An introduction to French culture: politics, the economy and how to win at business in France

The French: A cultural overview

In TMA World’s Country Navigator online tool, we have included in the France country profile excellent strategies for working with the French.  These include:

  • Always respect the individuality of the French. Never try to put them into categories or generalize.
  • Remember that France tends to be a polite, formal society. Greetings, small talk, and etiquette are essential.
  • Do not be afraid to debate a point in what may seem like a heated, intense discussion. Provided you can back up your argument, you will be respected for your intellectual grasp.
  • Respect the hierarchy in French businesses. Be aware that information may not flow easily between hierarchical levels.

The French Context

The French tend to be very well informed about the world, and if you are doing business with them it would help you to have an understanding of their current context.

France is experiencing the impact of fierce cultural, economic, and political winds after the highly contested Presidential elections of 2017 saw Emmanuel Macron take power with 66.1% of the vote in the second round, winning against Marine Le Pen leader of right-wing party the National Rally.

At age 39, Macron became the youngest president of France in history with his social, liberal and social-liberal party La République En Marche! According to the IFOP poll for Le Journal du Dimanche, Macron started his five-year term with a 62 per cent approval rating, however Macron’s popularity fell sharply in 2018, reaching about 25% by the end of November. The main contributors of which were his recent confrontations with former Chief of Defence Staff Pierre De Villiers, the nationalization of the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard owned by the bankrupt STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, and the reduction in housing benefits.

Demonstrations by political movement “les gilets jaunes” have caused significant unrest due to disruptive protests calling for lower fuel taxes, a reintroduction of the solidarity tax on wealth, a minimum-wage increase, the implementation of Citizens’ initiative referendums, as well as the resignations of President Emmanuel Macron and the Second Philippe government.

French Political, Cultural, and Economic Anxieties

  • ‘Stagnation’ is a word often used to describe the French economy. France experienced stagnant growth between 2012 and 2014, with the economy failing to expand by more than 0.8% in these years, though growth picked up in following years reaching 2.1% for 2018.
  • French unemployment overall has been around 10 percent for some years – it is at 20.2 percent for the under 25-year old’s.
  • France is a country of relatively high taxes and heavy regulation. The French state absorbs 57 percent of GDP.
  • The cosmopolitan cities are more at ease with globalization having experienced job growth of 5 percent between 2006 – 2011.

The struggle in France – as in many other Western democracies – is between nationalism and globalization or what some refer to as between a closed or open society.

France is a country with deep insecurities. A State of Emergency was declared following the November 2015 Paris attacks, which expired, after five extensions, in November 2017.

The largest Muslim community in Europe is in France, and for a growing number of people a cultural rift is widening.  Traditional French values like secularism are perceived to be under threat, hence the enforcement of Laïcité a concept promoting this. It discourages religious involvement in government affairs, especially religious influence in the determination of state policies.

In the same way, there has been resistance to the wearing of the hijab and the burkini evident in Sarkozy’s controversial attempt to enforce a ban that took effect in April 2011 and made it illegal for women to leave their homes with their faces covered. In July 2014 the European Court of Human Rights upheld the ban, although several French seaside towns have now also banned the burkini.

If you are currently working with the French or going to do business with them in the near future, demonstrate your own worldly knowledge, especially about France.  Expect arguments, but enjoy them! Cross cultural training enables people to understand how contrasting cultural backgrounds can influence perspectives and provides opportunity to adapt their working style to improve relationships. As a result of our training our clients have reported greater productivity, increased innovation and more efficient and effective collaboration. Click here to get in touch to discuss your team training needs.

Speak up in meetings

Country Navigator is an online and mobile platform that prepares global managers, executives and assignees on how to work and adapt to working across over 100 cultures. It combines assessments, country content and a range of e-learning modules.

Significantly increase your company’s global effectiveness

As a comparison instrument it allows users and corporate account owners to compare culture profiles and tendencies with countries, teams and colleagues and receive instant guidance on how to collaborate more effectively. Country Navigator supports clients in building cultural intelligence; from induction through to executive and high potential development. Country Navigator ensures all global leaders are well prepared and effective when managing diverse teams. The system follows a well-proven methodology which focuses on operational realities and practical application, enabling learners to transfer new skills and knowledge to their workplace.

Country Navigator on Tablet

Benefits for your organization

  • You will achieve greater levels of collaboration, cohesion, and integration across teams and functions.
  • Country Navigator allows you to utilize existing technology and devices for inquisitive, mobile, and increasingly virtual workforces.
  • Realize significant cost savings over traditional training methods.
  • Enhance live, in-person classroom training and coaching programs with self-paced online learning modules.
  • You will be able to educate and inform employees at all levels and locations throughout the organization.
  • You can be more responsive in pursuing growth opportunities and managing risk.

Country Navigator is multi-lingual and multi-use

The cultural assessment tool and feedback information is available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and Russian.

In addition to its assessment capabilities the Country Navigator tool offers e-learning paths and online country briefings for global leaders. Users access structured country learning paths. Information includes local cultural tendencies, profile comparisons and key strategies on how to manage cultural differences. Country Navigator on Phone

  • Country guides: Access in-depth information and expert advice for all key international business destinations, with insider tips to build relationships and secure deals around the globe.
  • Country briefings: Learners go through a six-step structured overview of a country. A video quickly gets them up to speed on the local working styles. A gap analysis between the learner and the target country focuses the learner onto the key strategies that they need adopt to manage any cultural differences.
  • Blended learning: Access structured learning to guide and develop increased cultural awareness to build more fruitful international relationships.
  • Learning on-demand: Access a wide range of integrated learning tools, resources and courses from within the Country Navigator tool, on your desktop, online or via your mobile device.
  • Validated profiles: Culture assessments are based on insights and data compiled by over 250 culture experts covering 126 countries worldwide. A dynamic dashboard reacts to the learner’s usage and guides them to the relevant information. After the learner has completed the cultural profile assessment, the system will generate the learner’s cultural tendencies and provide them with clear guidance on recognizing differences in others and adapting for success. Learners can compare themselves to country profiles and receive detailed guidance on how best deal with any differences. They can also compare their own profile with their colleagues or counterparts and receive instant feedback on how to work better together.

The latest release of Country Navigator provides:

  • Essential tips and in-depth online guidance on how to do business in over 100 countries
  • Personal Assessment – identify your dominant cultural orientations and how they impact your global working style
  • Comparison Tools – compare your profile with colleagues and receive personalized feedback
  • Flight Packs – a downloadable collection of country resources and information

You can try Country Navigator for free right now with our 14 day trial. Click here to sign up.

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