8 cultural differences between World Cup finalists France and Croatia

France emerged victorious in football’s clash of the year in Moscow, beating Croatia 4-2 to win the 2018 World Cup. But did the contest on the pitch translate to a collision of cultures? Here’s our take on the two sides from a business perspective.


It’s hard to say which side is more patriotic. Croatians are deeply proud of their cultural history. Croats use the metaphor of a single related people with shared blood to describe themselves as a nationality and tend to consider themselves more ‘European’ than ‘Balkan’.

The French are famed for their patriotism and the French government actively encourages this. French people enjoy national pride, favor French products and have a deep pride in French culture and food. In the workplace and in daily life, solidarité – sharing a viewpoint – is important. Having said this, France today is an extremely diverse society and and not perhaps as cohesive as people would like to think.


Croatia has a laid-back, southern European mentality when it comes to efficiency. Croatians like to think they demonstrate ‘Western’ efficiency in their business dealings but the reality is that many procedures take longer than expected. Bureaucracy is still a problem and the work ethic is different from that of North European countries, or Asia, or North America. Croatians tend to be more flexible, with a slower concept of time, seeing deadlines as guidelines rather than absolutes.

French executives, on the other hand, have a love of process. In business, concepts are questioned and detail is debated on theory and methodology. Meetings in France may go round in circles as ideas are debated.


Croatians are direct communicators once a relationship is established and prefer straight talking, unless there is a problem, in which case, they may try to avoid causing offence. Confident, educated and assertive people are admired; Croats tend to be fairly opinionated and a visitor needs to be able to assert themselves in any discussion.

In France, there is also a direct communication style. The French language is precise and forthright. French people tend to enjoy a debate; they are logical and analytical, although direct confrontation is usually avoided.

Quality of life

Croatians are Mediterranean people with a southern European attitude to time and a healthy respect for private time and working to live, rather than living to work. Life moves at a slower pace and Croatians will make time for coffee with friends during the working day, or an escape to the beach rather than unnecessary overtime in the office.

France is similar, to an extent. Business and personal life are kept very much separate. Doing things well and with style are valued; sitting down to a meal, for example, rather than eating a sandwich at one’s deck. Having said this, French executives do often work long hours, although people will go to great lengths to protect their personal time.

Making a good impression

Croatians, a bit like the British, tend to favor a ‘stiff upper lip’ and keep any personal sadness to themselves. Revealing too much about your personal life, or appearing too emotional can be taken as a sign of weakness. Croatians respect money, education, power and influence and are fairly materialistic – a good home and a smart car are signs of prestige. Croatians will be impressed with someone who is polite, punctual, well dressed and who demonstrates a degree of education and status. Strong, confident speakers are appreciated, as is anybody who can present and defend a strong argument.

In France, you’ll make a good impression by dressing smartly, using the formal ‘vous’ address unless invited to switch to ‘tu’, and by being courteous at all times. Speaking French helps enormously. Good debating skills are admired, as is the ability to put across a point in a logical way, with solid facts to back it up.

Faux pas

In Croatia, never make comparisons between Croats and Serbians, or Croats and Bosnians and never, ever assume that all three are the same culturally.

In France, be careful how much personal information you try to extract from an individual; even asking someone what they do for a living, in a social situation, is seen as rude. Using ‘tu’ instead of ‘vous’ can be a minefield unless you really know what you’re doing linguistically and socially. Never ask for your steak well done and always greet the shop assistant when entering and leaving a shop; these little things matter.

North vs south

Both France and Croatia embody the cliché of the north-south divide. In Croatia, people in the north may have cultural leanings towards Austria and Hungary, while those in the south feel a closer affiliation with Italy. In France, people from Paris are famously seen as snobbish, while southerners see themselves as having a more laid-back, Mediterranean spirit. People from the north see themselves as more serious in business, whether or not this is an accurate perception.

Use of teams

Croatians work well in teams; they are used to a collective culture and the concept of extended family, and will cooperate and help one another. There is often a reluctance to accept responsibility, with external factors or another person being blamed when something goes wrong. Worst case, a whole team may close ranks on their manager and adopt a passive-aggressive attitude, or a ‘them-and-us’ approach to their superiors.

The French are more individualist; recognition is highly valued. Teams can be competitive within an organisation, although individuals within a team will cooperate with one another to meet a goal. Teams tend to have a strong vertical hierarchy with the leader making the decisions.

Cultural differences aside…who are you routing for?


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About the Author

Sue Bryant

Sue Bryant is an award-winning writer and editor specialising in global business culture and travel.

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