French Business Etiquette | Doing Business In France | Globig (2023)

France is a great market opportunity for businesses around the world. France consistently ranks among the top consumer markets in the world and it can be used as a gateway into Europe. France may seem just like any other country in trade, but the French have unique customs and are serious about professional etiquette. When new to France, you are likely to struggle with common cultural and business challenges unless you prepare in advance to conform to French business etiquette. Here are some tips for doing business in France.

How To Network

Contrary to what most people think, the French are not cold, arrogant and unfriendly. Creating a broad network of close business alliances is imperative. The guiding principles of flexibility and adaptation are also important for anyone doing business here. The best way to build a strong business network in France is by conforming to French business culture and etiquette. So, follow the tips below and you’ll be well on your way to a strong French network.

Address others using Monsieur or Madame

French business culture is still highly formal. When meeting someone for the first time or communicating with superiors, you should always address them using Monsieur or Madame. Furthermore, when introducing yourself use your first and last name. Never use someone’s first name until you are invited to do so, although this invitation is not likely to happen. Don’t be surprised if you hear someone introduce himself with his last name followed by his first (given) name.

Shaking Hands and French Gestures

The French utilize a brisk but light handshake. This means you should expect a loose grip with only one or two movements. Using a firm American-style handshake is likely to leave a Frenchman feeling overpowered or inferior. Shaking hands is customary in French business culture.

(Video) A Business Etiquette Guide to France

La bise (or the kiss) is generally used only between a woman and a man or between women once there is an established business relationship. When you kiss, you don’t actually kiss the other person’s cheek, but rather lightly touch cheeks and kiss the air. Although two kisses is most common, it can be as high as five. The number of kisses depends on the region in France. This table shows how many kisses you can expect by region. If in doubt, let Les Français lead. If, as a woman, you do not feel comfortable kissing cheeks with a man, you can politely offer your hand for a handshake.

Studying French gestures is also important because they use different gestures (many are opposite) from other societies and cultures around the world. For example, a thumbs up means ‘okay’ or ‘good’ in many Anglo-Saxon countries, but in France it means ‘nothing’, ‘worthless’ or ‘zero’.


French business communication is formal and courteous. If you do not speak French, an apology for not knowing the language will help to build relationships. However, learning a few key phrases will go a long way in forming long-term business relationships. Most meeting will be conducted in French, so if you need an interpreter, set it up weeks in advance.

Contrary to many other cultures, particularly American culture, it is not frowned upon or uncommon in France to be interrupted. In fact, is it part of the French communication style, even in a professional setting. If you are interrupted during a meeting, don’t fret, it is likely a positive sign that the other party is interested in what you are saying.

How To Cold Email

The French value time and may not have the time to read a cold email. However, you can still market your business by enhancing your email. Give it an appealing subject, followed by how you intend to add value to the prospect customer’s life.

(Video) THE FRENCH MANAGEMENT STYLE (French Business Culture // Work in France)

Email Etiquette

In America, people like to get right into the reason for writing the email correspondence. This is not the case in France. Starting an email with your needs turns off the person reading. Instead, think of pleasantries that are likely to brighten the recipient’s mood.

How To Dress

French business attire is formal and first impressions are important. French dress is generally understated and stylish. Men wear dark-colored suits for the first meeting, but what they wear later is largely dependent on the company. Men are clean-shaven. Women, on the other hand, wear elegant dresses with soft colors or business suits and high-quality accessories. The concept of “casual Friday” is not a common or universal concept in France.

How To Negotiate

French emphasize formality and courtesy, but in a direct way. They prefer that you maintain a direct eye contact when speaking and not to appear ruffled by the adherence to protocol. The French are analytical and will analyze every detail. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid high-pressure tactics and confrontations.

Business Cards

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Business cards are exchanged after the first meeting. Having one side of your card translated into French is crucial, as it demonstrates attention to details. It is also advisable to include your advanced academic degrees on your card. French business cards tend to be longer than those in other countries. While there is no ritual for exchanging business cards, when you are given a business card, examine it thoroughly before putting it away.

Social Networks

Although privacy and data security regulations are tight in France, French businesses still use a broad range of social networks. The most popular are Viadeo (a Paris-based professional social network site similar to LinkedIn) and LinkedIn, followed by Facebook. Other top social media sites in France are Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. Many company website’s integrate links to their profiles.

Business Meetings

In keeping with formality, the French expect business meetings to be scheduled at least two weeks in advance and confirmed a day or two before. Punctuality is also highly valued in France. If you are going to be late, call with an explanation immediately. Keep in mind, the French are afforded a generous amount of vacation time, which is often taken during the summer months. Because of this, it may be harder to get a meeting during the summer.

Since French business protocol generally adheres to centralized decisionmaking, it is important that you get a meeting with a senior leader within the organization. In France, business is often slow. In general, initial meetings are for discussion, not decisionmaking. Because of this, do not get discourage by long meetings, this can mean you are closer to a decision or agreement. When an agreement is reached, the French expect it to be laid out in a highly detailed, comprehensive contract.

How did the meeting go?

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If your meeting went well, expect follow up, often in the form of another meeting. This follow up meeting can be scheduled at the end of the meeting or within a few days. All unfinished business should be put on the agenda for the next meeting. French businessmen appreciate a follow up email with meeting notes (minutes) within 24 hours and a personal call within a few days after the meeting.

France is a great market opportunity for many companies around the world. But, because French business culture is fairly different than many others, it would behoove you to understand and conform to French business etiquette when doing business in France. Failure to conform to appropriate business etiquette can really make or break your French business relationships. Following the above tips will help get you off to a good start with your business relationships in France.

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What is the business culture in France? ›

Business culture. Business organisations in France are characterised by a highly organised and hierarchical structure, so positions and power are clearly defined. Professionalism is highly valued in France, and while hard work is admired, workaholism tends to be frowned upon.

How do French people conduct business? ›

Businesses in France are typically hierarchical and centralised. Decisions are made at the top of the company. The boss of the company will be authoritative. Professionalism is highly valued and is generally the key to acceptance by your French counterparts.

How do people in France greet each other in business? ›

Use a Light Handshake

The French usually use a light handshake for business. A strong American handshake may make you seem aggressive. The typical French double kiss greeting called bise is reserved for long time business partners and friends.

What are 5 basics of business etiquette? ›

The 5 basics of business etiquette
  • Be on time. Whether you're attending an interview or daily standup meeting, being on time in a work environment shows that you respect everyone's schedule. ...
  • Recognize your team. ...
  • Dress appropriately. ...
  • Respect shared spaces. ...
  • Build emotional intelligence.
20 Jul 2022

What are major cultural issues of doing business in France? ›

While there are challenges to doing business in any foreign country, some of the common challenges of doing business in France include complexity in labor laws and higher cost of employment, differing business norms and language barriers, and a strict regulatory environment.

What is the business communication of French? ›

' 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.

What is French management style? ›

Having faced international comparison for a number of years, the verdict concerning the weaknesses of French management style and managers is unanimous: an over-rigid and vertical (top-down) hierarchy, high individualism, poor listening skills, lack of team spirit and communication

How do you handle customers in France? ›

Maintain Professionalism in Your Customer Interactions

Avoid getting too personal too soon or revealing too much too early. Neither of the two is desirable or appreciated. Similarly, respect your French customers' need for privacy and refrain from asking intrusive questions that may be discomforting to them.

How do you show respect in France? ›

At a business or social meeting, shake hands with everyone present when arriving and leaving. A handshake may be quick with a light grip. Men may initiate handshakes with women. When family and close friends greet one another, they often kiss both cheeks.

How do you greet someone professionally in French? ›

The most important French greetings include bonjour (hello), enchanté(e) (nice to meet you), bonsoir (good evening/hello), salut (hi), coucou (hey), Ça fait longtemps, dis donc (long time no see), Âllo (hello), Ça va? (how are you?), tu vas bien? (have you been well?), quoi de neuf? (what's up?), au revoir!

How do you introduce yourself in a French business meeting? ›

The most common way to introduce yourself in French is to say Bonjour, je m'appelle, followed by your name. This can be used in most formal as well as informal situations. As you may have noticed, there's nothing complicated about this introduction; it literally translates to “Hello, my name is _ .”

What are the 3 R's of business etiquette? ›

Knowing the three R's of business etiquette is a useful guide: Recognition, Respect and Response.

What are the 10 rules of etiquette? ›

Basic Etiquette
  • Be yourself – and allow others to treat you with respect. Let this one sink in, ladies. ...
  • Say “Thank You” ...
  • Give Genuine Compliments. ...
  • Don't be Boastful, Arrogant or Loud. ...
  • Listen Before Speaking. ...
  • Speak with Kindness and Caution. ...
  • Do Not Criticize or Complain. ...
  • Be Punctual.

What are the golden rules of business etiquette? ›

The first rule of good business etiquette is that you should behave toward your customers, employees, and colleagues, as you would want them to behave toward you. You need to be considerate and thoughtful to those around you regardless of the situation.

What is considered disrespectful in French culture? ›

French people tend not to visit unannounced or uninvited. To do so is considered rude. When invited to a dinner, it is common for guests to ask their hosts if they are required to bring something on the day. Guests may also bring a bottle of wine or dessert.

What are French cultural practices? ›

Equality and unity are important to the French. The French also value style and sophistication, and they take pride in the beauty and artistry of their country. Family is also highly valued in French culture. Mealtimes are often shared with family, and extended-family gatherings and meals are common over the weekend.

What are two major issues in France? ›

Poverty and Inequality. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies and the National Council for Poverty and Social Exclusion Policies, the Covid-19 crisis exacerbated the precariousness of the poorest people, despite government support and safeguard measures.

What are the 3 French values? ›

A legacy of the Age of Enlightenment, the motto "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité" first appeared during the French Revolution. Although it was often called into question, it finally established itself under the Third Republic.

What is France communication style? ›

Direct Communication: The French tend to be very direct . One reason for this is that the French language is quite precise; thus, it is difficult not to be direct when using it.

What does communication look like in France? ›

France is a high-context culture.

A high-context culture is one in which communication may be more unspoken rather than explicit - for example, much attention is paid to body language, facial expressions, and other non-verbal cues in order to discern a speaker's meaning.

What is a typical French workday? ›

The French working hours are usually 8 or 9 AM to 4 or 5 PM, with 1 hour of unpaid lunch break. This will, however, vary depending on the business and company agreements. The weekly working hours are 35 (7 hours a day, five days a week). Hours worked beyond this quota are compulsory paid as overtime.

What are 5 management techniques? ›

Top management techniques
  • Dole out recognition when it's deserved. ...
  • Make company goals transparent and provide consistent feedback. ...
  • Provide training and career development. ...
  • Troubleshoot problem areas. ...
  • Know when to let someone go.
29 Oct 2021

How do French negotiate? ›

The French value Cartesian logic, which encourages them not to take anything for granted until it has been demonstrated. Pace of Negotiation – Expect negotiations to be slow. While the French may not always spend a lot of time in preparing for the negotiation, bargaining and decision making can take a long time.

How do you welcome a customer in French? ›

  1. welcoming n — accueil m.
  2. welcome n — accueil m.
  3. welcome — bienvenu adj. · apprécié adj.
  4. Welcome! interj — Bienvenue ! interj.
  5. customers pl — clientèle f. · clients pl m. · consommateurs pl m.
  6. customer n — client m.
  7. welcome sb./sth. v — accueillir qqn./qqch. v.

How do French businessman negotiate? ›

They will not make concessions in negotiations unless their logic has been defeated, which often makes them look stubborn to some. During deadlock they remain intransigent but without rudeness, simply restating their position. They try to be precise at all times. The French language facilitates this.

Why do French people complain so much? ›

“I think it's a cultural, conversational tic.” As with most conversational tics – like asking how someone is without actually caring to know the answer – complaining in France is above all a means of forging interpersonal connection.

When you leave a store in France what do you say? ›

– When you have finished selecting and paying for your items (and even if you have not made a purchase) and you are getting ready to leave the store, always smile, say, “Thank you!” “Merci!,” and “Good Bye,” “Au revoir“).

How do you sound professional in French? ›

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  1. 1.Work on your pronunciation.
  2. 2.Be a little less formal.
  3. 3.Spend time on your listening skills.
  4. 4.Throw in some slang.
  5. 5.Use French expressions.
  6. Dial down the enthusiasm.
  7. Speak a little bit faster.
  8. 8.Say au revoir to “nous”
19 Sept 2015

How do you respond to salut in French? ›

So to say “hello, how are you?” in French, simply say bonjour, ça va? or salut, ça va? If someone says this to you, you can respond with ça va bien (“it's going well”) or tout va bien (“everything's going well”).

How do you present yourself professionally in French? ›

Best Ways To Introduce Yourself In French
  1. Je m'appelle… - I am ... ...
  2. Je suis… - I am...
  3. Mon nom est... - My name is...
  4. Moi c'est... - I am... ...
  5. Mon prénom est... ...
  6. Je m'appelle (name), mais je me fais appeler (name) - My name is (name), but I prefer to be called (name)
  7. Je me présente - I'd like to introduce myself.
19 Jul 2022

How do you introduce yourself professionally sample in French? ›

Je m'appelle (name), mais je me fais appeler (name) – My name is (name), but I prefer to be called (name) Je me présente – I'd like to introduce myself.
For example, your French friends can ask you:
  1. Comment vous appelez vous? ...
  2. Comment t'appelles tu? ...
  3. Quel est ton travail? ...
  4. D'où venez vous? ...
  5. Qu'est-ce que tu aimes faire?

What is the polite thing to say before you begin a meal in France? ›

Bonjour or Bonsoir first of all

Politeness is not just a list of courtesy or sociability rules. Above all, it's a matter of consideration. If you frequent French cafés, restaurants, shops, bakeries, you should be aware that a bonjour upon entering or speaking to waiters or staff is almost mandatory.

What are the cultural aspects to consider before doing business in France? ›

  • Formality is golden. Formality is highly regarded in France. ...
  • Learn the gestures. ...
  • Punctuality. ...
  • Expect Interruptions. ...
  • Business Dress Code. ...
  • Using the French language. ...
  • Gift Giving.

Why is French Good for business? ›

It's also a language used for trade and business in parts of Africa, North America and Europe. French is a romance language and while it may seem old-fashioned, it's an extremely versatile tongue spoken in over 40 countries including France, Canada, Belgium, and Switzerland. It's in no way a dying language!

Why is French important for business? ›

French is an important language for international business.

It's the third-largest economy in Europe. And it's in fourth place in the Fortune Global 500, outranked only by the US, China, and Japan. French is also an official language for some of the most dynamic emerging economies in Africa.

What is the most popular business in France? ›

LVMH was the leading company in France by market capitalization as of November 2022, with a market capitalization amounting to approximately 366.3 billion U.S. dollars. L'Oréal and Hermes followed, with market capitalizations reaching 192.9 billion and 159.1 billion U.S. dollars, respectively.

Is France a business friendly country? ›

An advanced and industrialised country, France is the third-largest economy in Europe and the 6th largest in the world in terms of GDP. Fostering a pro-business environment, a sophisticated market and a highly educated workforce, France is an attractive place to set up a business. And no wonder why!

How can I improve my business in French? ›

10 Ways to Learn Business French Like a True Pro
  1. Read La Tribune online. ...
  2. Watch a business report online on ...
  3. Give yourself a target of learning five words a day. ...
  4. Watch French business videos. ...
  5. Read a business article on Wikipedia in English and French. ...
  6. Read out loud every day. ...
  7. Write your CV in French.
19 Jun 2022

Is French an important business language? ›

French was the common “international language” for business and diplomacy for many years and remains an official language of the UN, NATO, World Trade Organisation and the International Olympic Committee.

What is the business language in France? ›

In France, English is now generally used and accepted as the business language. However, language skills are not always as good as could be desired. The French often hesitate to use the foreign language even though their command is good.

What is the most important language for business? ›

1. English. English is one of the most important languages for business, as it's spoken by around 1.35 billion people around the world as a first or second language. Many top economies also use English as an official language, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

What is the most sold thing in France? ›

Top selling products in France
  • Shoes.
  • Health supplements.
  • Beauty items.
  • Home Decor.
  • Electronic gadgets & accessories.
  • Video games & toys.
  • Food.
  • Books.
29 Sept 2022

What time does business start in France? ›

Working hours are generally Monday to Friday from 8am or 9am to 12:00/12:30 and then from 14:00/14:30 to 18:00. However, as always, it depends where the organization is located, for example the long lunch break is unusual in Paris and other bigger cities.

What are 5 major industries in France? ›

Several industries are the major contributors to the economy, including energy, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, technology, and transport.


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