France Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public Holidays

Introduction

The basis of the culture of negotiation is the same in France and the Czech Republic as in the entire Western Christian civilization circle. The procedure considered appropriate and polite in the Czech Republic for various occasions is also satisfactory in France. It is better to leave the initiative for more familiar negotiations to the French side.

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Addressing

Business partners can be approached either in person on the occasion of an event, such as a fair, or in writing. At the same time, introductory correspondence and information materials in French have a chance of getting more attention, even if the business partner is able to communicate in English. As for addressing terminology, the standard address in French is Monsieur (Mr.) or Madame (Ms.) without a surname. Although not felt as strongly today, being addressed by a surname is considered impolite and demeaning. For higher positions, the address is more formal, for example Monsieur le directeur (Mr. Director), etc. Academic titles are not commonly used and are practically only mentioned in academic publications. Another difference is that in France the title Docteur (doctor) is exclusively intended for addressing a doctor, and for example, a lawyer is addressed as Maître (master). Ingénieur (engineer) is seen more as a profession and not a title. Public functions are of great importance. Ministers or mayors, etc., with the achieved position, are addressed for life. Tacking or addressing by first name usually comes into consideration only after personal contact has been established.

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Business meeting

A business meeting can be arranged by phone or e-mail. The higher the position of the person, the more practical it is to send a proposal for several dates to choose from, together with topics for discussion. The usual meeting place is company premises, or, depending on the situation, a hotel or a trade fair. An invitation to a restaurant for lunch or dinner cannot be relied upon. Business cards are quite common. Gifts are not expected, and when they are occasionally given, they are usually corporate gifts. It is most appropriate to propose meetings during normal working hours outside lunchtime (between 12 and 2 p.m.) and outside holidays, weekdays between holidays, August days and preferably not even on Fridays in the late afternoon. At the same time, so that it is certain to arrive on time, even if delays due to traffic jams do occur and do not cause great surprises. At the same time, it is customary to notify even a relatively small delay of the trip by phone. During negotiations, the lengthiness of some decisions and administrative procedures is probably the most surprising, which requires increased patience and a longer horizon of thinking. French traders are on average quite conservative with a focus on established suppliers and increased caution towards offers from the east of the EU. It is also difficult to work your way up to the right people in the company hierarchy. They are usually well prepared for the meeting with an adequate amount of documents and logically prepared arguments. Their behavior shows how they have been carefully prepared for precisely structured discussions on various topics since high school. Business negotiations tend to be conducted at a high level, because in the centralized management system common to most French companies, not enough authority is delegated to lower levels. Similarly, French partners expect their counterparts to deal with them at the highest possible level. Negotiations at a lower level usually do not lead to immediate results, but only to the definition of basic terms and conditions. Once an agreement is reached, the French usually take contractual obligations seriously. However, it is good if the agreement is captured in writing as precisely as possible, because otherwise the French partners tend to go back to points that they try to adapt to their needs. However, respect, mutual respect and courtesy are generally applied. Even with the dramatic course of the discussion, an agreement is usually reached, which usually takes the form of a compromise acceptable to both parties. The French are sometimes late for meetings (10-15 minutes is considered normal). The use of meeting time is quite appropriate, and the length of time devoted to polite topics depends on the format of the meeting. Sometimes opening speeches are part of the meeting and then it is expected to respond to them or toasts. Any emotions are handled professionally during negotiations, so they may not even be noticeable and the style of negotiations will not change significantly. Regional differences in business negotiations are not very significant and are rather reflected in the differences in the different size or focus of the companies and the history of the persons negotiating. Usually, the larger the company and the higher the status of the negotiators, the more formally impressive the negotiation. During the meeting, alcohol is not offered in the meeting rooms. In case of subsequent entertainment, wine, possibly also beer. Clothing, which is generally perceived in the Czech Republic as adequate for work, is equally acceptable in France. The ideal composition of the negotiation team depends mostly on the topics to be discussed and the competences of its members. For the sake of readiness, preferably two to three people, at least one of whom can speak French, even if the meeting is scheduled in English. An invitation to a business meeting at home is unlikely, and it would rather be an invitation to a restaurant, of which there are plenty in France and with a tradition of frequenting them.

Communication

If something is not clear in advance or agreed otherwise when arranging the meeting, it pays to bring an interpreter to the first meeting if you do not know French. If there is no verification question in case of ambiguity, it is assumed that the meeting will be conducted in French, either directly or through an interpreter on the Czech side. From the point of view of language skills, in France, as in the Czech Republic, knowledge of English is the most widely spread of foreign languages, but in individual cases this cannot be relied on in advance. The social part of the conversation can be led on various common topics, for example, a great interest is in culture. And just like in the Czech Republic, it is not appropriate to get into topics that are too personal or socially sensitive. You can communicate in all ways, but as a rule, at a certain stage, personal acquaintance is needed for a greater chance of establishing a stronger business relationship. Visit Aparentingblog for more information about France culture and traditions.

Recommendation

For business negotiations in France, the knowledge presented in the previous points can be briefly summarized as follows:

  • Do not propose business meetings at noon, on holidays and in August.
  • To observe the culture of business and social contact as in the Czech Republic. It is basically the same in France.
  • Do not rely entirely on English unless something is obvious or agreed upon in advance.
  • Attractively present Western references to your offers, if they exist.
  • Do not expect quick decisions from the French side and persevere if a longer return on effort and cost can be tolerated.

Public Holidays

Public holidays with a fixed date are:

  • 1. 1. New Year (Jour de l’An)
  • 1. 5. Labor Day (Fête du Travail)
  • 8. 5. Victory Day (Victoire 1945)
  • 7/14 National holiday (Fête nationale) – on the anniversary of the capture of the Bastille prison in Paris on 7/14/1789 at the beginning of the Great French Revolution
  • 15. 8. Assumption (Assomption) – the most important Marian holiday in some Christian churches
  • 1. 11. All Saints (Toussaint) – Christian holiday in memory of all saints
  • 11/11 Armistice Day (Armistice 1918) – on the anniversary of the cessation of hostilities on 11/11/1918 on the Western Front of World War I
  • 25 December Christmas Day (Noël)
  • and also the movable Christian holidays of Easter Monday (Lundi de Pâques), Ascension and Pentecost (Lundi de Pentecôte). In some places and areas there are still other holidays, for example in the Alsace-Moselle region (near the border with Germany) there is also a holiday on Good Friday (Vendredi saint) and 26 December.

The current overview of holidays can be found on the website of the state administration in the Jours fériés chapter.

France Culture of Business