Proper Business Etiquette In France

In France, it is crucial to follow proper business etiquette rules. These will enable you to flow well during any meetings that you may have, whether they are lunch meetings or short meetings in the office. Following these etiquette rules could be the key to getting new clients or landing a great job. Here are the ten most important rules for business etiquette in France.


  1. Address Others Formally

It is important that you address anyone that you meet for the first time as Madame or Monsieur. This also applies to people that are your superior. This is regarded as polite and will go a long way in ensuring that you seem polite. Not addressing people formally is considered rude in France and could make a meeting go wrong pretty fast.

  1. Always Use Your First And Last Name When Introducing Yourself

French business people always introduce themselves using their first name and last name. This follows that you should do the same. It is considered respectful to do this. At times, people introduce themselves using their last names first, then their first name. If you often have trouble remembering names it is best to repeat the name out loud after the introduction or when they offer their business card. You may also use the person’s name while speaking to them, but ensure that you limit the number of times you do so to avoid irritating the person.

  1. Make Sure Your Handshake is Brisk And Light

This is the norm with French handshakes. Do not feel like the person is doing this because they do not like you or because they are eager to get the process over with. Most non-French people prefer a firm handshake, so be careful if that is what you are accustomed to. It may leave the person irritated as they could assume that you want to make them feel inferior. This is not what you will want to come across as during the meeting.

 Familiarize Yourself With French Gestures

If you haven’t already figured it out, the French are known for using various gestures. One of the most common ones is the ‘Les bises’ which is the greeting of a person with kisses on the cheeks. Without proper knowledge of the meaning of these gestures, you may have a hard time interpreting what each means. You should check online for French gestures that are commonly used during business meetings. Certain Anglo-Saxon gestures mean the complete opposite in French. If you are not careful you may end up insulting people while thinking that you are complimenting them.

One of these is the ‘ok’ gesture that English speaking people use whereby they form a circle with the thumb and index finger while the other three remain raised. This gesture means ’empty’ in French, so be very careful how you use it.

  1. Wear Formal Business Attire

The French are not familiar with ‘casual Friday’ so be careful not to appear as if you’re not taking the meeting seriously. You may send the wrong message by dressing casually. Ditch the t-shirt and sneakers or your casual sweater for a suit. Make sure you wear a good quality suit and accessorize your attire with jewelry. Grooming is another important aspect to the French people. It is advisable to shave off any facial hair if you are a man. Make sure that you appear neat and well-groomed. This sends the message that you are serious about your work.

  1. Include A French Side On Your Business Card

The person you are dealing with will appreciate it if there is a side printed in French on your business card. This shows that you have respect for the person and their language. You should write your surname in capital letters as this is the norm for French business cards. It ensures that the name stands out so that the person will not have to struggle while reading the card.

While interviewing, make sure that you give the interviewer your business card. It is advisable to have a professional business card holder or case when you go to any networking events. This ensures that you appear organized to the people you are handing out your business cards to.

  1. Keep Your Hands On The Table During Lunch

Normal business lunches in France go on for a particularly long time. Be ready for that. Contrary to British dining etiquette where the hands should not be on the table, in France, you should not keep your hands on your lap. Most meals will include wine. If there is wine then keep in mind that once the glass is empty it will be refiled. If you are not careful you may end up taking too much. If you have had enough, leave some in your glass to prevent it from being refilled.

Apart from that, keep in mind that business conversations will not take place until after dessert. the host is the one that will initiate the conversation.

  1. Schedule Meetings At Least Two Weeks In Advance

Make sure that the meeting is not scheduled too fast or you will make the other party feel pressured. French business people do not plan meetings on short notice in most cases. If you wish to invite the other party to a meeting then make sure you schedule it at least two weeks prior.

  1. Be Patient During Discussions

You should expect the business people to take their time when making a decision. There will probably be many meetings before they make a decision. You should be patient and avoid appearing like you are pressuring them to make a decision on the spot.

 10 Interruptions And Questions Are Normal

Unlike the English who consider interrupting a person poor etiquette, the French consider it a sign that a person is interested in what they have to say. If they interrupt you with questions, it means that they have taken an interest in what you have to say. It is a good sign. You should also do the same if the other person is pitching an idea to you.

After you get all of this down then you can look at the financial and legal things such as VAT like this graph from VATIT shows and laws related to doing business in France.

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