France – Formal and Elegant
Businesses in France are characterised by a strong hierarchical structure where positions and the corresponding power are clearly defined. Respect for authority in French organisations is based on respect for competence. The PDG (Président Directeur Général) or general manager (patron) will be expected to possess strong leadership and general expertise.
Meetings are held to discuss a specific topic, and the time will be used to give instructions and to co-ordinate on-going actions. A tight schedule and a detailed agenda are most common and important decisions are hardly ever made during the meeting itself.
Business protocol requires formality and aloofness during negotiations. The French language often employs rhetoric and philosophical devices, as an indicator of education and status. The French enjoy abstract reasoning, theories, and logic. Reaching a decision can be a lengthy process, since every aspect will be extensively analysed and all matters are discussed in detail. Keep in mind that verbal agreements have no binding value.
Office dress code in France is conservative. Both men and women wear suits and elegance is key, as is expected from a people who coined the word chic!
The French take punctuality seriously. Appointments are necessary and should be made at least two weeks in advance. A good time to schedule appointments is at 11.00 or 15.30. Avoid scheduling meetings during August, as this is a common vacation period. A handshake is a common way of greeting in France and it is best to use surnames and the appropriate titles until you are specifically invited to do otherwise.
If an invitation to dinner is extended this will be a more of a social event and a time to enjoy good food, wine and discussion. Be prepared to discuss French culture, heritage and politics. In France, cooking is considered to be a form of art. Enjoying good food and (French!) wine is highly appreciated.
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