France is the fifth most powerful economy worldwide, and the government and the French educational system have played a huge role in this. Since the end of World War Two, the French government has been involved in helping to shape and grow many of France’s largest corporations.

France is the fifth most powerful economy worldwide, and the government and the French educational system have played a huge role in this. Since the end of World War Two, the French government has been involved in helping to shape and grow many of France’s largest corporations. The school system has also had an impact. The best students go through a series of schools – Les Grandes Ecoles – which has created a network of well-educated, intellectual managers in top roles.

Communication

France facts
Ethnic groups: Unknown – it is illegal for the French Government to collect data on race and ethnicity

Language: French

Capital: Paris

Currency: Euro

National holidays: New Year’s Day (Jan 1), Good Friday and Easter Monday (change dates, same as UK), Labor Day (May 1), WWII Victory Day (May 8), Ascension (date changes every year), Pentecost (date changes every year), Whit Monday (date changes), Bastille Day (Jul 14), Assomption (Aug 15), All Saints Day (Nov 1), Armistice Day (Nov 11), Christmas Day (25 Dec), Boxing Day (Jan 26 – but not in all regions)

Business hours: Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm


In France, how you say something is often as important as what you say. Badly-spoken French, or poor expression, is not appreciated – if you do not speak French to a fluent level it may be best to rely on English. While debate is often seen by other cultures as confrontational, with frequent interruptions, this is often seen as humorous by the French. Logical, well-researched points are always appreciated.

Written documents are extremely important – the language used shows intelligence and a good education. The language used in French business documents is usually highly academic and can be seen as old-fashioned. People should always be introduced as Mr or Mrs and may be spoken to using their title and surname for years. You should always shake hands with everyone when entering a room and again when leaving.

Business structures

French companies will have a very rigid hierarchy. CEOs (Président-diréctéurs generals, or PDGs) will hold great levels of power over their companies. The style of management will be directive, not collaborative.

Managers tend to be very intellectual and academic, in a style which is very rarely seen in other countries. Tasks and goals are usually analysed with a great level of detail.

Women are becoming increasingly prominent in French business, although male colleagues may be less accepting of women outside of the largest cities, or in traditionally male-dominated industries.

Meetings

Meetings tend to focus more on information distribution than discussion as managers are more directive than participative in France. Meetings will usually follow an agenda very closely. It is uncommon for staff to challenge or contradict managers openly – if any changes are required, managers should be approached before a meeting takes place.

If a manager is not present during a meeting, debate is much more likely – this can become quite heated and competitive.

Team work

In France, people are taught to be competitive from an early age and so team work is not always easy. People working as part of a team may prefer to be given individual objectives.

Clothing

Dress codes vary at companies throughout France. Generally the further south you travel, the more informal dress codes become. This does depend on the type of business and seniority of those you are meeting.