French Business Etiquette

by Claire Valenty on January 23, 2010

in International Business Etiquette

international france etiquette

Over the phone, you’re bragging to the boys back home that you’re in Paris France, at last, on a top priority business trip and they wish they were with you. You’re telling them you can see the Eiffel Tower from your apartment like folks see the Statue of Liberty. Should you be proud? Absolutely, your business acumen and talent of learning business etiquette has brought you to France, the largest West European country with a solid backbone of economy. Hold the phone! You’re not out of the woods yet. Before you get closer to that Eiffel tower in the evening and brag some more, you need to practice some French business etiquette at the morning meeting.

You must be the Ear here… The French are quite conscious of their presence and really back up their heritage with verbal admiration. They’ll share with you their long history of participation in world affairs and of being known as a world premier center of culture. Listen and sing along, knowing that every time you do, you get closer to them and still closer to closing the deal!

Bonjour! What does it really stand for?…If you thought “Bonjour” stood for just good morning, then you’re way off base. Don’t worry we’ll get you back on track. Bonjour has three uses instead of one: hello, good morning or good afternoon. Say “Bonsoir” if you’re greeting someone in the evening beginning from around 6pm. These words ought to be engraved in your French business etiquette. If you are being introduced, you should either “faire la bise” (kiss cheeks) or “se serrer la main”, which is a quick hand shake followed by eye contact. No up and down pumping and no iron grip please!

Don’t loosen your tie, the meeting is not over…French businessman never loosen their tie or take off their coat in the office so unless you want to be a crow in the midst of peacocks, DON’T do it. Appearance is very important to the French so show up in conservative but well-tailored clothing if you’re a man. As a woman, you should appear in a conservative dress that does not boast bright or gaudy colors. Don’t try to blind those French eyes with ornaments. Put them in the purse. Arguments are their form of entertainment and they frequently interrupt one another. Expect it and don’t mind. If you can’t speak French, apologize for your lack of knowledge. It’s perfectly alright because business can proceed in the English language.

Your tongue and their eyes…You really must mind the tone of your voice during a conversation. A loud tone is offensive in French business etiquettes. But do not mind their eyes. There is a lot of intense eye contact in interpersonal interaction here and they mean no harm.

Wine and Cheese…You could seriously display a lack of French business etiquettes being a cave man at the dinner table. Mastering table manners is very important for a foreigner. Send flowers to the hostess before or after the event. Never bring them to her at the table. You’re allowed to refuse only two things: Oysters and curry. EAT EVERYTHING else. Here are a few pointers to help

* Cut chicken and fish with special table utensils provided
* Don’t use your hands. Even pick up fruits with knives and forks
* Don’t cut salad. Just fold the leaf and bring to your mouth
* Cut cheese lengthwise. And make wedges with round cheese
* Keep your elbows off the table.
* Make your hands visible and not in your lap.

Master French business etiquettes and you’ll have the right to brag.

Photo: 123rf/Brian Jackson

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