3 Tips on Doing Business in France

Having lived in France for a number of years, people often ask me about business etiquette tips when doing business in France. After living in France for some time, there have been many cultural awakenings and moments of miscommunication that I’ve experienced.

From arriving too early to dinner invitations at somebody’s house (the standard rule in France is to arrive 15 minutes after the scheduled time), to being seen as sometimes too reserved, there is an abundance of “petite”, yet very important cultural differences that exist for Anglo-Saxons when living or doing business in France.

I know that many of my readers love France. They’re right to do so. It’s a wonderful country full of culture, beautiful landscapes, and I couldn’t possibly forget to mention the fabulous food and wine.

When you’re on holiday in France you can quickly move past any cultural differences and simply enjoy your time here.

But if you’re planning to do business in France, it’s more important for you to know how to connect and how to make a positive first impression with your French business partners.

To help you with your French business travel, I want to share with you 3 of my favourite tips on doing business in France. These are all tips that I’ve noticed myself, and some of these tips could help you if you’re simply planning a holiday in France.

1. Keep Your Hands on The Table at Lunch

The French business lunch is an experience in itself. Be ready for a style of dining that is formal and long.

A very important rule in French dining etiquette is to keep your hands resting on the table, never in your lap. 

If wine is being served, remember the more you empty your glass, the more it will be topped up. If you’ve had enough wine, simply leave some resting in your glass. 

Business conversation generally starts after the dessert is served and it is up to the host to initiate it.

2. Use a Brisk, Light Handshake

French style handshakes are known to be brisk and light. You should expect a loose grip with only 1-2 up-and-down movements.

If you’re not familiar with this light style of handshake, you could easily walk away with the costly wrong impression that the other person is in a hurry to get away from you!

Be careful of this. Similarly, if you use the stronger American style handshake with a firm grip and 2-3 up-and-down movements, you could easily leave your French business associate feeling overpowered and inferior.

3. Avoid High-Pressure Sales Tactics

French business people don’t like to be pressured into making quick decisions. Aggressive selling techniques won’t work.

If you’re in a business meeting, be patient and expect a lot of discussion and exchange of information.

Decisions are generally not made on the first meeting. They’re made after many detailed discussions and by somebody at the top. Be patient.

Read the sequel to this article here: “3 More Tips on Doing Business in France

Image courtesy of Moyan Brenn on Flickr.com under Creative Commons licence.

Image courtesy of Moyan Brenn on Flickr.com under Creative Commons licence.

I want to turn the discussion over to you. Have you travelled to France? If you have, what cultural differences have you experienced? Leave your comments in the section below.

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About Kara

Kara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions. She is an executive coach who specialises in leadership presence, social skills and business etiquette. She is also the creator of Bestselling Udemy course, Business Etiquette 101. Kara’s advice and unique perspectives have been featured in Time Inc., Business Insider, Ignites Europe (a Financial Times Service), The Muse, The Local France, The West Australian, and more. Kara works regularly with lawyers, investment bankers, and finance professionals to help them build presence, authority and influence in business. Get Kara's insights delivered straight to your inbox

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