Doing Business in France
When meeting someone, the handshake is a generally acknowledged from of greeting, as well as kissing the person lightly on both cheeks. First names are used for family and close friends, so wait until you are invited before addressing a new acquaintance by their first name. Madame is a basic term of courtesy for women, and monsieur for men. If giving a gift, be careful when selection - flowers such as lilies and chrysanthemums are now used because of their connotations to funerals, and when choosing wine, make sure you find a good quality bottle. When dining, do not arrive late, and obey the continental table manners of holding the fork and knife in left and right hands respectively. It is polite not to start eating before the hostess has said 'bon appetit'.
Appointments for business meetings are essential, and should be made well in advance. Working hours are generally between 8.30 or 9 and 6 and 7, with two hours or more for lunch break. French workers have five weeks holiday in a year, and at least 3 are taken during the month of August, which should be avoided for business purposes as the whole country tends to come to a standstill.
Dress conservatively - men in dark suits, women in elegantly cut suits or a smart, formal dress. Make sure that you maintain eye-contact as this builds respect and trust between parties.
During the meeting
Business etiquette requires formality and courtesy. If you do not speak the language, it is polite to apologise for this, and to try to learn a few key phrases. It is wise not to appear overly friendly, as the French tend to separate the work from the social aspects of their life, and trust is gained through appropriate, direct and formal behaviour. Business tends to be hierarchical, and skills in debating and keen-minded analysis will be respected, with any mutual decisions or finalised documents being produced in a formal layout.
If you would like to know more about France, please visit our country profile page.
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