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Business and Workplace Culture

France - Business and Workplace Culture


If you have decided to live and work in France you will need to learn the language. Learning at least some of the language prior to arriving in France will be helpful, but most businesses will require their staff to be able to communicate fluently in French. If you are setting up our own business which will cater mainly for the English speaking community then learning the language is not quite so urgent. But it will be necessary sooner rather than later. Being able to communicate with suppliers in their own language will help tremendously and making the effort will endear you much better to the local community. Many employers will appreciate the fact that you know a little French and if you are willing to take extra classes to learn quicker, then this will also go in your favour. It is a sign of respect in France to apologise for your limited knowledge of the language if you are struggling to hold a conversation.

When applying for work with French businesses many will require a handwritten covering letter along with your CV. This is the normal practice in France and if it is written in French even better. Writing neat and clearly in your covering letter will go a long way in securing yourself an interview to see you headed to the second stage of job application. The French strongly believe in graphology and large companies may assess your hand writing as a way to judge your personality prior to interview. This is an extremely common practice throughout the country.

Ensuring you have all your qualifications with you will also serve you well when trying to secure work in France. Qualifications are considered extremely important in France and making sure you have the correct certificates to support your stated achievements is essential. At the interview stage it is also not uncommon for prospective employers to ask questions deemed inappropriate in the UK. Often questions regarding the wish to have children or get married will be asked.

Jobs are better protected in France than they are in the UK, this means that employers cannot easily dismiss their employees so the need to ensure they employ the right person from the beginning is high. French workplaces are much more formal than in the UK. The division between the workers is easily defined. There is a definite hierarchy in place with no blurring of the lines. Even between colleagues of the same level there is minimal familiarity. There is however a high level of flirting which some foreign staff can find uncomfortable, but it is an accepted part of workplace culture in France that the French women don’t seem to notice.

Women in the French workplace are becoming increasingly more prominent. The success is mainly based on the foundation of good solid qualifications, and a high level of education can go far in the French workplace. The industries that have seen a higher level of female influence are retail and service industries. The engineering field is much slower in following the trend, but this is perhaps due to few women gaining the right qualifications to work in these fields. The French capital of Paris is the place where women are striving in terms of achieving top promotions, whereas outside of the city women are still not achieving the same level of recognition.

Business meetings in France also tend to run differently to the way they might in the UK. For instance, business meetings in France do not tend to be a chance to brainstorm or offer opinions. Meetings are held once the decision has been made and they are intended more as an informative process rather than a discussion. If anyone wishes to raise queries or questions then this should be done prior to the meeting. Also, questioning the boss is not the norm in France. Many companies in the UK encourage staff with differing opinions to come forward, in France, any ideas or differing opinions is usually done behind closed doors. This is done as a sign of respect to the boss by his or her employees. Any meeting taking place that does not have a senior member of staff officiating is more open and informal.

French businesspersons are also highly aware of their appearance at all times. There are rarely any gaudy colours or large pieces of jewellery. Smart tailored suits are normal office or business attire, and the men wear ties at all times. Privacy is respected. It is right to knock and wait instead of just entering a room or office. The French however tend to be less formal when it comes to punctuality.


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