European Business Etiquette: FRANCE
Selling via the Internet means you may have clients, or potential clients, whose cultures you don’t understand very well. This group of articles on European Business Etiquette will give you some idea what to expect when conducting business with our European neighbours.
This article was compiled following a survey of European partners through the EU funded Leonardo da Vinci programme ‘Virtual Incubator for the Creative Industries’ (VIC) project, and reference to web sites such as www.executiveplanet.com where national executives explain their own cultures, and another EU funded Leonardo da Vinci programme project called ‘Passport to Trade BETA’ at www.businessculture.org
The information refers to business in general. Entrepreneurs in the creative industries might find some aspects (for example, dress code, and where business discussions take place) a little more relaxed in their sectors!
|How formal must first introductions be?||Very, with full titles|
|How long before we use first names?||Can take a while|
|Does everyone shake hands?||Yes|
|How many kisses should I expect?||2 if they know you well|
Use Madam or Monsieur. ‘Madamoiselle’ is not often used now.
|Do meetings start on time?||Yes|
|If not, how much leeway can there be?||Few minutes|
|Will the meeting have a formal chair person?||Yes|
|Will there be a strict agenda (topics and time)?||No|
|Will official minutes be taken and circulated?||Usually|
Don’t be over-familiar too quickly. Expect digressions from topic of discussion, but down worry, it’ll come around again. Logic and detail are valued. They will examine every aspect of a project before committing to it.
|Are official business letters acceptable by fax?||Yes|
|Are official business letters acceptable by email?||Yes|
|How formal is the language used?||Very formal|
|Should I expect many phone calls?||Yes|
|Should I expect video-conferences?||No|
Do people wear formal dress (suits, jackets, ties) for
|Can I remove my jacket during the meeting?||Yes|
Will dress be formal for business dinners?
Good quality clothes and care in appearance are very important in creating the right impression. Women are expected to accessorise.
|Are the most important decisions made in a meeting?||Yes|
|Do negotiations take place during lunch?||Yes|
|Do negotiations take place during dinner?||Sometimes|
|Will there be small talk before negotiations?||Yes|
|Are negotiations held back until a social rapport is established?||No, but it is important|
Business negotiations are more likely to take place over lunch than dinner, but not until dessert is served with either meal. Lunches can last a few hours, and it’s important not to leave before everyone has finished coffee.
Don’t assume that French negotiators will be too flexible – they prefer to stay within their cultural boundaries.
|Are gifts expected on the first meeting?||No, but appreciated|
|If so, what type?||Your regional food or an illustrative book|
|Are gifts expected at dinner?||If at home, take flowers or quality chocolate|
|Is there any gift that would be inappropriate?||Anything of poor quality|
Do not take red roses, carnations or chrysanthemums; and make sure there are an odd number of flowers.
Avoid giving wine unless you understand it, and can talk about the bottle you have brought. Hosts generally prefer to choose the wine they offer with a meal, and are likely to present it with ceremony.
Food and Drinks
|Is hospitality generally offered?||Yes|
|Does refusal cause offence?||Yes|
|If so, in a restaurant or at home?||Restaurant|
|Does it generally involve a lot of alcohol?||No|
|What’s the word for "Cheers”||Sante|
You are likely be offered wine frequently, but not expected to drink a lot. Compliment the food, and ask about the wine and the region it comes from.
|Do people leave plenty of personal space, or stand close together?||Depends how well you know them|
|Would a casual touch to the arm be offensive?||No|
Social Taboos (What topics or activities should be avoided?)
Avoid discussion about religion or money. Don’t ask about a person’s job as a conversational opener. Personal party politics tend not to be brought into conversation.
General cuisine and travel are safe topics of conversation.
Gestures (What are they and what do they mean?)
Don’t snap your fingers, it’s taken as an insult.
Manners (What would cause offence?)
Rudeness, lateness, rowdy behaviour and chewing gum in street are all offensive.
The French are quite reserved, formal and polite, so don’t offend them by being loud, being over-demonstrative or hugging them.