story of how she worked in France for a year and then ended up getting her permanent residency!

So tell us about the Working Holiday Visa. What drove you to apply for a WHV to travel and work in France?

“In 2010, I did a stopover in Paris, even though I had no desire to see Paris. But the minute I stepped into the city, it felt like I was home. I travelled a lot before that, but this was the first time in my life where something just clicked. I thought:

“This is heaven. This is beauty beyond immeasurable comprehension. I need to live here.”

So, after that, for eight years of my life, I was completely obsessed with France. I researched living and working there, and I read all the books by experts. Then one day, I just woke up and knew I couldn’t live in Canada anymore. I needed to make France a reality. So, I sent in my job resignation and put my house up for sale. And that was it. I was lucky enough to discover the magic of the Working Holiday Visa, which made the process easier than I had anticipated.”

© Claudia Amendola / Nomad Junkies

How did you prepare for your experience abroad, and what was the process to apply for the visa?

“First thing, I googled ‘Young Canadian wanting to work in France” and the Working Holiday Visa popped up right away. The forms were super, super simple to fill out, and the application was easy compared to all the other bureaucratic craziness in France.

Next, I needed to find housing. I wanted to play it safe after reading about scams, so I ended up going with an agency called Paris Attitude, where I was able to guarantee a short-term lease (although it was a bit more expensive.) And it gave me an address to put on my WHV application. Make sure to give yourself some time for landlords to look through your documents.

Then, I had to get insurance. Paperwork followed and I had to fill out a letter of intent, which was easy for me to write as I had been dreaming of going to France for so long.

After that, I booked an appointment online, handed in my documents, and two weeks later, I had a visa in my hand!

How did you feel when you got approval for the Working Holiday Visa?

“It was like everything I had ever dreamed about, everything that I longed for, was finally happening. It was reality. I had the visa in my hands, and I was doing it. I was moving to France. I called up my closest friends, and we celebrated with champagne.”

Were you able to make friends in France during your Working Holiday Visa?

© Claudia Amendola / Nomad Junkies

“Of course! I joined all the Paris ex-pat and women ex-pat groups on Facebook and lurked for a bit before I actually started interacting. Then people started messaging me, asking to go for coffee. I ended up making a lot of friendships and connections in these super welcoming communities. You can post about any issue you have, like feeling lost in a new culture, and you’ll get answers and support. I’ve also heard of ex-pats using friend-to-friend Bumble.”

What steps did you take to find a job in France?

“I didn’t have a job lined up, so I searched online for English teaching jobs in Paris. The first thing that came up was a company called Babylangues. Based on my educational background, I was able to get a babysitting job while I was still in Canada. This was an easy starting point for me to pay for my rent and food.

After I arrived, I started applying to private schools because I knew they paid more. LinkedIn was a great resource. If you search “Paris” and then “English” on LinkedIn, so many jobs pop up, many of them remote, which is super convenient for when you first arrive and want to explore. Keep in mind the Working Holiday Visa is a valid paper, so companies are eager to hire you, especially if you speak native English.”

Nomadic tip: Change your location on LinkedIn to the country you’re going to so that recruiters can find you.

You may also like: Digital Nomad: The Equipment You Need to Work From Anywhere

So is it possible to find a job in France even if you don’t speak French?

© Claudia Amendola / Nomad Junkies

“Absolutely. In my opinion, anybody who says it’s going to be hard is just being negative. There are so many English-speaking jobs available! You just need to be willing to go under your pay grade and do work below your qualifications. For example, I didn’t imagine myself babysitting with my master’s degree, but it was the best opportunity for me at the moment and allowed me to settle in right away.

Once you’ve built networking connections, it will open up doors to other opportunities. The more immersed you are in the country, the more you pick up the language, and the more comfortable you will feel about doing other jobs that require a bit of French. Then you can apply to jobs that are written in French looking for English speakers.”

What are the main differences between living in France and living in Canada, and how did you adjust?

“One of the things I’ve learned (and one of the things I miss the most about Canada) is that customer service doesn’t really exist in France. The customer is not right, ever, and you just have to deal with that. Eventually, companies do come around. You might be losing your mind because your visa is about to expire (as mine almost did when I decided to settle down long-term), and people are just working on their own time and taking long lunch breaks, not seeming to care. So patience and persistence are key. 

Would you say that the money you earned during your Working Holiday Visa was enough to cover your cost of living?

© Claudia Amendola / Nomad Junkies

“Yeah, absolutely. It depends where in France you live, of course. If you’re willing to settle in smaller towns or cities, it works out. If you’re going to beautiful beachy places like Marseille and Nice and Cannes, you can expect to pay a lot to live there. I lived in Strasbourg, and even though I made less money there, I felt richer because rental costs and food costs were so much lower.

Now, my apartment in the suburbs of Cologne is significantly cheaper than when I lived in the centre of Paris. It wouldn’t have been an issue if I were still working at the babysitter job and living here. Now I have additional freelance jobs, and I find that they cover my living expenses no problem.”

What were some of your favourite places to visit during your Working Holiday Visa in France?

© Claudia Amendola / Nomad Junkies

“I travelled quite a bit around Paris, to Amien, and I went everywhere around Normandy. A stroke of luck led me to the Alsace area, which was my favourite. Most French people don’t even know about it. I also went to Japan. The school students take a lot of vacations here, so I took a few vacations for myself.

There’s so much to see in France! Any weekend you can hop on a last-minute train and be somewhere new. If you check two days before your departure date, you can find significantly cheaper train tickets and hotel rooms.”

You would also like: How to Plan an Epic Road Trip in France

How long were you in France for your Working Holiday Visa?

© Claudia Amendola / Nomad Junkies

I had my WHV for one year, and then I renewed it for the second year. Two months into living here, I ended up being set up on a blind date with a good friend of my babysitting client. We fell in love instantly and got married. So now I have a permanent residency card through my marriage to a Frenchman. I used to say my heart was in Paris, and now I know that to be true. If I hadn’t jumped into doing the Working Holiday Visa, I never would have met my husband, which has been the best part of my journey so far.”

© Claudia Amendola / Nomad Junkies

What did you miss most about Canada?

“Instant Tim Hortons coffee, bags of ketchup chips, Cheez-It crackers, and giant shakers of Kraft dinner cheese. I didn’t think I would miss the junk food, but I really do.”

What advice would you give to someone who would like to do a Working Holiday Visa in France?

© Claudia Amendola / Nomad Junkies

“If you have that little spark in you, there’s a reason for it. Doing the Working Holiday Visa was the best decision I ever made in my entire life. I learned so much by immersing myself in a culture that I was unfamiliar with. I found a strength I didn’t know I had, doing it all on my own. And I discovered an appreciation for other people and the world.

Although it might require you to take risks and you might take a financial loss, we are so blessed to have this opportunity as Canadians. It makes it easy to step into another country and build a life there.”

“Don’t wait, just jump. It’s the greatest thing you’ll ever do for yourself.”

Doesn’t this make you want to book a one-way ticket to Paris? Claudia made her own dreams come true by taking the first step: applying for a Working Holiday Visa in France.

If you are a Canadian between the ages of 18 and 35 and want to learn more about the Working Holiday Visa, be sure to visit the International Experience Canada website for more details.

▶ ️ For even more inspiration, listen to our #NomadTALKS series on YouTube, where we talk with other Canadians who have travelled and worked abroad.

You can follow Claudia‘s adventures on Instagram.

The original interview was conducted by Emilie Robichaud and compiled by Britney Claveau. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Emilie Robichaud
Je suis accro au mode de vie nomade! Depuis plus de 5 ans, j’ai quitté ma zone de confort pour voyager à temps plein. Mon tour du monde sans fin compte plus de 65 pays et ça continue! Le voyage, c'est un style de vie et un état d'esprit!
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