WWOOF France: How Americans Can Live in France

October 23, 2014
WWOOF France: How Americans Can Live in France

At some point in every traveler’s life, one will ask oneself, “Could I be an English teacher?” And one will ask that question because it seems like the only feasible way to travel and live around the world is to teach English. This, at least in the countries where I’ve worked, is because businesses have to prove to the government (in order to get a work visa for an American) that they must have an American—you, hopefully—do the job, and only an American. And typically the only job an American can do better than a native of a non-English speaking country is teach English. The odds are in your favor here.

But it’s a bit of a mess to get a work visa as an American in Europe. Should a company or school choose to hire you over the many other qualified and likely more experienced candidates, you have to have time and money to get through the process. Here, the odds are not in your favor.

WWOOF France: How Americans Can Live in France on a Budget

It’s not impossible, but it’s unlikely. What’s more likely is that, if you search long enough, you’ll find a job at a school, but you won’t get a work visa. They won’t even try to get you a work visa, opting instead to pay you in cash, “under the table,” as English teachers have learned to say.

Businesses have to prove to the government (in order to get a work visa for an American) that they must have an American — you, hopefully — do the job, and only an American.

So once you decide that you don’t want to be a teacher, you better start looking for other options. I won’t lie: there aren’t many, if you’re a regular ol’ Joe like me and the thousands of others who take the TEFL route. Here’s one option: WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms).

They change the acronym all the time, but WWOOF (not to be confused with WUPHF.com) stood for Willing Workers on Organic Farms in 2012. Most people are familiar with the basics of the program. Offered in countries all around the world, WWOOF seeks to make the connection between people who are willing to work while they travel with farmers who need a little extra help. You don’t get paid, but you get free housing and food.

WWOOF France: How Americans Can Live in France

Each country, from Canada to India, Afghanistan to Brazil, has a network of hosts. To view the network, you have to subscribe to a country’s listing. Gaining electronic access to the list costs 20 euros (and grants you access for a month), which is a bargain when you consider that you’re getting set up with real people who are looking for volunteers like you. You’re completely avoiding getting spammed or tricked into something. These are real people from around the world who need help.

Once you pay the 20 euros (PayPal being the preferred method of payment), you can look around at locations and settings. You can work on a farm in Normandy or on a vineyard in southern France. You then email the hosts of places you’re interested in to see if your schedules work together (they may not have room for you when you want to go), and if everything works there, you make a plan.

We had no money and, if we left Istanbul, no jobs, so WWOOFing was our only hope. It was so great to have that option for the in-between moments of travel.

My boyfriend at the time and I picked a few favorites and Googled what we could about them (many have their own websites) before we emailed Christian, who seemed to be a very nice man, about coming to work on his vineyard. We were very grateful he approved, as we had made a last minute decision to leave Istanbul (where we were working as English teachers) about a month before we had originally planned. We had no money and, if we left Istanbul, no jobs, so WWOOFing was our only hope. It was so great to have that option for the in-between moments of travel.

The highlights of working on Christian’s farm were that he was a very kind and generous man, the village was gorgeous, and the work was easy (five-hour work days are a piece of cake). It was a vacation to stay there with him and help him out.

But beware: not everyone has this experience. I heard WWOOF horror stories from fellow volunteers while at Christian’s. Therefore, I would advise looking into and talking with potential hosts as much as possible (without annoying them!) to get a good feel for what the environment at particular farms is like. Some hosts are very strict. Some, like Christian, just need a few extra hands on the vines and like to have meals together.

Do a little research, get excited, and go WWOOF!




WWOOF France: How Americans Can Live in France photo credits by Unsplash. 

About Lauren Krzyzostaniak

Lauren Krzyzostaniak lives in New York, where she works as a freelance writer. Find her online and follow her on Twitter.

2 thoughts on “WWOOF France: How Americans Can Live in France

  1. Lauren Krzyzostaniak
    March 16, 2017

    Hi Cole,

    Obviously I can only speak from my own experience as an American, but citizens of other countries may have a different experience.

    I did not need a visa to volunteer, and I have never been asked for proof of reservations at customs. It’s not unusual to find lodging after you land, so I don’t see how you could get in trouble for that. However, you should know probably a month or so at least in advance which farms you’ll be working on. You’ll need to email the hosts and make sure you can come and make sure that your expectations of WWOOFing are aligned with those of your host. Every farm is different!

    Reddit has a WWOOFing thread where you can read about other peoples’ experiences and questions. You might find more help there. https://www.reddit.com/r/WWOOF/

  2. Cole
    March 15, 2017

    Hi Lauren,

    I’m interested in WWOOFing in France this summer. I was wondering if I will need to get a visa to do this? I have not been very successful in finding any concrete information online about this. It seems that I will not need a work visa, since I will not be paid. However, I’ve seen that it’s possible that customs might ask for proof of reservation while in the country. I plan to stay two weeks in Paris through my stay this summer, so I have proof of those reservations, but I will not have any proof of staying on the farms. What was your experience like? I’m really confused on what I should do, as I would really like to participate in this wonderful program!

    All best,

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