You have an important meeting with some French businessmen? The following 10 tips constitute the essential criteria for successfully adapting to the French business landscape and winning the trust of your new partners.
1) Formal body language
Shaking hands is normal practice in business relationships. Even though French people generally greet each other with a kiss on the cheek – known as “la bise” – when it comes to business, they play it safe with a formal handshake.
2) Food is king
Be prepared to spend more time in restaurants than in other countries and don’t hesitate to discuss the contents of your plate! Talking about food is French “art de vivre” at its best.
3) Being overly rigorous is not obligatory
The ability to be flexible and adaptable in business is more valuable to French people than fastidiousness and rigid implementation.
4) Good old French meritocracy
Remember to mention degrees, clients and references when you talk about your business background. French people like institutional merit and name-dropping.
5) The art of contradiction
When they say “yes but”, they mean “yes”.
6) Banishing triviality
Try not to delve too deeply into details and facts at the first meeting, which should be all about strategy and vision. French people can meet and talk business without necessarily coming up with a formal decision. The brainstorming phase is wide-ranging.
7) The art of anti-conformism
Not being conformist can be a good thing: being “like everybody else” is definitely a turn-off for French people. Try to elaborate themes based on individuality and innovation.
8) Work on your accent
French people appreciate people who speak good French, even though they’re not especially accomplished at speaking at foreign languages themselves. Having said that, they are fairly comfortable communicating in English.
9) Show your feelings
You may show your feelings during meetings; being satisfied or upset is not regarded as unprofessional.
10) Be funny not goofy
Try to be tactful and subtle when it comes to jokes. Humor is greatly appreciated, but keep it clever.