The way in which you say something in France is almost as important as what is actually said.

There is a great love of and respect for elegance in the use of language and the sophisticated presentation of ideas is raised to an art form. A sense of national pride makes it difficult to listen to the language being spoken badly (or even worse to have to read poorly constructed French!) If you speak poor French, it may these days be better to do it in English.

Debate in France can often be seen as highly confrontational by those from a non-confrontational background. In France, the drawing of distinction is almost an intellectual goal – a goal which will help to move the process forward. Building on similarities is not seen as such a positive.

During discussions, interruptions will often occur, with other parties in the conversation joining in and emotions can seem to be running high. This animated, somewhat theatrical style is, again, viewed as conducive to reaching the end results.

The French admire the logical exposition of well defined ideas and when listening can be heard making such comments as – ‘it’s not logical’, which is a good indication that problems lie ahead. Such a comment might be more accurately interpreted as ‘I don’t see the logic of your argument, therefore I can’t buy it.’

Written business French is extremely stylised and formal with an etiquette which can seem anachronistic in translation. However, it is important that anything sent in writing is rigorously checked, as the ability to produce correct written language is seen as a sign of intelligence and good education.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in France

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Overview

This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in France. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in France and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips