Q2) What cultural concerns do they need to be aware of for doing business in France?
1. Respect the Language: French people are extremely proud of their language. Even though, a lot of people in France speaks English fluently, foreigners should at least make an attempt to learn the language and use some basic words and some basic French phrases, and apologize for your lack of fluency early on. French people will appreciate the effort, and the conversation will then likely switch to English or a hybrid of the two languages.
2. Punctuality: Not much different from UK, punctuality is vital in France. Although, there are some regional differences, the further South you go the more casual the approach to time is. The French themselves have a very relaxed attitude when attending appointments themselves, so do not be surprised to find your French colleague arriving fairly late. The French consider this a prerogative, so do not expect any apologies- but as ever it will depend who you are dealing with. However, staying late at the office is common, especially for individuals in more senior positions.
3. Adjust to Physical Cues: French people respond to certain physical cues that indicate respect or competence. Maintaining direct eye contact while speaking for example, makes for a good first impression, and correct posture and keeping your hands out of your pockets are musts. Avoid gum chewing, snapping your fingers, or slapping your palm with your fist, as these habits are considered vulgar. Also, never make an okay sign with your fingers, as in France this symbol means nothing or zero. To show approval, simply raise your thumb. Despite the formality of most business exchanges, the French are quite physically affectionate with close colleagues. People tend to stand close when talking with one another, and touching a patting each other on the back or hand is not uncommon.
4. Appreciate the Food, Enjoy the Lunch Hours: the French take their food very seriously. Business lunches are often very long, running two hours or more, they are often used as a way to build the close relationships that sustain business ties, or perhaps to discuss the finer points of an argument or contract detail.
5. Opening hours: In light of the above, opening hours in France are slightly different to the UK. Most shops and offices close over lunch time (usually between 12 and 2pm) and close for the day slightly later. Also, a lot of banks and other public places, such as the Post Office, close on Sundays and (part of) Mondays, but some places that are near to a market square may open especially for this on Sundays. Another thing to bear in mind is that many businesses close for the entire month of August.
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