An Expat Life | James, the International Ad Man


For most people, living in France does not just mean eating croissants and drinking good wine every day. This blog post is a part of our series, An Expat Life, exploring what it is like for an expat to live and work in Paris. Through these profiles of expats who have made their lives here, we will show you the different opportunities that exist in France and the (many) struggles that go along with them.

Of all the ways to come to France legally, getting sponsored by a company is by far one of the most difficult and lucrative options. Though the company is in charge of you paperwork, there are still many hurdles to jump through before they can get your visa. Yet for a lucky few, such as James Gebler, this is the way to make the dream of living in France a reality. James, who has been employed as a Conceptual Copywriter at the advertising agency BBDO since 2011, recently agreed to sit down and speak with me about his experiences.

Originally from Sydney, Australia, James wanted to live and work somewhere that made it easy to travel the world (which is imaginably more expensive to do from Australia). He was interested in working in a big European city and end up being offered a job in Paris. The only problem? James speaks very little French. At work, this turned out to not be too big a problem. English is the common language for his clients who are located around the world and the ads for which he is a copywriter are all in English. As the only native speaker, he is seen as the English expert in the office and he finds it funny that everyone assumes whatever he says is correct

As one can expect, however, James has encountered many roadblocks from not being able to speak French. Not everyone in the company speaks English, so often conversations take twice as long with people translating back and forth, which can be a frustrating experience. Because of this language barrier, James finds Parisian social life a little harder to break into. But everyone he has interacted with inside and outside of the agency has been extremely nice to him and understanding of the language difficulty, completely shattering the stereotype of the rude Parisian for him. Even though he gets by, his advice to anyone thinking of coming to work in France: “Learn a bit of French first.”

Despite his company handling the visa process for him, there have been some hang-ups along the way. Even after being here for a little over 1 year, he still finds himself having paperwork issues related to his visa (something I’m sure every expat in France can relate to). He says that he has learned a couple of things from this experience. His first piece of advice is “to get a lawyer from your company to help speed along the process.” But even with a lawyer, things can take awhile to happen so he cautions everyone to “expect delays along the way.” I was surprised by James’ nonchalant attitude about all of this; it is definitely something we can all learn from him.

Overall, life is good for James in Paris. He has broken into the large Australian expat community where he has found others to commiserate with on the stress of daily life. One perk of his job is traveling all over Europe and the United States for ad shoots. This has given him exactly what he wanted in moving over here: the ability to easily visit lots of countries. But, he says, “It is just good to be in Paris.”



  1. So wonderful… ! James is such a sweetheart filled with great stories and I admire his energy. I was lucky enough to work with him on a few projects at BBDO, what an inspirational guy. So jealous of him getting to travel for work!

  2. This guy sounds so cool. I wish I was related to him. 🙂

  3. I am lucky enough to be his aunt and have enjoyed his wonderful quirky sense of humou for many years Auntie Jan

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