France Business Culture, Doing Business in France, and Facts About France Culture

This article will give you an insight into the values, attitudes, and culture of the French, especially when it comes to doing business in France.

I will also discuss the typical France business culture and how Paris differs (or not?) from the rest of France, and finally, we’ll look at some useful facts about France culture.

What This Article is Not About

This article is about current facts about French business culture. I will not dive deep into learning how to speak French, or about the rich history of France. If you’re interested in those, you can read them here:

History of France – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_France

Learn Basic French – https://www.wikihow.com/Speak-Basic-French

Nor will I mention the height of the Eiffel tower… Ok, one exception: it’s 300 meters high; 314 to the very very top 😉 .

But in all seriousness, this article will look at the French from a business perspective and France business culture.

What This Article Is About

This article focuses on facts about France culture and doing business in France.

Business executives who hope to do successful business in France should learn about its culture and customs. Moreso, flexibility and cultural adaptation should serve as the guiding principles for doing business in this country. 

 

Doing Business in France; Some Facts and Figures

What are the most interesting facts about France as a country?

  • France is the world’s most-visited country. Some 82.6 million visitors arrived in France, according to the World Tourism Organization report published in 2016.
  • Known as l’hexagone (the hexagon), France is the largest country in the EU. About a quarter is covered by forest (only Sweden and Finland have more).
  • Liberté, égalitié, fraternité meaning “liberty, equality, and fraternity” (or brotherhood) is the national motto of France. You’ll see it on coins, postage stamps, and government logos often alongside “Marianne” who symbolizes the “triumph of the Republic”.
  • In France, you can marry a dead person – under French law, in exceptional cases, you can marry posthumously, as long as you can also prove that the deceased had the intention of marrying while alive and you receive permission from the French president.
  • France was the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Shops have been required to donate wastage to food banks or charities since February 2016.

 

Paris and the RestDoing business in France the Eiffel tower

When it comes to doing business in France and typical France business culture, I often hear the French claiming that Paris is like an island within the country (the region where Paris is located is indeed called Île-de-France). For the French themselves that might be very true.

But if you’re not from France yourself, and you haven’t lived for a significant time in that country, you will probably not be able to tell the differences between someone from Paris, Marseille, or Bordeaux…

For you, a Frenchman is a Frenchman is a Frenchman… Every inhabitant of every country in the world will be able to see IntrA-cultural differences within his or her own country. Most people, not coming from that country won’t be able to tell the differences…

Concluding, the France business culture is not so much different (if at all) from Parisian business culture.

The Cultural Breakdown of France Business Culture

If we take a look at the four primary dimensions of culture and compare those of France with other countries, the unique cultural profile of France is clearly visible.

NOTE: Any score less or more than 10 points is significant when it comes to a noticeable difference.

Hierarchy Loyalty Goal Orientation Predictability
France 65 75 49 88
United Kingdom 38 90 65 36
Germany 37 65 67 68
India 74 48 65 43

As you can see, compared to Germany and the UK, the French score relatively high on hierarchy, and are still quite individualistic (the 75 score on Loyalty). This makes that the French will accept (not per se respect) that they have a boss, but, if or when the boss does not pay attention, might pursue their own individualistic agenda.

For that reason, it is important to informally inspect what your (French) people are doing. This way of management style or doing business in France would very much demotivate a Brit or a German worker.

Another striking difference between the other three countries in the above table is the relatively high score on Predictability by the French. What does this mean?

A couple of things would jump out:

  • High need for structure and rules (but those rules are not always followed).
  • The dislike for confrontations; they are either avoided totally or explode.
  • An objectively thick bureaucracy; getting a stamp on a piece of paper carries significant value.
  • Lots of need and eye for detail; think of the opening of a bottle of wine in a French restaurant.

There are lot more aspects that fall under this Predictability dimension, too many to elaborate on here. But check out this link where I recorded a clear explanation of what this dimension entails.

You can read more about these dimensions here: https://culturematters.com/the-four-major-dimensions-of-culture/

Business Etiquette in FranceFacts about France Culture the map

France business culture is strongly guided by a number of unique customs. 

When it comes to business etiquette, being aware of French business culture and customs can be the difference between landing an important job or crucial client, or offending the French and walking away empty handed.

  1. Formality is highly regarded in France. You should always address your superiors and those you meet for the first time using Monsieur or Madame
  2. French-style handshakes are known to be brisk and light. You should expect a loose grip, being careful to leave an impression on your French business associate that you are not overpowering and superior.
  3. The French will perceive the way you dress as being a reflection of your social status and relative success. Do your best to make clothing choices that are tasteful and stylish. Wear quality business attire, even if it’s Friday.
  4. Have one side of your business card printed in French and the other in your native language. In France, people commonly write their family name in capital letters so that it stands out. 
  5. Generally, French business people do not plan meetings on short notice. If you are asked to attend a meeting, expect it to be scheduled in about two weeks time. Similarly, if you want to invite somebody to a meeting you should aim to schedule it at least two weeks in advance
  6. Avoid high-pressure sales tactics but expect probing questions and interruptions.

 Of course, there is much more to the France business culture and France facts about France culture and its customs. 

I hope that with this article you will have gained more insights into France business culture and doing business in France, along with some facts about France culture.

Do you have questions on the above article? Do you know more about the French culture and how to do business in France? Email me or post a comment below.

Chris Smit

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Chris Smit

I'm passionate about Cultural Difference. I have been helping organizations save time and money when they work Internationally for the last 19 years. I have had the fortunate opportunity to hold lectures, workshops, and consulting projects on this subject World Wide. It has made me understand my own culture much better, and appreciate the differences around the world.
I have a Master's Degree in Organisational Psychology and have lived in the USA, the Netherlands and, currently, in Belgium.
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Chris Smit
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