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French business culture


Further to my previous question on French language training - I have now been asked to help the UK team consider the working culture differences between France and the UK (and the USA if possible).

Can you recommend any resources (books would be ideal, but organisations would also be useful) that could help with this?

In particular, anything on general working practices, negotiations and customer relations.

Many thanks

Annah Ross

14 Responses

  1. ideas regarding french culture
    I had a couple of thoughts whilst I was reading this question.

    With regard to organisations who may be able to help you, what about Eurostar/Eurotunnel, who must have had to deal with similar issues regarding the difference in culture.

    Also, I am based in Kent and we have good access to France from here…..have you tried the Business Link Kent team to see whether they have any ideas?

    Kind regards


  2. French business culture
    You could try your local Institut Francais or Alliance Francaise or French consulate. They can usually provide both information, books and journals and might also be able to point you in the direction of useful contacts.

  3. organisations

    My organisation has several offices in France. If we can be of help or if you would like to have an informal chat please let me know.


  4. We can help you.
    Hi Anne,

    If you give me your contact details, we have a French, International Project Manager here who’s role is to help businesses ‘do business’ in France.

    I can ask Valerie Pondaven to contact you – or she can be contacted on 08457 22 66 55 or [email protected]

    Hope we can help

    Deryck Banks
    Business Link Kent

  5. Useful website link
    We have a useful link on our website ( to a site that has lots of tips on working with the French. Go to our Learning Zone/French/Cultural Insights. We specialise in language training and cultural awareness so perhaps we could help you.

  6. France – cultural differences
    Hi Annah

    Recently ran a cultural differences workshop for an American organisation with a European-wide subsidiary so we worked on The UK, French and American cultural difference issues.

    From this experience I’d recommend:-

    The Fons Trompenars book ‘Riding the Waves of Culture’ – covers the 7 dimesnsions of culture and relates them to several European countries incl France – quite academic but very thorough and thought-provoking
    John Mole ‘Mind your Manners’ – more tips and hints, business practices for most European counties incl chapet on France.
    The most powerful expereince was where we enacted a short business meeting with 4 actors – UK, French, U.S. and German. This was hilarious and beatifully illustrated some of the cultural differences (based on Trompenars). The group (of senior managers) then worked with the actors representing the 4 countries – offering advice on how they could be more effective in the meeting.
    A 1 day workshop on cultural differences, for all senior managers, is now being developed.
    If you’d like some more information on any of the above email me [email protected] or give me a ring on 0191 384 5528

    Andy Jaggard

  7. working with French Culture
    It may be a mistake to view french culture as homogenous. However, it is tru that business is heavily influenced by the academie system in the education of senior managers and civil servants.
    Working with a consultancy like ourselves – with a mix of UK and European consultants – is one of the best ways t understand the key aspects of working with diverse people. Often, differences between departments or divisions e.g. values in finance vs. marketing can be more significant.
    However, it is important for managers from different countries to understand and respect custom and ritual in new environments, to avoid irritating working partners. As an example, the French take quite a different view of acceptable behaviour in meetings, when compared with the UK.

  8. Great resource
    “French or Foe” by Polly Pratt is a book that I have used extensively. I heard the author interviewed on NPR years ago and was impressed with her approach. The book is informative about both business and personal navigation in France. I have suggested this book to colleagues in the US and UK and all have been very positive about it.

    Craig Chappelow
    Center for Creative Leadership

  9. Farnahm Castle
    Farnham Castle has a well recognised international briefing and training centre. They provide briefings and training for people working across cultures.

  10. Chambers of Commerce
    I spent a year working in France myself and would recommend the local Chambre de Commerce et de l’Industrie in the town/city where you are located/working. As I noted from one of the other comments, there are quite distinct variations between the regions.

    I spent my time in the Loire Valley and if there is anything I can help with specifically, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    I spent time teaching English and Cultural Awareness to French Business People.

    Brenda Harrison
    Brenda Harrison ACMI
    HR Consultancy & Business Services
    07801 352 980

  11. Try:
    I can thoroughly recommend Farnham Castle International Briefing and Conference Centre (

    They use experienced cross-cultural practitioners with practical expertise in a wide range of disciplines and countries

    For example: as French graduates with recent experience of living and working in China (my wife with the British Council; and I setting up an insurance company), we were sent to France by Farnham Castle to brief (in French and English) the retiring Managing Director and his wife of a major French company being posted to their extensive China operation based on Shanghai

  12. Savoir Flair!
    Just to add to Craig’s comment? – do get Polly Platt’s book, French or Foe?, and also her sequel, Savoir Flair!
    Polly is an ex US journalist, married a Hungarian Count, has lived in Paris for decades and understands the French better, as a foreigner, than anyone else I have known since working there 35 years ago as a student!
    I have also managed French companies since, and note if it is a helpful if outrageous set of generalisations:
    – individuality is usually *far* more important than collective esprit de corps;
    – measurements of personality (eg psychometrics) are often seen as invasive and irrelevant;
    – political (small and big P!) count for far more than in most cultures;
    – negotiation styles are far more ‘Mediterranean’ than ‘north European’ (I can help interpret this off-line if you wish! – but see also my book on How To Negotiate Better Deals, Chapter 9?;
    – intellectual debate is expected – but yet may not be insubordination!;
    – expect brilliant ideas, but often after the need….

    Bien amicalement


  13. French culture

    Every nation has its own culture. There are slighly difference between french and UK culture. You can buy books about French business culture from Amazon. There are some great books which would be helpful for you. I have some useful resources about French language. I love French culture, French food, French life style. Last summer i have visited France as well as i have enjoyed this vacation.


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