by Silvia Mingarelli, Madrid

When applying in France there are a few differences to remark: while German employers want to see a full application with certificates, French companies usually only look at one letter, the lettre de motivation, and at a brief Curriculum Vitae, or simply “CV”. This does not mean that diplomas and qualifications have less value. This becomes clear in the French job advertisements: here the candidate recognizes through information such as Bac +2, +3 or +4 which university qualification is holding. If an employer demands a “Bac + 2” or a “Bac + 3” corresponds to an Undergraduate Diploma or Bachelor. Furthermore, Diplomas should not be translated into other languages. This could lead to confusion. Surely it works if you add an explation to it instead.

Meaning of diplomas and the French university ranking

But not only the length of the study, the choice of university is important for French employers. If a French undergraduate wants to study in one of the prestigious French elite universities, he has to take a two to four years of preparatory course, namely the CPGE, the abbreviation of Classe préparatoire aux grandes écoles, which prepares for the selective selection of the grandes écoles. These posts can be obtained with a bit of luck after a long concours; then you can usually enter in the third semester. Unlike German or French universities, the Grandes Ecoles are specialized colleges where they usually teach a particular subject or group of related subjects, and connect the core studies with many general and personality-promoting elements. Who makes his degree at one of the prestigious grandes écoles, is considered a junior employee of the ruling elite in government, business and culture.

Among the most famous grandes écoles we find the Parisian Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS), the recently based in Strasbourg Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA), the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), the Ecole Nationale Superieure des mines de Paris, the Militärschule Saint-Cyr (ESM Saint-Cyr) or the two Parisian art colleges École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSBA), as well as the École Nationale Supérieure Des Arts Décoratifs (ENSAD).

Job ads in France

Germans should not despair at the many abbreviations in job advertisements: so CDI (Contrat à durée indéterminée) stands for a permanent job, than CDD (Contrat à durée déterminée) for a fixed-term one. If the job is in the IDF, it comes to a job in Greater Paris Ile-de-France. Applicants can be reckoned by a quick decision because French companies tend to search at the last moment. In France, candidates are sought usually only one or two months before the planned starting work. The more important the vacancy to be filled is, however, the longer the process may take.

Intercultural competence indispensable

If finally you’ve got the long sought after post, the historical and cultural characteristics are also reflected in their daily work in the neighboring country. Here each candidate should be aware that he will face another language with other ways of thinking and working, which he might not understand, or classify and which he consequently cannot respond properly to them. Professor Dr. Christoph Barmeyer, since 2008 Chief of the Institute for Intercultural Communication at the University of Passau, warns here against standardized Dos and Don’ts as they are propagated in common management literature. “Companies are not rigid constructs, people are not robots, and every situation is different”, said the expert on German and French culture. Therefore, German colleagues should be careful when they mediate for advices for example, one could in France quietly come later. “Not even close”, said Barmeyer. “Only higher people like the boss, the customer, the professor, are allowed to come in late, but not the employees, the supplier or the students”. Who is interculturally competent, knows about these small, but very important, differences in personal interaction.

Good childcare

Another advantage in France is the childcare facilities, which makes it easier to combine family and work. The school will take place throughout the day. Although this represents a challenge for the little ones, this system allows the working parents to have maximum flexibility. Almost a quarter of all children aged two years, and virtually all three- to five-year-olds go the Ecole Maternelle, according to the French Ministry of Education in the preschool. For the youngest ones, there are also possibilities for nurseries and individual care. And while in France, child care is taken for granted, this issue is still not on the priority list of federal and state governments in Germany. According to Children Promotion Act of 1 August 2013, all the parents have the legal right to child care as soon as their child is one year old. But still, the federal government will provide up to that year only four billion euros for the expansion of available cribs. According to a survey made by Forsa in 2010, this means that yet about 45% of young women who seek to return to work will not obtain a place for their children.