Author: Mark Davis, English Content & Copywriter Expert at Qonto
When I’m asked what I like about working in an international environment, my answer is always the same: what’s not to like? Maybe it’s just my echo chamber talking; surrounded by colleagues from around the world who know for themselves all the benefits, perhaps I’ve become blind to any downsides.
I mean, how can you not enjoy daily insights into a whole spectrum of cultures, world-views and ways of working? What’s wrong with expanding your global professional network and learning how things work elsewhere in the world? How can developing soft skills and language skills not be a good thing?
But then again, I (London-born and raised) have spent the last 15 years working in fully international environments in France, most recently at Qonto.
Speaking to friends back in the UK, many are greatly tempted by the idea of a new challenge in a diverse, vibrant, international company. Yet, there are things holding them back: family, the language barrier, salary concerns or the complications of relocating.
But these practical hurdles are far from insurmountable. With the help of some globetrotting colleagues, I’d like to dispel some of the myths that prevent people taking their career abroad and ‘going international’.
Just how international is Qonto?
Qonto is headquartered in Paris with local offices in Milan, Barcelona, Berlin and, soon, Belgrade thanks to Qonto’s recent acquisition of Penta. As a result, around two-thirds of employees are French, 11% Italian, and 6% Spanish. Joining forces with Penta also means we’ll soon be onboarding over 200 additional Germany-based employees to the team.
The remaining staff come from a total of no fewer than 40 different countries. From Cameroon to China, USA to Ukraine, Mexico to Madagascar and Senegal to Sweden, Qonto is a rich blend of global influences.
The only unpinned region on the Qonto staff map is Australia, so we invite any Aussies out there to apply now and right this wrong! [UPDATE September 2022: the wrong has now been righted and Oz is now well and truly on the Qonto map.]
But I don’t speak French…
With so many nationalities and native languages on board, Qonto needs a global language and that, of course, is English. All meetings and internal communications are in English, meaning that the ability to speak French is not a pre-requisite to work at Qonto, regardless of the fact the company is registered in France.
🗣 “Having been exposed to French companies in the past as a consultant, I was worried about the need to speak French. However, from Day 1 it’s been smooth sailing. I’m the only non-French speaker in the executive team yet they always speak in English when we meet, even when I’m not actively in the conversation.
“If ever there is a slip up it’s usually our CEO or someone else in the team that puts their hand up and says “English!”, so I don’t have to remind people constantly — which is usually what happens in other companies, and after a time of doing that we (the foreigners) just used to give up.” — Jordi Gudiol Hulth 🇸🇪, COO at Qonto
Obviously, for those staff who do relocate to Paris, a certain grasp of French helps if you want to be taken seriously by Parisian shopkeepers and be elevated above the lowly status of tourist. That’s why Qonto pays for language lessons in French (or any other language spoken in the local Qonto offices).
This international environment provides excellent opportunities for learning and improving new language skills, as there is always a native speaker around to practice with. Want to brush up on your Italian before a weekend in Rome? Plan a coffee break with Giada from Marketing. Curious to know more about German? Dorothea will be glad to teach you some handy phrases.
It all means that at company social events, the soundtrack is a wonderful mash-up of Frenglish, Spanglish, and other hybrid tongues spoken in exotic accents and the odd amusing mispronunciation.
But relocating is a hassle, what with all the paperwork
You wouldn’t necessarily have to relocate to Paris or one of the European offices to work at Qonto. It depends on where you live.
Qonto offers the possibility of full remote-work contracts: you can work from anywhere within a 3-hour time difference from Paris — on the condition that your primary residence is based in one of the countries where we have offices (France, Germany, Italy, and Spain). This isn’t always a good thing: you could find yourself in freezing, drizzly Glasgow in a video call with a colleague who’s basking in glorious sunshine on a rooftop in Athens. At least you can ask them to set a different backdrop out of solidarity.
This ‘+/- 3-hour’ condition rules out a full-time remote contract for someone living in, say, Los Angeles or Bangkok. In which case, yes, you would need to relocate to somewhere closer to Central European Time. The good news is that Qonto will pull out all the stops to make that relocation as smooth as possible. Our much obliging People team will deal with visas (as a French Tech company, we can fast-track the application process), tax declarations, immigration forms and language courses. If you have children, our team in Paris will also help you to find French daycare facilities and get you discounts on in-home assistance services, whether it’s for cleaning or caring for elderly family members.
This administrative help came in particularly handy after Brexit. When the United Kingdom voted ‘Leave’, many disillusioned Remainers took that as an invitation and did just that — they left. The ‘Brits at Qonto’ Slack channel now counts 13 members, some of whom were mightily relieved to have the post-Brexit paperwork chaos taken off their hands.
🗣 “The people team went above and beyond to help with my relocation from the UK. From the stellar 2-week onboarding process at Qonto HQ to visa and accommodation (not straightforward post-Brexit), they made a daunting life change feel like a walk in the park.” — Adil Dewan 🇬🇧, Product Operations Principal at Qonto
France is great for holidays… but I’m not sure I could work there
Those who decide to relocate should know that living in France isn’t all fine wines on the Riviera and powdery snow on the slopes of the Alps. It is imperfect, but then again where isn’t? Bureaucracy can sometimes be painfully inflexible, although Qonto will help you jump through all those administrative hoops. Strikes and protests are something of a national sport. Shops and banks close at lunchtime (well, not Qonto). When it comes to work-life balance, however, there’s plenty to admire.
🗣 “I enjoy working in this environment. While my French colleagues tell me that Qonto is not typically French I find it refreshingly non-political, constructive teamwork, and generally just good vibes. We also have loads of holidays that we HAVE to take. Too many in my opinion but my wife tells me I enjoy working too much.” — Jordi Gudiol Hulth 🇸🇪, COO at Qonto
France passed its 35-hour working week law back in 2002. This doesn’t mean that you work for just 35 hours every week; in fact, anyone hoping for short days every day at Qonto should probably not apply. Companies are free to adapt the law to suit their specific needs and at Qonto this translates as 5 extra days of paid leave per year, to make up for the overtime that will have been accrued beyond those 35 hours. That’s 30 days of holiday per year in France; for Italy, Germany, and Spain, it comes out to an average of 28 days’ paid leave per year. Oh, and an additional 11 annual French bank holidays (with 10 in Germany, 14 in Italy, and 17 in Spain), although sometimes these can fall on the weekend when the calendar conspires against you. There’s also paid leave for important life events like marriage, the birth of one’s child, or the death of a loved one.
Generous health coverage is another big plus about working in France. Public healthcare is free, and private supplementary insurance will then subsidize the cost of things like dental work or prescription sunglasses. Qonto’s partnership with private health insurance Alan means that for less than €40 per month, pretty much all medical treatment for myself and my child — both physical and mental — comes at no extra cost.
Wouldn’t I have to take a pay cut?
Salaries at Qonto compare favorably to those of similar companies in most European countries, with the exception of Germany and the UK (and particularly London). However, it’s all relative. Any difference in pay is largely offset by a lower cost of living.
A Navigo (public transport card) covering all zones in Paris will cost around €75 per month. In London, the same ‘all-zone Travelcard’ will set you back £270 (around €315).
This cost-of-living difference applies across the board (almost):
The average monthly rent in London is anywhere up to 46% higher than in Paris.
Basic utility bills in London are up to 50% higher.
Pre-school childcare in London costs almost double what it does in Paris.
Restaurants in London are on average 20% more expensive but…
…groceries and haircuts are marginally more expensive in Paris.
Within Paris itself, and within the other local, European offices, Qonto’s salaries are highly competitive. Expats moving from the more expensive European cities to work at Qonto might notice a drop in bottom-line pay, but they soon come to appreciate having more ‘bang for their buck’ (or perhaps, more ‘use for their Euro’).
🗣 “While Paris has the reputation of being more expensive than other European cities, my experience working at Qonto has disproved this. Not only do we have competitive salaries, but expats also receive an ‘impatriation bonus’, where 30% of our salaries are not taxed for the first 8 years we live in France, affording us an even greater disposable income to have a better quality of life. Disclaimer: I might have spent it all on cheese…” — Lauren Reyes 🇺🇸, Senior People Development Manager at Qonto
OK, where do I sign?
Qonto may be a company that’s registered in France but, working here, it doesn’t feel like a French company. We are actively seeking to be as ‘international’ as possible, to make the most of the wealth of cultural and entrepreneurial expertise that ‘being international’ entails.
Qonto seeks the best talent, regardless of where that talent can be found. It’s a place for the culturally and intellectually curious. For people who understand the value of diversity. For those who want to push their own boundaries and improve every day.
Is that your bag? We’re currently hiring across all teams, so if you think you’ve got what it takes and you want your next career challenge to be an international one, then you can see where you might fit in right here on our careers page.