Francophone Culture: Business And Meeting Etiquette

Francophone Culture: Business And Meeting Etiquete

Francophone Culture: Business And Meeting Etiquete

Francophone Culture: Business and Meeting Etiquette
via Dr. Armelle Fee, FLCC

Relationships & Communication

  • French business behavior emphasizes courtesy and a degree of formality.
  • Mutual trust and respect is required to get things done.
  • Trust is earned through proper behavior.
  • Creating a wide network of close personal business alliances is very important.
  • If you do not speak French, an apology for not knowing their language may aid in developing a relationship.
  • It is always a good idea to learn a few key phrases, since it demonstrates an interest in a long-term relationship.
  • The way a French person communicates is often predicated by their social status, education level, and which part of the country they were raised.
  • In business, the French often appear extremely direct because they are not afraid of asking probing questions.
  • Written communication is formal. Secretaries often schedule meetings and may be used to relay information from your French business colleagues.
  • Also, exaggeration is interpreted as na├»ve, boasting, and even rude. Do not be afraid to debate with your French colleagues.
  • Business partners who make logical arguments and have well rounded views are valued by the French.

Business Meeting Etiquette

  • Appointments are necessary and should be made at least 2 weeks in advance.
  • Appointments may be made in writing or by telephone and, depending upon the level of the person you are meeting, are often handled by the secretary.
  • Do not try to schedule meetings during July or August, as this is a common vacation period.
  • If you expect to be delayed, telephone immediately and offer an explanation.
  • Meetings are to discuss issues, not to make decisions.
  • Avoid exaggerated claims, as the French do not appreciate hyperbole.

Business Negotiations

  • French business emphasizes courtesy and a fair degree of formality.
  • Wait to be told where to sit.
  • Maintain direct eye contact while speaking.
  • Business is conducted slowly. You will have to be patient and not appear ruffled by the strict adherence to protocol.
  • Avoid confrontational behavior or high-pressure tactics. It can be counterproductive.
  • The French will carefully analyze every detail of a proposal, regardless of how minute.
  • Business is hierarchical. Decisions are generally made at the top of the company.
  • The French are often impressed with good debating skills that demonstrate an intellectual grasp of the situation and all the ramifications.
  • Never attempt to be overly friendly. The French generally compartmentalize their business and personal lives.
  • Discussions may be heated and intense.
  • High-pressure sales tactics should be avoided. The French are more receptive to a low-key, logical presentation that explains the advantages of a proposal in full.
  • When an agreement is reached, the French may insist it be formalized in an extremely comprehensive, precisely worded contract.

Dress Etiquette

  • Business dress is understated and stylish.
  • Men should wear dark-coloured, conservative business suits for the initial meeting. How you dress later is largely dependent upon the personality of the company with which you are conducting business.
  • Women should wear either business suits or elegant dresses in soft colours.
  • The French like the finer things in life, so wear good quality accessories.

Business Cards

  • Business cards are exchanged after the initial introductions without formal ritual.
  • Have the other side of your business card translated into French. Although not a business necessity, it demonstrates an attention to detail that will be appreciated.
  • Include any advanced academic degrees on your business card.
  • French business cards are often a bit larger than in many other countries.

Tips to Remember:

  • Apologize if you do not know how to speak French.
  • Avoid overly friendly behavior.
  • Dress conservatively.
  • Maintain eye contact during discussions.
  • Do not discuss business during meals.

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