Business Etiquette and Protocol in France

Relationships & Communication

French business behaviour emphasizes courtesy and a degree of formality.
. Mutual trust and respect is required to get things done.
. Trust is earned through proper behaviour.
. Creating a wide network of close personal business alliances is very important.
. If you do not speak French, an apology for not knowing their language may aid in developing a relationship.
. It is always a good idea to learn a few key phrases, since it demonstrates an interest in a long-term relationship.
. The way a French person communicates is often predicated by their social status, education level, and which part of the country they were raised.
.  In business, the French often appear extremely direct because they are not afraid of asking probing questions.
. Written communication is formal. Secretaries often schedule meetings and may be used to relay information from your French business colleagues.

Business Meetings Etiquette

. Appointments are necessary and should be made at least 2 weeks in advance.
. Appointments may be made in writing or by telephone and, depending upon the level of the person you are meeting, are often handled by the secretary.
. Do not try to schedule meetings during July or August, as this is a common vacation period.
. If you expect to be delayed, telephone immediately and offer an explanation.
. Meetings are to discuss issues, not to make decisions.
. Avoid exaggerated claims, as the French do not appreciate hyperbole.

Business Negotiation

. French business emphasizes courtesy and a fair degree of formality.
. Wait to be told where to sit.
. Maintain direct eye contact while speaking.
. Business is conducted slowly. You will have to be patient and not appear ruffled by the strict adherence to protocol.
. Avoid confrontational behaviour or high-pressure tactics. It can be counterproductive.
. The French will carefully analyze every detail of a proposal, regardless of how minute.
. Business is hierarchical. Decisions are generally made at the top of the company.
. The French are often impressed with good debating skills that demonstrate an intellectual grasp of the situation and all the ramifications.
. Never attempt to be overly friendly. The French generally compartmentalize their business and personal lives.
. Discussions may be heated and intense.
. High-pressure sales tactics should be avoided. The French are more receptive to a low-key, logical presentation that explains the advantages of a proposal in full.
. When an agreement is reached, the French may insist it be formalized in an extremely comprehensive, precisely worded contract.

Dress Etiquette

. Business dress is understated and stylish.
. Men should wear dark-coloured, conservative business suits for the initial meeting. How you dress later is largely dependent upon the personality of the company with which you are conducting business.
. Women should wear either business suits or elegant dresses in soft colours.
. The French like the finer things in life, so wear good quality accessories.

Business Cards

. Business cards are exchanged after the initial introductions without formal ritual.
. Have the other side of your business card translated into French. Although not a business necessity, it demonstrates an attention to detail that will be appreciated.
. Include any advanced academic degrees on your business card.
. French business cards are often a bit larger than in many other countries.