Xenophobe's® Guides: French business culture

Xenophobe's® Guides: French business culture

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Bring flair to your daily workplace attire as the standard business suit is not common, but don't expect to get 'casual' with colleagues, a word not found in the French language.

Xenophobe's® Guides: A book series that highlights the unique character and behaviour of different nations with insight and humour.

The sense of propriety among business colleagues means that they very rarely invite each other home to dinner, or for a drink. The idea of inviting someone from the office for a casual glass of wine, in casual clothes, is unthinkable. Indeed, the French don't really have a word for ‘casual'. The nearest they get to it is décontracté (relaxed), désinvolte (informal) and sans-gêne (without consideration).

The uniform business suit is not commonly worn to work. The French dress with the same flair and imagination that accompanies all that they do. Jackets and trousers of bright and unusual designs and colours (even in banks) are the rule, and dress is no indication of status in the French business world.

The romantic, inaccurate view of the French is that they are a nation of entrepreneurs – small blacksmiths, small builders, small notaires. In fact, small businesses are increasingly the exception rather than the rule. The French are happy to accept the notion of the large company, for the large company can afford vision and experimentation. It is far more glamorous and thus gives its workforce a feeling of importance.

On the whole, the French don't believe in trade unions. Less than 10 percent of the workforce are members (compared with 29 percent in the U.K.), and the figure falls steadily year by year.

This lack of interest boils down to two things: that French people don't like joining anything, and that the main unions are usually in dispute with each other (an ‘us and us', rather than an ‘us and them' problem).

French industry is run by cunning, imaginative men (and one or two women) who make work seem like a pleasant interlude between morning coffee and evening apéritifs. They put rest-rooms in their offices and factories, establish flexi-time, allow workers to take a few minutes' break whenever they need to, and even let them finish work for the week on a Thursday if they've already reached their productivity targets. Trade unions wither in the face of such unfair and reasonable onslaughts.

For more, read The Xenophobe's Guide to the French.

Reproduced from Xenophobe's Guide to the French by kind permission of Xenophobe's® Guides.

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1 Comment To This Article

  • livinginFrance posted:

    on 17th September 2014, 15:04:23 - Reply

    Is this article a joke?
    "French people don't like joining anything". Oh? How do you explain the strong PTA, the numerous sports and cultiral organisations, strong local politics?
    "Jackets and trousers of bright and unusual designs and colours (even in banks) are the rule"? Have you been on the metro lately?
    "They put rest-rooms in their offices and factories." Really? They actually have running water in this country? Thanks for letting us know!

    No mention of the two working worlds - civil servants and the rest - and the yawning chasm between them in terms of rewards and obligations.
    This book seems to be written by an intern who spent all of five days in France and has taken every tiny event seen as the norm. Please, please, please do your homework before writing such inane comments!