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The Business of Meetings in French Culture


Doing business with the French?

Then you’ll be attending plenty of meetings!

When working with people from different countries, it’s always a good idea to do your homework on the business culture; especially how meetings run.

Despite what you might think, meetings differ around the world depending on the local culture.

What may seem normal in a meeting where you’re from, may look odd to someone else.

In this blog, we’re going to give you some tips on business meetings in France.

This will help you prepare well and to make a good first impression.

Don't miss out! Under the images below, you'll find links to some more fantastic free resources on French business culture!

1. Make an Effort to Dress Well

If you’re attending a face to face meeting with French counterparts, then be aware that appearances are important.

In French culture, people tend to place value on good grooming and dressing well. This level of sophistication also extends to personal effects, such as briefcases, handbags, notebooks and pens.

Take the time to prepare in order that you make the best impression possible.


2. Keep Small Talk Brief

Small talk at the outset of a meeting tends to be limited in French business culture.

Although pleasantries are exchanged, these should be high level and unobtrusive. French business professionals tend to keep a strong divide between their private and professional lives, so it’s a good idea to avoid any topics which might be considered personal.

Instead, focus your small talk on topics such as the weather, your journey to the meeting, sports or food.

Bottle of French Wine

Wine is often given as a gift within the business world.

Read more about French customs, etiquette and business practices in our free Guide to French Culture.

Photo by Elle Hughes from Pexels

3. Respect Hierarchies

France tends to be a hierarchical culture.

As such, you’ll probably find that a little time is spent at the outset of the meeting introducing attendees and their roles. It’s important to take heed of this information so that you understand people’s positions within both the hierarchy and the decision-making process.

Be aware, that in hierarchical cultures, it’s not a good idea to challenge those higher up in the pecking order. Instead, show due deference and consider alternative ways of raising potential challenges should they arise.


4. Be Careful with Face

With hierarchy in mind, you may find that more junior meeting attendees are reluctant to offer opinions if their managers are present.

They may also fail to speak up due to concerns over maintaining face.

If it’s important to solicit input, then you need to network separately with individuals outside of the meeting place. This will enable you to gain any necessary feedback in a more relaxed way.

French manager in suit

Management in France tends to be hierarchical.

Learn more about this in our Guide to Management in French Culture.

Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

5. Remember the Detail

French business culture tends to be very detail focused.

It’s rare for the French to make emotive decisions or to be swayed by high-pressure tactics. Instead, time is focused on analysing and unpicking the detail.

If you’re preparing materials for a meeting, then make sure your data is sound as potential flaws are likely to be picked up on quickly. Also, avoid trying to hurry proceedings. This level of analysis and detail are considered essential and trying to hurry things won’t do you any favours.


6. Don’t Push for Decisions

On the whole, meetings are rarely used as a place for decision making.

Instead, the meeting setting allows for the sharing of ideas and details, with decisions being made separately outside of this. If the decision-maker and relevant stakeholders are absent from the meeting, then extra time should be allowed for consensus to be gathered between the relevant parties.

As with detail sharing, don’t try to hurry this process. It’s an important part of French business management and you will only irritate people if you chase outcomes prematurely.

So, what's important to understand about business meetings with the French?

In conclusion, if you want to conduct successful business meetings you need to...

  1. Dress Well
  2. Keep Small Talk Brief
  3. Respect Hierarchies
  4. Be Careful with Face
  5. Remember the Details
  6. Don't Push for Decisions

Customized Cultural Training on French Business Culture

 Blog image by krakenimages on Unsplash

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