French Business Etiquette – How we do things in France.
The French work week.
The French work week is actually lower than most other developed counties, the normal working week in France is 35 hours which is 10% lower than the others! About 18 years ago France wanted a way to create more jobs and reduce the unemployment rate so they thought the best way to do that was to reduce the hours of the working week.
Now French people are not lazy by any means if you want you can request to work over time. France has generous paid leave entitlements which play a role in the average working hours. The French get a generous annual 30 days paid leave along with 11 public holidays so even though French people have a 35hour work week doesn’t mean they don’t work longs hours; some sectors often have to put in 50-60 hour weeks but they’re compensated with “jours de repos” meaning rest days which bring the average back down to 35 hours per week.
Punctuality. Is it rude to be late?
While some countries you don’t necessarily need to make appointments, in France you need to make appointments for both business and social events. You don’t just ‘drop in’ on someone in France and if you do it is considered rude, whatever the occasion. While in some countries you’re considered late if you don’t arrive before your appointed time, in France, you will not be considered to be late if you arrive 10 minutes after the scheduled time.
Greetings, meetings and ……kisses?
French business culture would still be very formal but, when meeting someone for the first time or communicating with superiors they need to be addressed as either Monsieur or Madame. You also must introduce yourself by your first and your last name, some people may even opt to say their last name followed by their first. Never use someone’s first name unless you are invited to do so, and don’t expect that invitation soon….or ever.
If you need a meeting with someone, like we said before all meetings must be scheduled, you can schedule them in writing or by phone, depending on the level of formality the person you are meeting requires. Meetings are intended to discuss issues rather than make decisions. If you are going to be late to a meeting, it is expected you call ahead of time with your explanation. If you are looking to do major business in France don’t do it during the months between July and August as these are the busiest vacation times.
Kissing (on cheeks) is mainly used between a woman and a man or between women who have an established business relationship. When you kiss, you don’t actually kiss the other person but rather lightly touch cheeks and kiss the air. Two kisses is most common but it can go up to five and if you want to avoid any awkward exchanges you should just let the French lead.
Don’t bring your own wine to dinner you were invited to
Normally if you’re invited to dinner you might think it’s a good idea to bring food or wine. But according to French etiquette, in general, this is a non-non! It is seen as rude to the host if you bring your own wine, as it implies that the host would be unable to best choose the wine to go with dinner. So just don’t do it.
So, if you’re preparing for a big trip to France, get in touch and see if we can help. We can always give you pointers and make sure your documents are perfect!