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General facts

Population: 65.7 million

Capital: Paris

Official Language: French

Currency: Euro

Religions: Roman Catholic, Muslim, Protestant

Key industries

Energy

Energy is one of the biggest sectors in France. Over 70% of its energy, however, is nuclear, so France will strive to change to renewable energy in the coming years. Leading companies include electricity company EDF and solar energy company Engie.

Manufacturing

The manufacturing industry in France is worth billions of euros. As the home of Renault and Peugeot, it manufactures millions of car parts and 6 million cars every year. France is also one of the four founding countries of Airbus and the Airbus headquarters is based in Toulouse.

Tourism

France is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, with approximately 80 million visitors per year. Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris is also the second busiest airport in Europe. France aims to reach 100 million tourists by 2020.

Approach to business (things to keep in mind)

  • Always use a brisk, light handshake each time you meet someone. At the start of each day it’s customary to shake hands with everyone you’re working with.
  • If you’re speaking French, use Monsieur and Madame when greeting people and then use the more formal vous rather than tu unless you’re told otherwise.
  • When introducing themselves, the French tend to say their surname before their first name. Surname (Nom) always comes before First name (Prénom) on forms too.
  • Learn a bit about French culture and art before your trip, so you can chat about it over your lunch break, which is usually an hour.
  • In August a lot of French people take a considerable amount of holiday, so it’s not the right time to book in meetings.
  • In some countries it’s common to give gifts with your company logo on but this should be avoided in France as it can be considered as tacky.

Dos and Don’ts in business

Do…

  • …learn French gestures. The ‘OK’ gesture in British and American culture actually means zero or nothing in French culture.
  • …dress smart unless you are told otherwise because the company has a particularly casual culture.
  • …be flexible with deadlines as quality is valued much more than speed.
  • …have a meeting agenda but expect that you will jump around from one discussion topic to another rather than it being followed in order.

Don’t…

  • …call someone during lunch hours (between 12pm and 2pm) as lunch is a very important part of the day in France.
  • …flash your cash. It’s seen as tacky to show off about how much money you have.
  • …start a conversation in English. Try speaking a bit of French first to show your respect for the French language. If you don’t know any at all we suggest taking an interpreter with you.
  • …discuss personal matters during a meeting. Save that for lunch or coffee breaks.
  • …call unexpectedly. Either follow up with your contact(s) via email or schedule in follow-up calls.

Conversation topics

Away from meetings take time to share your culture and to learn more about French art, history and, most importantly, food. Avoid discussing politics, religion and money.