Having been born and raised in France, ten months ago, after a year working for Colliers in Paris, I decided to pack my suitcase and cross the channel to start a new chapter in London in order to follow an exciting a new job opportunity, as a Digital Marketing Executive at the firm’s EMEA headquarters.
During my time here, I’ve come to learn that, despite the two cities being separated by just a two-hour train journey, the lifestyles and working habits of Parisians and Londoners couldn’t be more different; even within the same company.
‘Moving to a city seven times bigger than the French capital means higher rents and longer commutes – but friendly faces too.’
One of the reasons why I chose to move to London was the open-mindedness of English people. I’ve felt welcome from day one, and it would seem that I am not alone; the French population in London stretches to more than 300,000 people, making it one of the biggest French expat communities in the world.
Upon arrival, one of the most striking things about moving to London was coming to terms with the rent prices. While you can rent a nice 1-bedroom apartment in Paris for less than £1,000 a month; the same budget is more likely to afford you a reasonable shared flat in London. I will admit that going back to living in a flatshare was difficult at first, but it seems to be the best way to meet people – especially when you move to a city where you don’t know anyone.
Evading higher rents tend to lead to longer commutes. While I was used to walking to work in Paris, it now takes me 35 minutes by train (which is actually pretty good for London). Indeed, long commutes are quite common for Londoners, with an hour journey by tube/bus being pretty average for many.
My new colleagues have been a valuable source of advice for living in London. Reflecting the city’s diversity, I’ve joined a really multicultural Marketing team of almost 30 people who come from all corners of the world, including Italy; Belgium; Cyprus; Ireland; Poland; Canada and even Yorkshire (which my colleague insists is different).
I’ve learnt that cultural background has a key role to play in the corporate culture of a company. Colliers is, to me, a great company to work for, which welcomes people from every nationality, as well as encouraging internal promotions.
Two cities, two offices, what differences?
Joining the office in London, I was surprised to see how different the two offices are.
Colliers’ Paris office has seven floors where the employees are hot-desking – which is the practice of having unassigned desks, so multiple people may use any given workstation.
The advantages of hot-desking are multiple. It increases the sense of autonomy and freedom, it increases interaction with other teams, and allows for a variety and choice of different workspaces.
Each floor has an open plan design with a variety of alternative workspaces that people can choose from – including huddle spaces, quiet rooms, collaboration booths and meeting spaces. On the fifth floor you’ll find the common living areas, comprising a kitchen, a game room and a rest room. The whole building is colourful, the desks are designer and chairs are chosen to improve posture. All of this, makes it a great place to work in.
In Colliers’ EMEA headquarters in Marylebone, London, around 500 employees occupy a building over three open plan floors, with additional floors in the neighbouring building used to house some of our business support teams. Most of the service lines have allocated seats and each floor has several meeting rooms and a kitchen where most employees have their lunch.
Obviously, the day job is pretty familiar; we are using similar tools and we are involved in similar projects, which only highlights to me how global our platform is.
What about the dress code?
At work, the English have a more conservative style than the French do. You’ll find the men wearing suits and black leather shoes, while the women typically wear dresses or suits with trousers or skirts and closed-toe shoes.
However, in London we have what we call ‘Dress down days’, when the dress code becomes casual. Jeans, trainers, that’s THE day to wear your comfy clothes. The purpose of dress down day is to support a new charity every time; everyone usually gives £3 each. I find this idea genius. In general, English people seem to support charities a lot.
Coffee or tea?
While we might think the French’s obsession with coffee and the English’s love of tea is a big stereotype – it actually is true. A black tea with a drop of milk is a must here. English people also tend to have more breakfast in the office than French do.
When it comes to drinks, after-work drinks are definitely a thing in London. I find it very valuable, it brings people together and in a different context.
While internal social events were more occasional in Paris, there is a lot going on in the EMEA HQ. Every quarter we have what we call ‘Mixers’. These are themed events, organised on the ground floor of the office, and everyone from the CEO to the post room team attends to enjoy a drink together.
We also have development days (where we do team-building activities), a Christmas party and a yearly Tryathlon (a triathlon where sporting prowess is not necessary, we only ask people to give it a try).
The benefits of working in France?
One of the multiple advantages of working in France is that every month we get what we call ‘Tickets Restaurants’ (or restaurant vouchers in English). They are a form of payment provided by French employers to partially fund the lunchtime meals of their employees. Another benefit we have is that any company has to pay up to 50 percent of its workers’ monthly public transportation pass. Finally, France has 11 bank holidays, whereas the UK has just eight. Moreover, the French have five weeks of annual leave per year, plus up to 22 days of RTT (reduction of working time). In Britain, most full-time workers are legally entitled to a minimum of 28 days (but this includes bank Holidays).
So in a nutshell…
Working at Colliers Paris, I was lucky enough to have amazing colleagues who taught me a lot and were very encouraging with regards to my career choices. I feel very lucky to have a joined a company where, in both cities, the corporate culture is encouraging creativity, innovation, diversity, involvement and with a lot of growth opportunities.
The past two years at Colliers have been a great journey, full of thrilling encounters, and exciting work projects. Thanks to them, I am proud to call London my new home.