Spotlight: working in France versus UK or Ireland


Without falling into stereotypes or assumptions and considering that the workplace is changing at an unprecedented speed, the following are a few differences and similarities that I have observed between working in France vs working in the UK or Ireland.

Differences in hierarchy

Many French companies are still characterised by an important level of hierarchy (top-down). Management holds a high-level of decision making without involving employees. We are still seeing the use of “vous” used in France by workers to direct and top management. Management in the large companies are often issued from the “Grandes Ecole’s “Ivy League type schools.

In the UK and Ireland, the hierarchy level is less evident. Even though management still make decisions, they tend to discuss prior with the employees. Management is also more approachable, and you can address them by their first name.


Where the French are less likely to be punctual, it is important in the UK and Ireland to be on time, you even arrive earlier. However, in France arriving late is becoming less acceptable and tolerated.

Job or career change

Education and job experience in France is more linear, people previously tended to stay in the same careers all their life, whereas in the UK or in Ireland changing careers is not penalised. On the contrary, this is often seen as a sign of adaptability and polyvalence.

French HR and hiring managers do not like unexplained gaps in job history, be ready to explain them.


France is an individualist society. Competition on climbing up the career ladder is very evident.

The UK and Ireland are also individualists’ societies; however, self-promotion can be seen as a sign of arrogance in both.

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