French Communication Patterns in Business
Every country in the world has its language or system of communication, and the French are no exception. If you’re from other parts of the world, and in business with a French person, there are certain communication patterns and listening habits you should know. After all, when in Rome, you do as the Romans do.
Communication Pattern: Verbal and Physical
To conduct successful business transactions or set up contracts with a French person, there has to be effective communication between both parties, and for that to happen you have to learn about their business culture.
In French business culture, relationships must be formed before business talks. They keep business separate from their personal lives, and you must respect that (01). French people consider speaking their language a sign of respect for their culture (01). Hence, to make your business dealings smoother, you should try to speak some French. If you can’t, endeavor to pick up some French, and apologize for your inability to speak French fluently, especially if it’s your first business meeting.
Vertical hierarchy is practiced in French business culture and taken very seriously, so when higher-ranking officials walk into a business meeting, subordinates stand up or appear to do so as a sign of respect or courtesy. (01)
In terms of making contact, handshakes are the expected form of greeting, or a kiss on the cheeks from left to right if you’re already familiar with the person. During meetings, making eye contact is quite important because it shows you’re focused and can be trusted. However, too much eye contact like staring is deemed inappropriate. Smiling is not, in any way, considered a way of communicating or signing an agreement. Trying to communicate using your hands is not encouraged. (01)
When corresponding business, letters should either start with a prefix alone such as Monsieur or a title preceded by a prefix such as Monsieur le Ministre. The closing salutations will be a whole paragraph (01). Sounds like a lot of work, right? Even French secretaries have to be trained to ensure they don’t make mistakes.
How to Appear and Talk to a French Business Person
From what and what not to wear to gestures or handshakes, the following pointers will guide you on your next business meeting with a French person.
- Your first and last names should be used to introduce yourself (02).
- Always address male and female with Monsieur and Madame respectively (02).
- Wear good quality suits, preferably in dark colors (03).
- Handshakes should be brisk and light (02).
- One side of your business card should be in French (02).
- During lunch, keep your hands on the table (02).
- Learn French gestures (02).
- Expect loads of questions and possibly, interruptions (02).
- Do not pressure French business people to make a decision. Be patient. (02).
The French are very formal people, and that extends to all aspects of their lives, including business. To forge a successful business relationship with French people, there are lots of things you need to know, and this article will be of great help.
Check the following reference articles to learn more about the French Communication Patterns in Business:
- Business Culture. 2021. Business communication. [online] Available at: (URL) [Accessed 5 May 2021].
2. Thelocal.fr. 2021. [online] Available at: (URL) [Accessed 5 May 2021].
3. Talk in French. 2021. The Ultimate Guide to French Business Etiquette | Talk in French. [online] Available at: (URL) [Accessed 5 May 2021].
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