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French Business Protocol

Here is everything you need to know if you are doing business in France or with French people

  • The fundamentals of business culture

Business organizations in France are characterized by a highly organized and hierarchical structure, which clearly defines positions and power. Professionalism is very popular in France and, even if the hard work is admired, the workaholic tends to be frowned upon.

The French tend to maintain a clear distinction between their professional life and their personal life. Therefore, business relationships should not be confused with friendships.

  • The first contact

Appointments generally take place from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and at the company’s office. It is common to hold (or continue) meetings in a restaurant during lunch or breakfast. Many business people appreciate these meetings because they allow for informal discussions.

  • Time management

Even if punctuality is important in France, a delay of five minutes is generally tolerated if it has been announced. There are some regional differences regarding punctuality. Therefore, the further south you go, the more informal the temporal approach.

  • Greetings and titles

The most common greeting is a handshake, which should be bright and light, with only one or two movements up and down.

In France, presentations are made using both first and last names.

  • The dress code

Appearances can be very important for first impressions in France. You are advised to dress discreetly and elegantly. Men and women generally wear classic, dark costumes. Hairdressing is also an important issue. The beards must be cut or trimmed.

  • Business cards

Business cards are exchanged at the start or at the end of the first meeting. Having a French translation on the back of the card is considered an asset, as it is a sign of respect and courtesy.

In France, it is common for people to write their last name in capital letters to make it stand out.

Here is some vocabulary that will help you in the business world :

  • an office : un bureau 
  • a desk : un bureau
  • business : les affaires
  • a file : un dossier
  • a case : une affaire
  • an assistant : un assistant
  • a secretary : une secrétaire
  • an appointment : un rendez vous
  • a business meeting : un rendez vous d’affaire
  • a firm / an company : une entreprise / une boîte [slang]
  • a client / a customer : un client / une cliente
  • a profession : un métier
  • a job : un emploi / un travail / un job / un boulot [slang]
  • half-time/full-time position : un poste à mi-temps/à plein temps
  • unemployed person : un chômeur / une chômeuse
  • job market : le marché du travail
  • a resume : un curriculum vitae (un CV)
  • an interview : un entretien
  • salary : un salaire
  • vacation days : les congés
  • a promotion : une promotion
  • retirement : la retraite
  • retired person : un retraité / une retraitée