France has been Germany’s largest export market for some time, but despite the countries’ long-standing relationship, problems constantly crop up when it comes to economic cooperation. As a result, we’d like to take today’s blog post to cover certain peculiarities of the French business culture.
In France, it tends to be important to focus on people. When dealing with your French business partners, you should therefore take particular care to establish and maintain personal relationships.
When it comes to the establishment of trust, there are some significant differences between Germany and France. In Germany, specific references play an important role, as do age and the experience associated with it. In France, on the other hand, a partner’s personality is crucial to the establishment of trust. Here are some examples gleaned from experience:
- French people tend to have a meal with business partners before closing a contract, Germans after.
- Younger employees are often given the benefit of the doubt in French companies, while they usually have to complete training periods in German companies, during which trust has to be earned.
- French salespeople tend to focus on analyzing customers’ needs; this is expected by buyers and is a foundation of the establishment of trust. In Germany, though, exhaustive information is indispensable if you want to earn a potential buyer’s trust.
How does French culture affect behavior during negotiations? French people tend to enter into negotiations or attend meetings with different expectations and ideas than Germans. In France, staking out positions and exchanging information and opinions are the top priorities. That’s why you seldom find French people making detailed, elaborate presentations during negotiations. Objective information tends not to be described as extensively as it is in Germany.
Informal lines of communication are commonly used in France. Important objective information is thus not necessarily mentioned during negotiations. Rather, important decisions based on negotiations tend to be made by managers either before or after the meeting.
You should therefore actively take advantage of sources like water-cooler chats to stay up to date on things. This is all the more important as French people have a tendency to expect every individual negotiation participant to have a certain amount of objective information on pertinent topics.
You can learn more about these topics and other fundamentals of international business life in our cross-cultural trainings. Other important topics such as employee leadership, project management and the peculiarities of virtual communication can all be covered extensively in our trainings.