I interned for a company in Germany whose main role was to teach English to business employees, but they also did some translation and editing work. I was given work to do in all three areas. I was really grateful for the experience itself but I thought I should be paid, especially as I had relocated to Germany for the period, and asked for a small salary. Maybe it was a bit cheeky but when I thought about it, each translation and piece of editing work I did and each class I taught would have been given to a permanent member of the company if I hadn’t been there, and that person would have been paid. The company were really great about it and not only gave me a small salary to help towards my rent but also made me a paid-up temporary member of teaching staff, so that I got a fee for each class I taught.
Maybe my experience was atypical but I can’t help feeling that, in Europe, a more sympathetic attitude is taken towards interns. This company didn’t even normally pay interns but they did their best to help me out and never once did it seem that I was being taken for granted. In France, interns are nearly always paid; generally about 300 euros monthly. It’s really not much, but I think it has symbolic as well as monetary value. It says: “We can’t take you on as a paid worker but we’re grateful for the work you do” rather than, “You’re just another useless student who’s lucky to get a free Pret sandwich out of us”.