The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Caller, You're On the Air

[Edited to add pictures. I took these while walking to the grocery store the other night.]
A question that one of my dear readers posted in a comment field: In responding to it, I wrote several longish paragraphs before I realized what I was doing, far too long for a comment. So this question gets its own post.

I may slap some pictures up on it when I get home if I have a minute...still have to do some shopping for Thanksgiving dinner.

[photo: fountain in Place de la Republique]
Anyway, here ya go:

Hi Frogmarch
I enjoyed reading parts of your blog. I was in Lyon earlier this year, and I loved it. Would you mind if I asked you what you are doing in France? I would love to relocate to any country in Europe, but I don't think I would be allowed to work there. Do you work there? If so how did you get your job?

Hi Al--
Congratulations! You may be the first person who does not know me personally to ever comment on (or even read!) my blog.

To answer your question, I work for a Lyon-based UN/WHO subgroup agency that conducts research on cancer. As an international agency, my employer is not bound by French law, including labor law—so they can hire whomever they want, without regard to visas and work permits and so on.

[photo: Carousel, Place de la Republique]

It is, as you have probably already figured, pretty tough for an American to work in an EU nation. In France, for example, unemployment runs about 10%. To protect European jobs from an influx of foreign labor, there are fairly strict rules about work permits: Your hypothetical European employer would need to be prepared to demonstrate that no European could do the job that you, an American, are being hired to do.

You can get around this if you have very specialized knowledge--for example, if you have a special understanding of the American market for a certain product, or if an employer needs a native speaker of American English. Alternately, if you work for an American company that has branches in France, your flawless French skillz could get you a transfer—a good number of Americans live in Grenoble, where Caterpillar (you know, tractors and whatnot) has a plant, and Paris is filthy with Yanks working in US companies’ European offices.

[Pic: La Bourse (Stock Exchange), Place Cordeliers. This is where French President Carnot was assassinated in 1894 as he was leaving to go to the Opera down the street. "That'll teach him," my Dad said.]

But it is problematic. You can’t just hop off the plane and answer a help-wanted sign in the window of a kebab shop. V cannot work in France unless she does so on an under-the-table basis…even if there were a great demand in France for English-speaking psychotherapists.

Of course, if you really really want to work in France, there’s always this. Just a five-year commitment gets you French citizenship (and a really cool hat)! And I hear Afghanistan is particularly charming in springtime.

[Pic: Workers installing Chrismas decorations, Rue de la Republique. The tiny blue lights in the tree are strobing rapidly.]


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