When companies from two countries do business together, very different cultures collide. We’ve put together several tips for you in our Business Etiquette France in case you frequently deal with the French in the near future.
A bit of French couldn’t hurt
It may sound like a stereotype, but the French most like speaking French and may have trouble with English or view their language skills as insufficient. The younger generation can speak English much better, but they are only now joining the workforce. In general, however, you can score if you can speak a little French – even if it is just simple words and sentences. By the way: People who don’t speak a word of French are often quoted higher prices.
The boss decides
The French normally don’t commit answer because the boss decides on awarding contracts. So if your discussion partner doesn’t have the go-ahead from the boss, don’t hope for a direct decision. Hierarchies are very important in France. Power counts for more than money does, and accordingly, a decision from the boss carries a lot of weight. He has the final say.
Rules of conversation
There are several topics that the French would like to avoid. As a rule, the French gladly converse, so take active part in conversations, praise your discussion partner and show your emotions. Acceptable topics include art, literature, music and fashion. You should avoid these topics: World War II, negative talk about Napoleon and questions about their private life.
Adapt to the situation
In France, previously made plans are sometimes thrown overboard or even ignored. Don’t just stubbornly go through your agenda. For the French, it’s more of a general orientation. Therefore, adapt flexibly to situations. Prepare several possible scenarios to be able to respond spontaneously.
For the French, the final price isn’t the final price. Even if you think that a contract has been concluded, that doesn’t directly mean that this case will happen. The French like to negotiate. They want to win and dislike having to compromise. Therefore, you ought to calculate in a little extra wiggle room to allow for negotiation. Always make it clear to the French that they’re leaving the negotiation as a winner.
Breaks are important
Lunchbreaks are very important to the French. If you’re invited to lunch with them, consider yourself accepted. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t talk about work or business during this time. You can take care of that when you and your discussion partner are back at the company.
If you want to give your discussion partner a little something as a greeting gift, bring him a specialty from your region. Avoid freebies with your company logo; that looks cheap and not unique. Give them freebies only if they’re expressly requested.