Understanding French Business Culture & Practices
- French Language & Culture
- Doing Business in France
- Business Etiquette
- Social Etiquette
- Business Dress
- Business Lunches
Doing business with other countries involves cross cultural exchanges that can be challenging. It is a norm to consider business practices, etiquette, negotiation techniques, and business protocol when conducting business in a foreign land. These areas need to be addressed in order to have a better chance at success. France has opened up its borders to trade and has vast and varied opportunities for investment. As with other nations, cultural differences can have an impact on business proceedings in France.
French Language & Culture
Although French are proud of their language, English is easily adapted in the european business environment. The French are conscious of their social behavior and are guided by their traditional values. Courteous behavior is appreciated, and French businessmen attach a great degree of mutual trust and understanding in business relationships. It would be prudent to offer an apology if you do not speak French.
Doing Business in France
Punctuality is not the keyword when it comes to business appointments. A 10-15 minute delay is common and is not something that is taken seriously. The French are lenient when it comes a minor delay in the completion of a project, provided quality and costs are contained. Negotiating a deadline if required can be accomplished without much ado. In general, French businessmen are not risk takers and prefer to adopt a conservative approach to business and not detour from the agreed path. Corporate structures are well laid out with clear-cut job descriptions and management powers spelt out. High level executives do have an authoritarian approach in managing a business. Developing a good working relationship is essential if you want to continue a long term business relationship in France.
When it comes to rules and regulations, the French are disciplined by nature. Uncertainties do not go down well with the French and they are therefore meticulous about contract terms and conditions, preferring to go through every point in detail.
Socially, the French are experts at conversation, and have a deep sense of individuality. They are not used to light-hearted banter. Frequent eye contact is natural with the French, who feel more confident if their partner did the same while conversing.
The French have always had a great sense of style when it comes to dressing. Business visitors ought to be well dressed at business meeting, where a business suit would be appropriate. Loud, flashy attire is an absolute no.
The French are as passionate about food as they are about fashion. Business lunches are a norm where a meal would consist of an appetizer, main course, cheese, dessert, coffee, and of course, French wine. You can allow these two hours to build up your business relationship. It is advisable to wait for the host to wish you ‘Bon apetit’, the French phrase meaning have a good meal, prior to beginning eating.
France is one of the major developed industrial and agricultural economies in Europe. Foreign investors are encouraged to participate and ought to spend time researching French business practices in order to make a successful start to doing business in France.