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The Business Etiquette of The French

August 29, 2021
France isn't a wealthy country for nothing. Did you think Paris became the lap of luxury that it is today simply because it seemed destined to be? No! The French worked hard despite what you might think of their lifestyles. And they have a way of doing business that, evidently, has made them successful over the years. So if you're in the corporate world, you might benefit a lot from working with the French. That is if you do business with them properly. This means adhering to their own business etiquette customs. The French are very particular when it comes to such and you'd do well in knowing what they are.

The Business Etiquette of The French


Introduce Yourself with Your Full Name

This tip may seem like a given, but you'd be surprised at how many businessmen there are that only introduce themselves by their surnames. Of course, none of them are French! Here in France, when meeting up with fellow businessmen/women, they expect you to introduce yourselves with your full names. Typically, you start with your first name and then your last name, though the other way is also acceptable. Another sub-tip to follow is to always remember the names of those you meet.


Know French Gestures

When meeting French businessmen/women, you'll notice that they'll often do all sorts of gestures that seem like a secret code that only they could understand. If you're privy to the ways of the French, you might know what they mean and you can partake in their little pass-the-message play. For instance, tapping one's nose with his/her index finger suggests that they consider someone as clever and intelligent. On the flip side, you have to avoid doing the 'okay' sign with your hand (forming a circle with your thumb and index finger). For the French, this usually means you're describing someone as worthless—essentially a 'zero.'

The Business Etiquette of The French



Greet with Handshakes, Not Hugs

As far as French social customs are concerned, another gesture that's common is les bises greeting, or kissing one's cheeks. This is all well and good during social occasions, but when conducting business, les bises can feel inappropriate. When greeting fellow businessmen/women in corporate settings in France, a light but firm handshake is enough. Now, it's important to note that the firmness of it is important. If you exert too much strength in your handshake, your colleague might misinterpret it as an expression of aggression. On the other hand, if your handshake is too loose, you risk letting him/her think that you're too disinterested (worst-case scenario: disgusted) to give a proper one!


There's No Such Thing as Casual Fridays

In France's corporate world, dressing casually to work is a huge mistake. Despite what you think of the French's work lifestyle, most businessmen/women in the country always dress to impress. The men don suits with ties and sparkling leather shoes. Women can also wear suits or dresses that are of the appropriate length. Some even go as far as to wear designer clothing too, to further emphasize their status. And if you choose to do business with them, they expect that you put as much effort into your appearance as they do.

The Business Etiquette of The French



Lunch Break is Only for Lunch

Speaking of the French work lifestyle, it's important you remember that their lunch break is just that: a break for lunch. It's all about maintaining that work-life balance, of which they’ve certainly become experts. In fact, even the busiest executive of the most manic of workaholics knows that when the lunch break starts, it's all about food, drinks, coffee, and light conversations. Only during a business lunch will work slightly seep into the one or two hours of break time, and that's only when the meal itself is already done!


Schedule Meetings At Least Two Weeks in Advance

French businessmen/women are very particular when it comes to time. If you want to set a business meeting with them, make sure you send your invitations at least two weeks in advance. If you try to schedule it at the last minute, there's a good chance they won't even reply to your invitation. Also, go to the said meeting on time. The French are rather punctual and they expect that you extend the same courtesy to them as well.

The Business Etiquette of The French



Don't Be Too Pushy

It's understandable to think that, when doing business with the French, you might have to hard-sell a little. If you believe the stereotype that these are snooty individuals that are hard to please, you'll find yourself becoming more and more aggressive and pushy with your presentation, proposals, and the like. But doing so will actually backfire! As long as you're calm and confident with what you're presenting, there's a good chance that they'll take the bait and seal the deal with you.


Get Used To Interruptions

In relation to not selling too hard to the French, expect that they will ask a lot of questions. They're very careful with who they do business with and to determine if they're about to make the right decision, they tend to pummel potential partners with lots of inquiries. There will even be times that, in the middle of your presentation, they will interrupt you to ask something right then and there. These are par for the course when doing business with the French. It'd do you well to keep calm and go with the flow.

The Business Etiquette of The French



Translate Your Business Card in French

Now, when it comes to giving out business cards, make sure you do one side that's all in French. You'd think that experienced businessmen/women, especially those on top of the corporate ladder, would know how to speak English, right? Be that as it may, they'll still appreciate it if they can converse and read French to make things easier. And don't just Google Translate your business card details too! If you have time and you're already in Paris, the central business hub of France, enroll in a French-language school and, at the very least, learn the basics!


Business Meals are Always Fine Dining

In the instance you get invited out for a business meal, know that it'd probably be fine dining. Whether it's brunch in the early morning, lunch during mid-day, or even dinner after work, most businessmen/women will take you out to some of the finest restaurants around. Especially if you're in Paris! So in order to avoid embarrassing yourself, brush up on your fine dining etiquette. Know the proper posture when sitting at the dinner table, which spoons to use on which dish, and come up with light and fun conversation topics while you're at it! This is a surefire way to leave a lasting good impression!

The Business Etiquette of The French


When you want to do business with the French, you ought to know their own way of doing things. From the way you greet them to how you set up an important meeting, you'll greatly benefit from learning their business etiquette. This will help you win them over!

If you did well with your business with the French, you might even earn enough to get a luxury home in France! Wouldn't that be quite the reward?




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