France enjoys a skilled, well-educated labor force. Hard work is admired, but workaholism is not.
10 things you need to know about French etiquette
The French appreciate punctuality. Give business cards to the receptionist or secretary upon arrival to an office and to each person you meet subsequently. Print cards in English or French. Many French speak and understand English, but prefer not to use it. An interpreter will probably not be necessary, but check ahead of time. Use French only for greetings, toasts and occasional phrases unless your French is perfect. Government plays a major role in business.
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Find a local representative banker, lawyer or agent to help you through regulatory obstacles. Business people tend to be formal and conservative.
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Business relationships are proper, orderly and professional. Don't discuss personal life with business people. Personal lives are kept separate from business relationships. The French get down to business quickly, but make decisions slowly after much deliberation. Organizations are highly centralized with a powerful chief executive.
Bosses are often dictatorial and authoritative French are leaders in the area of economic planning. Plans are far-reaching and detailed. Entering a room and seating is done by rank. Meetings follow an established format with a detailed agenda. The French dislike disagreeing and debating in a public forum, but enjoy a controlled debate, whereby an informed rebuttal is appreciated. State your intentions directly and openly. Presentations should be well prepared, comprehensive, clear, well-written, informative and presented in a formal, rational, professional manner -- appealing always to the intellect.
The French dislike the hard sell approach. Things actually get done through a network of personal relationships and alliances. Avoid planning business meetings during August or two weeks before and after Christmas and Easter period Do not call a French businessperson at home unless it is an emergency. Dining and Entertainment Do not ask for a martini or scotch before dinner -- they are viewed as palate numbing. Before dinner, pernod, kir, champagne, vermouth may be offered. Wine is always served with meals. After dinner, liqueurs are served. Business breakfasts are rare.
Senior managers socialize only with those of equivalent status. Business entertainment is done mostly in restaurants.
Lunch is still considered a private time. However, working lunches and breakfasts are becoming more common in France. The French do not like to discuss business during dinner.
Dinner is more of a social occasion and a time to enjoy good food, wine and discussion. Arriving at work in the morning, it is not uncommon to greet colleagues with a handshake and to shake hands again when leaving. Read more about French business culture and French business etiquette tips.
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Greeting anyone familiar — like a favourite restaurant waiter or a next-door neighbour — is also usually begun with a crisp handshake. However, when colleagues know each other well, and in situations between friends, women will often greet each other, and male colleagues or friends, with a kiss on the cheek. Beware — don't take the first step if you are uncertain, but be ready to embrace what comes. The choice of whether to use the formal vous and informal tu to say 'you' in French can be confusing, and sometimes very subtle.
But a simple rule is that the more intimate tu is only employed among family and friends. It is common for work colleagues to say tu , but wait until someone else does it first.
It is also polite not to assume everyone speaks English, so ask first: You should also greet store clerks when you enter and leave a shop, such as bonjour or bonsoir after 6pm and au revoir or merci when you leave, plus sir or madam if you wish. Some foreigners complain that the French are rude or snobbish, but this is often misinterpreted; not adhering to French etiquette can be seen as offensive or an insult, even in ways you might not even realise. For example, in Paris, dressing formally on the street is seen as respectful to others, whereas eating while walking or grooming in public is frowned upon and could be taken as a personal affront.
Among close acquaintances French etiquette is naturally more casual, as well as among youths and students, for example, who might start using first names straight away. Friends and family also kiss la bise or bisous to greet each other, which can range from the typical two common in Paris up to four kisses in other parts of France. It's not usually a real kiss but rather a brush of the check with a kiss sound, or sometimes without any contact or noise at all, typically starting from the left or right cheek.
Hugging is much less common, however, and generally uncomfortable for the French; there isn't even a French word for hug. To kiss or not to kiss is often the question for foreigners in France. A common way of getting to know someone is to have a drink together. But the French are not into bar binges as a way of socialising — instead an aperitif is usually sipped and stops at two.
Wine accompanies dinner and never replaces it, and a glass is filled to three-quarters or less but never to the brim. If invited to a home, a common French etiquette rule is that dinner guests are expected to bring a gift, however modest, and this is usually a bottle of wine, flowers or a pre-agreed desert or cheese dish. When entering and leaving a shop, greet and say good-bye to the staff.
Other than that, the French like to kiss. Table manners are often considered a litmus test of your character or upbringing. They never serve themselves before serving the rest of the table. During a meal, keep both hands above the table, and keep your elbows off the table.