Doing Business In France

It is not without reason that foreign business people often find it hard to fully comprehend the opinions and reactions of their French partners during meetings or negotiations. 

The French business culture is strongly relationship-orientated. While there are clear hierarchies with defined authorities yet it is the informal relationships that dominate.

Thus, a stable business relation requires a certain degree of emotional attachment between the respective business partners. 

A lively exchange is necessary which implies by far more than the typical small talk that one may be used to. The French will check their business partners thoroughly because they want to get to know them really well.

Debating Is French Fun!

Even though the French are strongly relationship-orientated, it might be surprising that they are not at all consensus-orientated when it comes to meetings or negotiations. In fact, the opposite is the case: their style of negotiation is often based on deliberately emphasising different opinions.

So usually lively discussions evolve during which contraries will permanently be stressed. And yet at the same time, the relationship level still has to be taken care of. That is why the French in general foster a rather implicit style of communication. As a consequence, debates will only be acted out when there is no doubt that the relationship level is stable enough. This means also that if you got smoothly through the first stages of building up a business relationship you should prepare yourself for upcoming storms!

Despite of all debates that may be carried out in meetings, the decisive power solely lies with the top management. In most cases, decisions are made behind closed doors. Foreign business partners may sense the French decision-making process as rather lengthy.

Contradictory Behavior

All in all, you may quite often find the French behaviour and actions hard to comprehend: on the one hand they are very relationship-oriented and on the other hand they are pure individualists and like to confront each other. And even though the French foster an implicit style of communication, they may express their refusal in a very brusque manner.

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Business Culture Guide - France

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