This paper will focus on the many elements and dimensions of France and the affect it has on the business that takes place locally and internationally. There will be constant comparisons and contrasts between France and the United States of America taking place throughout this entire research article. I will focus on how the elements and dimensions of the culture separately are adapted by the locals and integrated into everyday life and business.
I will also give insight on how to conduct business in France for other countries, mainly the United States, by talking about the countries imports and exports and certain important factors that outside business should know in order to successfully enterprise.
The information and suggestions offered in this paper will range from communication and business dress attire, to social structures and Geert Hofstede analysis; all of which should improve the knowledge of foreign businesses and help them adapt in order to maintain and/or obtain success internationally in the country of France.
Global Business Cultural Analysis: France What is a global business cultural analysis? From looking and several examples and finding information on this country, I have come to the conclusion that it is a description of the country and how its culture contributes to or restricts the business environment. As many of us may already know, culture plays a major part in a lot within a country. For one, culture dictates communication. Culture also the mannerisms of the people that are within the country. So, just to clear up any confusion, culture is a major part of a country and how it conducts itself, especially how it conducts business.
It would be only right that if one was trying to conduct business in a country, they would need to understand the culture of the country in order to successfully interact with the people of the country in hopes of promoting and maintaining a highly active and flourishing business. With that being the case, I will focus my attention on the major elements and dimensions of culture in France. I will also describe how these elements and dimensions are integrated by the people of France when conducting business within this nation.
Lastly, I will compare and contrast the culture and business of France with the culture and business of the United States and explain what a United States company would have to do in order to conduct business in France successfully. Communication One of the most important elements of culture in any and every country is communication. Communication comes in two different forms, verbal and nonverbal. Of course verbal is talking and actually saying what you mean and non verbal would be things such as hand gestures and body movements.
In France, the official language is of course French. According to A Practical Guide to French Business by Alston, Hawthorne, and Saillet, “The French consider their language a central part of their cultural heritage, their “patrimoine,” and fluency in French is a major part of how French and non-French are evaluated. It is almost impossible to be fully accepted, or respected, when one does not speak French well” (2003 p. 43). The French appreciate when people not of the nation attempt to speak French but get irritated when it is spoken incorrectly according to Alston et al (2003).
I can personally vouch for this because I had a French teacher that became visibly bothered when learned words or phrases were butchered and not used in the correct context. The French language is so important to the people of France, the government does not allow advertisements to be a mixture of languages. For example, if a store decided to display a sign that said, “Como is life? ” it would be illegal and subject to a fine by the French government. The United States differ greatly in this aspect. There are a lot of examples of mixed languages, especially in entertainment such as movies and sitcoms.
The French are very unique when it comes to conversation. They have a great appreciation for it, however, they tend to enjoy arguments and disagreements. They look at these things as interesting. They value someone that can argue with great skill. This is a complete contrast of the United States. We tend to try to avoid arguments and look down upon it. We try to be liked and attempt to agree with people that we are trying to build a relationship with or hold a conversation with. The French would rather voice their opinions and appear non-hypocritical than to agree or compromise how they feel.
When it comes to interacting with people, France and the United States differ greatly. The people of France tend not to smile or have an expression when meeting new people. In the United States, we tend to smile and greet people as we have known them for a very long time. Edward MacNeal talks about growing up in a bicultural environment and noticing the differences between French and American interactions. He states in his journal French-American Misunderstandings, “…the French don’t smile at people they don’t know. They think it’s hypocritical” (2003). This nature is why many Americans view French people to be rude or snobbish.
MacNeal also says that the American assumption is that we are all friends and the French assumption is that we are all strangers. This very assumption could hinder interaction between people of the two nations. So with that being said, when doing business with the French, be sure to address them by Sir or Madame rather than by their names. One should always approach them with no expression because a sign of expression, such as a smile, could be viewed as phony or fake. When communicating with the French, you should be mindful of the volume of your voice and be sure to make eye contact.
Americans are known to be a little bit louder than the French would like. We tend to offend them by our loud talking and blaring laughter. The French are seen as very intimidating to Americans because of the intensity and vast amount of eye contact they make. Like I stated earlier, communication can also be non-verbal. Many actions and behaviors are observed by the French as well. Matt Priest (2012) notes that the French are very casual when it comes to punctuality. If you were to show up late to a meeting, you would probably be easily forgiven by many French professionals.
Americans value punctuality a lot more than the French. You would mostly likely be the topic of discussion after the meeting. Speaking of conducting business, Mr. Priest also gives us insight by telling us that the French prefer to do business over lunch as opposed to any other meal. The French value privacy. They do not tend to like unannounced visits, so it is very important to let them know if you are planning to visit. Americans and the French have a little in common when it comes to communication. We both greet with a brief handshake, followed by a bit of eye contact.
However, according to Matt Priest’s France Business Etiquette, Culture & Manners, French handshakes are not as firm as American handshakes. When conducting business, most people speak English, as English has become the common language within international business. According to Organization Communication in France: An Overview of Current Research, “…English has progressively and irremediably become the de facto Lingua Franca since the end of World War II…” (Cooren & Grosjean, 2010). Americans are similar to the French when it comes to business attire.
We both recommend dress to be conservative. Bright colors are usually avoided by both counterparts and flashy, overpowering, and glitzy accessories are not encouraged according to the International Business Center (Priest, 2012). Conservative clothing is usually preferred when conducting any kind of business internationally. Religion The dominant religion in France is Roman Catholic. According to the World Factbook of France, about 83-88% of the population of the country is Roman Catholic (2012). Religion plays a major role in the operations and actions of the people of France.
The International Business Center tells us that for the countries that have over 50% of the population that practice the Catholic religion, there is a dimension of the Geert Hofstede analysis called the Uncertainty Avoidance that correlates positively with this statistic (2012). The Geert Hofstede analysis will be discussed later on throughout this paper. According to Edward J. Woell, “Catholic belief and practice continued to shape French national identity throughout the modern era” (2009). The national identity of France was also molded by the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
This document is very similar to the United States Constitution and even though both societies say there is a separation of church and state, they were both created and influenced by religious beliefs. This very idea is the justification of many laws implemented in France and the United States together. Back in the nineteenth century, France had a belief of spreading its culture around the world on civilizations that were considered wrong or backwards. They believed their culture was the hands down best and most appropriate way to live and conduct oneself.
Since France was rooted in the Catholic religion, that would imply that they were spreading their religious beliefs on other civilizations and people of other areas. As you you will see a little further through this article, France has continued to spread its beliefs on people, especially the people that are occupants of the country. There are several examples that show the influence religion has had on the actions and even laws of the people of France. One of the most recent events that was influenced by religion was the banning of the burqa.
A burqa is a full body veil that is worn by Muslim women. The banning of the burqa started with not allowing the burqa to be worn in the schools in France. According to Ellen Wiles’s article Headscarves, Human Rights, and Harmonious Multicultural Society: Implications of the French Ban for Interpretations of Equality, headscarves and any signs or clothing that demonstrate ones religious affiliation (2007).
This article also pulls a passage directly from the rule that was passed by legislation on the issue of the schools ban on religious clothing, “Article L. 41-51 of the French Education Code provides: “In state primary and secondary schools, the wearing of signs or dress by which pupils overtly manifest a religious affiliation is prohibited. ” (Legislation passed on March 15, 2004)” (2007). The French government was not happy there. They passed a law on September 14, 2010, that would ban the wearing of the burqa in public.
Right Vision News tells us, “A woman who repeatedly insists on appearing veiled in public can be fined 150 euros and ordered to attend re-education classes. There are much ore severe penalties for anyone found guilty of forcing someone else to hide his or her face “through threats, violence, constraint, abuse of authority or power for reason of their gender. “Clearly aimed at fathers, husbands or religious leaders who force women to wear face-veils, and applicable to offences committed in public or in private, the law imposes a fine of 30,000 euros and a year in jail” (2011). 150 euros equals out to about 200 United States dollars and 30,000 euros is about 40,000 United States dollars. This is a very harsh punishment for something that is considered a part of some people’s custom.
People argued that this would infringe on the religious freedom of the individuals in the society; however, since the majority religion is Roman Catholic, this ban fits perfectly into the identity of the people that actively practice the Catholic religion. The government of France, like I stated earlier, was shaped by religious beliefs. The argument of the government of France for banning the burqa was that it hindered inequality and promoted submissive behavior. However, many people question this argument. As we all know, France is very conscientious of their appearance.
The burqa does not display the Roman Catholic religion but actually has a negative connotation to other people that still view Muslim as terrorist because of the extremist group called the Taliban. The United States has taken a very different approach. Just recently, a mosque was built near ground zero of the bombing that took place on September 11, 2001. In the United States, the majority religion is Christianity. The idea of the construction of the mosque received lots of opposition but it was ultimately approved for construction by the members of the United States federal government.
This was one of the most extreme signs of the support of religious freedom in the country, or better yet, a more absolute signal of separation of church and state. As we all know, the United States pushed their beliefs on people as well, which is very similar to France. We came overseas from Britain and persuaded the Native American people to adapt our ways. We taught them our ways of hunting and even our way of survival. Most importantly, we taught the Natives our religious ways. The same goes for modern day America as well. Though slightly more subtle, we influence people today with our religious beliefs.
Christianity is embedded into our culture and is forced upon people through the many rules and amendments. I guess you can say that about just about any country, however, not all countries are backed or rooted in religious beliefs. For instance, the national religion of China is atheist. That is strictly enforced by the government of the country and displays of other religions are subject to punishment. Ethics and Etiquette This section will not just focus on ethics, but more so business ethics. First off, ethics, according to Google’s dictionary, is “Moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior” (2012).
This is the perfect definition for the ethics of a culture because it is the principles that govern the people and it influences the decisions and actions of certain groups of people as well. Business ethics is defined by Chris MacDonald as, “critical, structured examination of how people & institutions should behave in the world of commerce. In particular, it involves examining appropriate constraints on the pursuit of self-interest, or (for firms) profits, when the actions of individuals or firms affects others” (2012).
Business ethics influence how certain companies and businesses interact with one another to conduct business activities. Some of France’s ethics and values were discussed earlier in the article, but let us talk about these set of governing principles in detail to see how they affect interaction between the people of the country. French people value their language as I stated earlier and the history of the country. The French language and its importance was fore mentioned in the communication section, so let us discuss the importance of history on the people of this country.
According to The ins and outs of doing business in Europe: Germany, France, Russia, and the emerging markets of Eastern Europe, “Ignorance of French history, culture, literature, and so on is demonstratively looked down upon” (Gray 2005). The French pride themselves on the long history of their country and the influence they have had on the world throughout the years. They also place importance on inheritance. This value of inheritance goes hand in hand with the importance of social classes in France. Social classes and structures will be discussed later in this article.
The French place strong value on friendship. Friendships to the French are very similar to being family related to Americans. We Americans tend to make many friends with moderate devotion or dedication whereas, the French do not make as many friends but build very strong relationships. Mr. Edward MacNeal states on the topic of friendship in both the United States and France, “Friendship in America may imply nothing beyond a momentary conjunction of place or interest, and even those you consider as your friends probably don’t know your other friends.
Friendship in France usually implies a lifelong commitment. One takes on a more active burden of concern for friends in France than most Americans would knowingly accept. Your obligations to a friend in France might be likened to those you would have to a family member that you personally selected. In France, then, one shies from making friends casually and most of one’s friends probably do know each other” (2003). With this in mind, it is beneficial for one to make friends with their employers.
True, you do want to become an ally of your boss, but be sure not to try to hard because like I stated before, the French despise phony demeanors and are very critical of hypocritical behavior. The best way to meet someone new in France is to be introduced by a mutual third party. This is true because of the great emphasis that is placed on friendship. Remember, in France, all of your friends will likely know one another. Like MacNeal said, friendships are lifelong commitments; so, once you become friends with your boss, you can expect them to help you in any way they can and the actions should remain mutual.
I will now discuss the business etiquette of the French people because this is going to be very important for people of different nations that intend to conduct business with the French. Firstly, when greeting anyone, be sure to address them by Monsieur or Madame, no matter the circumstance. This is considered formal and is regarded as more polite. It is always important to remember to never confuse business with personal in France. France rarely uses humor in the workplace. It is seen as unprofessional. The French value intellect over all. Like I mentioned earlier, the best meal to discuss business is lunch.