French Business Etiquette

Posted by Ashleigh Chretien


Bienvenue en France! ("Welcome to France" in French)

France a country with a passion for , high fashion, beautiful architect, gourmet food, fine wines, lovers, and a rich historic past all make up the largest country in Western Europe.


The Lowdown

The French are private people who have different behavior towards people in their inner cirlce versus people outside.

Dressing Sharp

  • France is home to one of the fashion capitals of the world so dressing sharp is a must. Fashion and appearance are much more important in France than in most other countries in the world. Your dress is a reflection of your social status and relative success.
  • Wear only conservative clothing of the finest quality.
  • Dress is formal for both men and women.
  • Men should wear high quality and conservative suits, particularly dark suits and accessories are recommended. In France, executives usually do not loosen their ties or take off their jackets while at the office, or in restaurants. So do not be the first to take off your jacket!
  • French women are known to wear fashion conscious clothing in both social and business wear, with a feminine chic vibe. If you are visiting France you are advised to dress simply with elegance. A well made business suit or dress is appropriate with a good pair of shoes. Make sure to be careful when accessorizing, remember simple is always better!

Keep in mind if you are ever invited to a gathering with ‘informal’ dress in the invitation, don’t assume jeans and a tee shirt is acceptable. sometimes meaning a jacket and tie for men.

Make or Break Meetings

  • In France it is important you make appointments and you simply do not ‘drop in’ on someone unannounced. This is considered rude, no matter the occasion.
  • You should be punctual, but you won’t be late if you arrive ten minutes after the scheduled time. Although the further South you go the more causal punctuality becomes.
  • When you arrive at a meeting make sure to shake hands.

Dining Decorum

  • Arrive on time. Do not be late or arrive more than 10 minutes later than invited without informing the host/hostess.
  • When not holding utensils, your hands should be visible above the table.
  • Dining etiquette for paying the bill. Usually the one who does the inviting pays the bill. Sometimes other circumstances determine the payee (such as rank).
  • Lastly after the dinner party one must write a written thank you note to your host the next day. Sending fruit or flowers is also a thoughtful gesture.

Giving and Getting Gifts

The act of giving a gift is not commonly used in French business. Instead it may be better to host a dinner or a special event rather than give a gift. But gifts are expected when attending a social event or party to thank the host/hostess.

Presents should be treated with discretion – small gifts may be exchanged, but not at the first meeting and definitely not with your business card.


  • Give only good quality gifts or none at all.
  • No company logos on any gift you give.
  • Give candy, macaroons, cakes and flowers. Make sure its of high quality!
  • Same with wine make sure its the best! The French appreciate their wines.
  • Flowers should be given in odd numbers but not 13, which is considered unlucky. 
  • Gifts are usually opened when received.
  • Do not include your business card with a gift.
  • Giving cards on holidays is appropriate and appreciated. Thanking business partners around New Years is a good time to send a card.

Down to Business

  • French business behavior emphasizes courtesy and a degree of formality.
  • Good posture is essential in the French business etiquette
  • Trust and respect are key and must be mutual to get things done.
  • French executives tend to focus on long-term business relationships.
  • Business people in France are usually straightforward,questioning, and probing.
  • The decision making pace in the French business etiquette is rather slow. Decisions are usually not made at the first meeting, because business people prefer to discuss things in detail with somebody at the top.

Now that you’re well prepared for your next jet-setting business trip to France, don’t forget to stay tuned for our next Business Etiquette blurb! Au revoir! (“Goodbye” in French)