French Business Etiquette

French Business Etiquette

While adhering to proper etiquette is always considered polite in social situations, when it comes to business transactions, displaying proper etiquette is vital, as a single mistake or impropriety can cost you money and new business relationships.

Because the French value rules and propriety, taking time to learn proper French business etiquette will help ensure the success of your business with potential new clients and colleagues.

Proper French Business Meeting Etiquette

Many French-speaking countries value formality and respect. Consequently, they tend to share some of the more basic principles of proper business meeting etiquette.

General French etiquette tips include the following:

  • Avoid exaggeration, which French business people interpret as naïve, boasting or flat-out rude.
  • Don't be afraid to debate. The French value business partners who make logical arguments and display an understanding of all of the "sides" or perspectives of a subject.
    If you and your colleagues don't share a common language, plan ahead and hire a French interpreter for your business meetings.
  • Exchange business cards after initial introductions. Although the French don't have a set formality to exchange business cards, doing so after your initial meeting is considered to be most appropriate time. As an added gesture of your good taste and respect for French business etiquette, include a French translation of your business card on its flipside.
  • Write up agendas and decisions in a formal matter. Use precision and details when drawing up contracts, agendas or other business documents to be used by all the parties. Impress your French colleagues and show them that you value their business by obtaining French translations of your business documents. 
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Other helpful business etiquette tips include:

  • Apologizing for not knowing the French language (if you don't speak it);
  • Avoiding overly friendly behavior, as the French make a clear distinction between business and personal/social lives;
  • Dressing conservatively (men should dress in darker colors, though it's more appropriate for women to dress in softer colors);
  • Maintaining eye contact during discussions;
  • Waiting to be instructed where to sit.

Values Cherished in French-Speaking Countries

Understanding the values that French speakers cherish can give you more insight into the rules of proper French business etiquette. Values French speakers hold in high esteem include:

  • Formality
  • Individualism
  • Propriety
  • Privacy
  • Respect for Authority

Business Etiquette Tips Specific to Different French-Speaking Countries

Aside from the above aspects of French business etiquette, some French-speaking countries have their own unique nuances to the more general practices. Here is an outline of proper business etiquette specific to particular French-speaking countries:

  • Guinea: Business meetings in Guinea are typically far less formal in tone than those in other French-speaking countries. While you should still wear a collared shirt and tie to business meetings in Guinea, conventional suits (including blazers) are unnecessary.
  • France: Since many French business people take their vacations during July and August, avoid scheduling business meetings during these months.
    Also, keep in mind that meals are not considered proper times to discuss business. If you want to talk business during a mealtime, wait until the dessert course to bring up business matters.
  • Monaco: Wearing full suits and scheduling formal appointments are cornerstones of doing business in Monaco.

    In addition to these formalities, keep in mind that Monaco businessmen consider it rude to start a conversation in French and then revert to English. If not adept at speaking French, make sure to get a French interpreter for your business meetings in Monaco.

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