5 Things I Learned as an Entrepreneur in France

As an entrepreneur, life can be tough. But as an entrepreneur living and operating in a foreign country and in a language that isn’t your own, it can often be really overwhelming.

How do you approach potential clients without looking pushy? How do you introduce your services clearly? How do you make a good first impression when you don’t know the cultural “rules”?

I was recently invited by Cheval John, host of “What’s the Word”, to be interviewed on his show about my international experience. We had a great discussion about what it’s like to live in France, to be an entrepreneur in France, and also my experience living in Japan.

Growing up in Australia, I was always curious about other countries and other cultures. I had the “travel bug” and at the age of 19 I grasped an opportunity that came my way to explore, discover, and study in Japan. I spent a year immersed in Japanese language, culture, cuisine and loved it so much that I ended up living there for 5!

Travelling or living abroad is a fantastic, mind opening experience that I highly recommend to anyone who has the curiosity. Here you can find out about my experience in Japan and my current entrepreneurial journey in France.

Much about being a successful entrepreneur is about the impression you give potential clients. A positive first impression can take time to master even in your home country. But when you’re thrown into another culture and another language, your great first impression that works at home can often get lost in translation.

To help you make a better first impression when you work, live, or simply travel to a foreign country here are the 5 lessons I want to share.

1. Learn How to Address Others Politely

If it’s common in that country to address others using their title (Mr, Mrs etc.) followed by their surname instead of using their first name, then you should do the same. Using the level of politeness that is expected in that country sets you apart as an intelligent and respectful person.

2. Be Aware of Personal Space

If you stand too close, you could invade the other person’s personal space and make them feel overpowered. If you stand too far away, you could make them feel alienated. Gauge the appropriate distance by watching whether the other person moves closer to you or further away.

3. Take Note of How Much Eye Contact is Used

Too much eye contact could give the impression that you’re being aggressive. Too little eye contact could give the impression you’re shy or weak. Watch how much eye contact others use and find a balance.

4. Try to Learn Their Language

Even if it’s just a few phrases or words, the fact that you’ve made the effort to learn the language that is used in that country shows a great deal of respect. When others feel that you respect them and their culture, you will get a lot of respect in return.

5. Keep an Open Mind

In every culture there is a reason why people do things the way they do. You may think that it’s strange, odd or incomprehensible to wear one pair of slippers in the house and another pair in the toilet, but in Japan there is a very good reason why.

I would love to hear from you in a comment below: What interesting or sometimes “odd” things have you discovered during your travels abroad?

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