Values, morals, customs and attitudes, at their very core reflect the foundation, perhaps the general tendencies of any particular culture and its people. Certain behaviors and customs are so rooted in some cultures, that being rigid or non-receptive towards them could give out an impression of being impolite or disrespectful.

While planning to visit a foreign country regardless of the purpose, it is advisable to gain prior knowledge about its culture, traditions, clothing styles, cuisine & dining etiquettes, basic greetings, meanings of gestures, religious preferences and other such aspects of distinguishable significance. When it specifically comes to building business relationships, it is important to get a good understanding about favorable time of the year to visit, the various business related mindsets, fundamental principles and guidelines, among other things.

The French too have their own peculiar ethics, some of which may be common among the rest, while others remain distinctive. Below are some, for better clarity –

  1. Attention to detail is key towards building a mutually lasting partnership. French translation of your business cards, company profile, brochures or relevant pamphlets is advisable, since it demonstrates an attitude of concern & interest in creating a business relationship.
  2. Gift giving is not such a common practice in the French business culture. It is to be noted that giving gifts is generally avoided at the first meeting. After a consistent progression of the business relationship, gifts can be given, however, keeping business cards along with it wouldn’t be taken in a good light, or even stamping it with your company logo, for that matter.
    Giving cards to business partners on holidays or after a successful year of partnership is acceptable and is regarded as a sign of gratitude.
  3. Through knowledge of subject matter being presented is vital during any business meeting as there is a good possibility of being cross questioned about the polarizing views, to check your preparedness and logic behind the supported stand.
  4. Learn basic French greetings and phrases to communicate whenever possible. To avoid any misunderstandings or unexpected circumstances, it is best to check the primary language of communication & make arrangements accordingly for an interpreter.
  5. Avoid scheduling meetings or conferences during Easter & Christmas, as companies and individual employees usually take extended leave during this period. Scheduling meetings would mean causing inconvenience for both ends.
  6. Meetings should be scheduled well in advance. Walk-ins can be considered as rude or disrespectful.
  7. Appearance can possibly be a decisive factor in creating positive or negative impressions. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the French make conscious attempts to dress well for every occasion, since Paris as we know, is considered as the ‘Fashion Capital’ of the world. The French dress in the best way possible, everyday. Well cut and tailored suits for office use are a norm. Appearance is actively correlated with success and social status, therefore, everyone from junior to senior executives make it a point to be well dressed. Don’t mistake ‘informal’ dress code as an opportunity for wearing T-shirt or jeans. It often implies a nicely put, perhaps well – coordinated attire.
  8. Business meetings can be conducted at restaurants but not at cafés, as it could get a little noisy or distracting. Meal times usually last for two hours due to the extensive meal courses. Let your French counterpart first bring up the business discussion & then it could be continued. Seating arrangements are also given importance in France. The senior most person will usually sit at the head of the table.
  9. Punctuality must be practiced during business meetings at all times. Under unavoidable circumstances, if you’ll be late for more than 10 minutes, it is advisable to call and inform the other party, to avoid building negative opinions, especially during the initial meetings.
  10. Do not expect to socialize with your French counterparts just after the first meeting. Long-term business relationship is their main focus and therefore, it would take some time to drop the formal attitude in order to begin socializing.

Your efforts to get accustomed to, or respect the culture and customs of any foreign country, would help in demonstrating your global mindset, and prove to be fruitful while trying to build business relationships.