Aurel, France by Eric Bauer on flickr

France Cultural Dimensions: Reflection of Reality in France

With Paris as its heart, France emanates high fashion, inspiring architecture, breathtaking art, fine cuisine and superb wine. In fact, the word “culture” is a French word, derived from the Latin word colere, meaning “to tend to the earth and grow, cultivation and nurture.” Both traditional and avant garde in the same breath, France is an incredibly attractive place to visit. Whether you are traveling for business or leisure, it is important to first understand the fundamental characteristics that constitute French society.

  1. Hierarchy is still king. On Hofstede Insights, France scores relatively high at 68, compared to the U.S. at 40. This indicates that power is centralized, normally resulting in respect for superiors and multiple levels of hierarchy particular compared to European counterparts such as Germany or the UK. In business and academia, be sure to know the status of your partners and who is both above and below them. Use proper honorifics and titles; be sure to research before you go.
  2. Family is queen. French people are characteristically family-oriented, despite scoring high on the Individualism dimension on Hofstede. Family affairs may take precedence over business as emotional family bonds are strong. While the French may be quite private about their personal space, a respect for their needs and boundaries in this regard is appreciated. Take note of your partners’ preferences for meeting times that work around the family schedule.
  3. Independence Reigns. France is quite a unique country in that while it is both hierarchical and family-oriented – very traditional qualities –  the French are also highly motivated and independent while also nurturing as a society, a very progressive quality. French working hours are set at 35 per week, 5 weeks of holidays and a generous welfare system. Everyone is expected to do their part, and the philosophy is that society as a whole benefits.  

Eiffel Tower in Paris, France by Sharon Schweitzer

When associating with the French, manners and openness will have a lasting impact. Business relationships can take on a new level of excitement when introducing French counterparts. Follow fundamental French etiquette, add professionalism and character, and you are set for success with lasting valuable relationships.  

Quick Tips for Developing Lasting Professional Relationships with French People:

  • First impressions tend to be important to French business people.
  • When it comes to attire, “dress to impress.” High quality, professional clothes make a great lasting impression.
  • A cardinal rule is to schedule meetings at least two weeks in advance to provide proper notice.
  • Remember to address others as Monsieur or Madame and introduce yourself by your full name. Today, mademoiselle is no longer used.
  • Dining etiquette is an important tool in France as most meals are meaningful.
  • French wine is a staple at business meals, including lunch.
  • A crucial European or Continental dining etiquette tip is to keep both wrists or hands on the dining table at all times. When in doubt, follow your host’s lead.
  • Business conversation begins after the meal when the hostess initiates the discussion.
  • The French place emphasis on knowledge, history and literature. Research facts so you may voice informed opinions; you may be coaxed to elaborate and defend your stance.
  • During conversation, remember that patience is a virtue. Prepare for interruptions and intrusive questions, neither are considered impolite in France.  

For more cross-cultural tips regarding business in France, please visit Three Cross-Cultural Tips for Business Travelers in France


Sharon Schweitzer and Vienna Raglin co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and Dow Jones Moneyish. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia, (Wiley 2015) now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.

Vienna Raglin is the Marketing and Sales Manager at Access to Culture. With a professional background in Sales and Hospitality, she earned a BBA in Marketing and Sales from Texas State University. She can be found on Linkedin

**Disclaimer, not all photographers are affiliated with Access to Culture.**