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Hello, can you introduce yourself?

Hello I am Patsilla and I am from Montreal, Canada. So I was on a WHV (working holiday visa) in France and I arrived in Nantes on June 23, 2015.

Why did you go in WHV to France?

It’s because I met a Breton in South America, in Peru more precisely, and it was the easiest way to be together.

What are the steps to get a WHV France?

The process to obtain a working holiday visa in France is quite easy for Canadians. There is one form to fill up and in 2 weeks time, I received my visa. And it’s free. So it’s very easy.
I landed in Nantes because Florian, my boyfriend, is a Breton from Vannes in the Morbihan region.
I had already traveled a bit in France before: Alsace, Paris but no I didn’t really know much about France before my WHV.

What did you do at the beginning of you WHV? It was a real discovery for you this country?

So we were in Brittany for 2 months, July-August, before Florian resumed teaching in September in a school in the outskirts of Paris.

How was your job search?

In September, 2 months after my arrival, I started job hunting in Paris. It was actually difficult. I used to work in marketing/communications, but I didn’t succeed in landing a job in that field in France. At the end, I was a receptionist in an American insurance company where I only worked half-days.

Employers are aware of the WHV?

The employers weren’t used to hire someone with a WHV. I think the French people who lived in foreign countries know about it but those who haven’t traveled much and most of the employers didn’t know about the WHV at all.
I found the receptionist job because I went to Paris’ Job Fair at Place de la Concorde. I started by leaving resumes at marketing companies or any big company and at the end, I had 3-4 resumes left. I couldn’t bring them back home since they were already printed so might as well give them to hiring teams that were looking for customer service agents/receptionists. And then the 3 booths where I left a resume called me back because I speak English and French so for a hostess, either as a receptionist or to work at the airport, they were looking for bilingual candidates. I decided to go forward on this path.

There are differences between the French and Canadien working world, according to you?

There a few differences between the French and Canadian work environment. For example the vacations. In France there is a minimum of 5 weeks of vacations while in Canada, it’s rather 2 weeks. And on Sundays, there’s practically nothing opened while here, it’s just a normal day. Also, I think workdays end earlier in France compared to Canada. For the salaries, there are a lot of minimum wage jobs in France. I feel there are less in Canada. Of course, it’s in euros while here, it’s Canadian dollars and with the conversion, there might be a difference, but yeah, there are less minimum wage jobs in Canada than in France I think.

Were you able to make friends at work?

In France, because my job was to be a receptionist, people walked in front of me, I helped them, but they knew I was leaving sooner or later. My colleagues who became friends were actually people who were either foreign or who had already traveled. They had questions for me, they were interested by my history/past and my situation in France. So there was Annie who’s from Moldavia and Antonia who isn’t Alsatian, I think she came from la Lorraine, but yeah she too had traveled a lot. We went to grab drinks. It was mostly with them. Otherwise, there was also my supervisor, but we didn’t go for drinks haha.

What is your view on French culture?

What struck me with the French culture was the habit of having long apéros (wine o’clock). The food culture, it’s important to eat well and healthy. It was easy to find products made in France or produces grown in France. There’s a certain pride and they put a lot of emphasis on it. It’s important to eat organic. I liked that a lot. And the wide produces range. Wines… for example, I discovered straw wine from Jura. I didn’t know about it before. Or the Comté cheese. That too I didn’t know before. Or the oysters in Brittany. A lot of small things like that I didn’t know about before. I talk a lot about food. There’s also the national travel and tourism. The French travel a lot within their own country. They’ll be like: yes, we’ll spend a week in the Pyrénées. I like that idea of local consumption either with tourism or food. The culture of taking the time to live the moment, to not be too stressed. Maybe the Parisians are a bit more stressed. But at night or during weekends, it’s important to have fun or to go out or to go to the countryside house while here we may be working on Saturday and Sunday… since most places close later and stay open on weekends even Sundays.

Have you discovered the historical Paris?

The advantage of only working part-time in Paris is that in the afternoon I could wander and go to museums. Every first Sunday of the month, all the museums are free. That’s not bad! And I like that a lot because here when something is from 1930, we think it’s old while in Paris 1930, it’s almost recent history. Also, Quebec and France have a common history. In our history classes, we learn a lot of facts and events that happened in both places and to be there and to say: oh yeah, it actually happened here! Or oh I heard about this when I was 10 in my history class, it becomes real. It really happened. For example, Napoleon is a historical figure, almost mythical. To see the big N’s for Napoleon on the bridges and the Arc of Triomphe that he built to celebrate his own glory was really impressive to me. Maybe for the French, it’s part of the landscape. But I think for the Canadians and the North Americans, to see such an old city, that was cool.

Did you meet other Canadian WHVers in France?

I was living in the outskirts of Paris, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, and I met Melyssa who’s from Quebec City, also on a WHV and she had the same story as mine. She had met a Frenchman and to be with him, she had decided to opt for the WHV, to come to France and to find a job. She was working in a bakery actually.
In my opinion, it’s worth travelling with a WHV or to simply leave and go travel either with the WHV or not. With the WHV as opposed to a tourist visa however, you are allowed to stay more than 90 days. Travel because you will always discover new things, meet new people, live new experiences, it’s going to leave a lasting impression, it changes who you are. I wouldn’t say I’m French, but maybe 10% Breton. There I said it! You become someone else, you grow. You don’t necessarily become a better person, but definitely a different person, more resourceful. Maybe not wealthier, but full of experiences.

What would you say to Canadians who are reluctant to do a WHV in France?

For Canadians who would like to experience the WHV in France, the advantage is to be able to travel everywhere in Europe. Especially when you come from Canada where everything is far or seems far, you arrive in France and suddenly everything is really close. In 3 hours, you can get to Switzerland or Germany.
Also, because we speak French in Quebec, we sometimes think we already know France or that the culture can’t be that different. and it turns out it’s not only about the language or the expressions, the vocabulary, but also the lifestyle or the landscapes. I had a culture shock. Even though I speak the language.

So, are French people grumpy?

I think in Paris itself it’s true that the people are a bit more stressed, but in Brittany, Jura or Bordeaux, when I was strolling around, I thought that people were very relaxed. People were super nice. Even in Paris people are nice, but a bit more critical and stressed. So you can always have a good conversation because they are opinionated. They aren’t shy to tell you their political views or to comment on events that are happening in the world or they even already have an opinion of Canada, they all know someone who comes from Canada or has traveled in Canada. There are always conversation topics.

Speaking of tourism, do you have some favorites?

One of my favorite places is Brittany where I spent almost 3 months in total. I didn’t know this region at all before. To speak the truth, I haven’t even heard about this region before. And the region of Jura because I just met my friend this morning who’s originally from that region. Bordeaux, I liked a lot, drank a lot. Bassin d’Arcachon, or even around Paris. I was in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, but even in the outskirts of Paris there’s a lot to see such as the château de Versailles, one of the most popular attractions that you have to see once in your lifetime. We were also in Normandy. That was fun. We visited the D-Day landing beaches, the Canadian cemetery. We went around a little. What was the question?

So what was your favorite? (Brittany, right?)

Special kudos to Brittany!

In one word, WHV stands for…

ADVENTURE! It’s not guaranteed you’ll land a job. You have to take steps and go through formalities to get one. You need to find an apartment. You got to straighten out the telephone, Internet, make friends. I’m leaving for a year, but will I like it? After two months, will I get sick of the place and want to go home? Am I going to enjoy the lifestyle? Am I going to be homesick? Will I miss my friends back home? It’s an adventure because it’s the unknown and at the same time, when you get out of your comfort zone, that’s when you have the best kinds of meetings and discover new things. You shouldn’t be afraid. Adventure also means freedom. WHV is an experience that I think everyone should live. I think if everyone traveled for example with the WHV, there would be peace in the world. You meet people from different cultures. You are in vulnerable situations. You feel lonely. And then you understand others better. At home you have a circle of friends that sometimes expands, but there’s a certain core around which you revolve. And when you are on a WHV, you’re in a completely different environment without any marks. Maybe you know 1-2 people before arrival but it’s not like back home. You don’t have the same assertiveness.

Would you say that knowing Florian (your boyfriend) helped you, at first?

Definitely. In Paris, he has a lot of friends, most of them Bretons, and it helps to have that kind of network. Certainly with job hunting or just socially, to wander and go for drinks. We never felt lonely. But for the paperwork, to be honest, I had to cope on my own because he’s French, he’s already in the system. Hence it was great to only work half-days and to get my afternoons to do all the paperwork and procedures: to register with the CPAM, to get my social security number and the insurance straighten out, etc. It’s time-consuming. Good thing I speak French because I don’t know how the Anglophones do it, those who only speak English and arriving in France from Canada. Anyways, in this respect, Florian didn’t help me at all unfortunately. Although sometimes I called the administrative offices and they didn’t know how to help me either. It was often on forums, websites like and Facebook pages where I would seek info. Other Canadians WHVers in France would answer my questions, How did you do that? I have a friend, Yili, who went on WHV in France a while ago and she helped me a lot. To get the equivalence of my diploma at HEC Montreal, she told me to get a certain document. It takes this amount of time, for the insurance you should contact this company. It really helped to have someone who had gone through the experience. And same, if someone is about to embark on this journey of WHV in France, feel free to ask me questions! I know everything!

What advice would you give yo future WHVers in France?

My number one advice is to contact someone who has been through the experience of WHV to exchange info. I also recommend to have some savings. I worked at minimum wage and in Paris, it wasn’t enough, especially with a part-time job. So to have funds in hands, it’s less stressful and it gives you the time to find work. Another advice is to manage your expectations. For example, if you are an engineer, you might not find a job related to engineering there. The WHV is a visa of about a year. So by the time you arrive, settle down, look for work, go through interviews, get used to the job environment, time flies, a year goes by very quickly. And if we are too focused on the working part, there’s no time left to enjoy the holiday part, France and what she has to offer.

How would you assess your WHV?

I am very happy. I had the one-year WHV and then a 90-day tourist visa although I only used a month of it. The summary: I discovered plenty of new sides of France. It wasn’t at all what I thought it would be. I think I had some Quebecer preconceived ideas about French people and it was maybe 5% true. In Montreal, we sometimes say: Ah the French people are annoying! They all live on the Plateau. It’s partially true but it absolutely doesn’t represent everyone. France has a lot to offer on various levels: culinary, tourism, lifestyle. I really enjoyed my time as a WHVer in France. People should go there. And I think as a Quebecer, I was well greeted. People were always joking about Celine Dion or Quebecer winters. Just for the record, it’s sometimes 35 degrees with 70% humidity. It can be very hot. It’s not always winter. People laugh a lot at our local expressions and swear words like Tabernacle or at our food that’s not *really food* such as poutine, saying that we can’t properly feed ourselves with that. Anyways, I think it helped to be Quebecer. People were always nice and had an anecdote to tell or recount.

Do you have something else to say?

Brittany is great! :p

Je suis Meghan, rédactrice web pour Pvtistes. Je suis Québécoise, originaire de la Côte-Nord. Je suis en PVT France depuis un peu plus de 1 an déjà. Je me suis installée dans le département du Nord, à Lille.

I’m Meghan, a writer for Pvtistes. I’m originally from the Côte-Nord region of Quebec. For my working holiday, I settled in Lille, the Nord department of France, and I’ve been here for just over one year now.

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