The Latest! Cultural Clues, Do’s and Taboos for France
A Series of Cultural Tips for Countries from A to Z
Cultural Clues & Communication Guidelines for France
It’s easy for business travelers to think that even when they travel, business is going to be done pretty much the same way it is at home. But that’s not always the case. Cultural differences can have a big impact on global business etiquette. That’s why it’s important for business travelers to make sure that they understand the culture of the country that they’re doing business in.
This article on cultural differences in France and cultural travel tips for France is a brief snapshot of conversation guidelines for France, tips for communicating in France, and business strategies for France to help with understanding the culture in France. It’s important to keep in mind that as we homogenize as a ‘global culture’, cultural tendencies change and evolve as well. Awareness is the first step when it comes to cultural do’s and taboos for France and tips for intercultural communication!
Cultural Tips for France – including some valuable business travel tips for France
It’s strongly recommended that you learn basic French phrases and use them whenever possible. Your efforts will be well appreciated and will be remembered. The French will revert to English if they see you floundering.
Expect to be greeted by a handshake. Kissing on the cheeks may happen between close friends.
Men should stand, or at least initiate a move to do so, whenever a superior makes an entrance.
Good posture and politeness are considered important in the French culture, and business is rather formal.
Despite the formality of French business culture, people tend to stand close when speaking to each other. Touching in public is also commonplace and usually within the bounds of French business etiquette.
During a first meeting, remain polite and cordial, but keep in mind that the French tend to be suspicious of early friendliness.
Be prepared to answer questions about your own country, background, and possibly even political matters.
Smiling is treated with indifference here. It is not necessarily an indication of approval.
Chewing gum in public is considered bad manners, as is snapping fingers.
If you feel the need to point, motion with your whole hand rather than your index finger.
The OK sign (forming a circle with the thumb and forefinger) means “zero” or “useless” in France. The French OK symbol is the “thumbs up”, so use this symbol to express approval.
You’ll find that conversations with the French often shift into spirited debates!
The French can be very direct in questioning and probing, so a carefully planned, logically organized proposal is very important. It is likely that the French will focus on the aspects of your proposal that require further explanation. You may find that the French treat the business discussion as an intellectual exercise.
Logic will dominate arguments with the French. They will be quick to criticize anything illogical stated by the opposition. Give opinions only on subjects that you are knowledgeable about.
Arguments tend to be made from an analytical, critical, perspective that is articulated with eloquence and wit. Discussions are likely to get more heated and intense than is the custom in North America and many other countries.
There is rarely a moment of silence with the French, except when the topic under discussion has been exhausted and nothing new has been introduced.
The French tend to focus on long term objectives and will try to establish firm personal relationships with the other party before pursuing business partnerships.
Although the French can often be persuaded to change their opinions, they will not accept anything that deviates from the cultural norm. They are, however, receptive to any new information that enhances the spirit of a debate.
The French will judge you on your ability to demonstrate your intellect, and this often involves discussing confrontational ideas and engaging in rigorous debates with them. You will earn their respect if you can handle yourself well in these situations.
The French are very proud, gracious people. Never overtly make them feel wrong or look wrong. Instead, make suggestions about other possibilities.
In the middle of an argument the focus may change, setting aside the immediate issue. Try not to be frustrated, these digressions are characteristic of French business culture and sometimes influence the final decision.
French business protocol requires constant formality and reserve in negotiations. Trying to convince your French counterparts to “lighten up” is inappropriate.
The French tend to be preoccupied with examining every minute detail before arriving at a decision. Consequently, be prepared for a long wait before you receive an answer.
Power is intrinsic to French business culture. Only the highest individual in authority makes the final decision. Therefore, be aware that the people with whom you are dealing are probably only intermediaries.
The French workplace is highly organized and structured. Generally, bureaucracy and administrative procedures are considered far more important than efficiency or flexibility. Consequently, French business culture tends to be reluctant to embrace change.
5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Tips
The wonderful French food and cuisine
Anything about art, music and philosophy
French history, sports, and other aspects of the culture if you know what you are talking about
All current events of a global nature
Architecture, nature and the beautiful French cities and countryside
5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Taboos
It is bad manners to ask questions about someone’s political preferences unless they bring up the topic
Refrain from the standard conversation opener, “What do you do?”
Don’t criticize Napoleon or any other French leader
Avoid making personal inquiries in conversation, especially during initial introductions
Praise (rather than criticism) of anything French will go a long way
Join us in the future for Do’s and Taboos for GERMANY!
To learn more about the Dos and Taboos for different cultures, and the cultural communication styles for Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East – order Gayle Cotton’s bestselling book ‘SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’ available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book
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Emmy Award Winner, Gayle Cotton, is the author of this blog and of the bestselling cross-cultural communication book ‘SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’, which is available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book. She is President of Circles Of Excellence Inc. and a Professional Keynote Speaker. Contact Gayle if you need professional speakers for events, speakers on cultural diversity, conference speakers for events, or keynote speakers that specialize in cross-cultural training. She is a leader in the field of public speakers, motivational speakers, and international keynote speakers. She is among the best of female keynote speakers and women motivational speakers and is a ‘first choice’ request for international audiences!
Circles Of Excellence provides Corporate Training, Leadership Coaching, and Professional Keynote Speakers for companies of all sizes and in all industries, including over 50 Fortune 500 companies. Contact us about our customized training programs for Communication Skills, Cross-Cultural Communication, Cultural Diversity, Customer Service, Leadership Coaching, Presentation Skills, Sales Negotiations, Stress Management, Team building, and Time Management Training.
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