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3 important mistakes to avoid when doing business with the French

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3 important mistakes to avoid when doing business with the French

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So you’ve made the marketing research, business plans are looking good, and so you’ve have decided that France will be your next big market

In order to avoid any international business blunders, you must be aware of certain specific cultural trends. Not knowing some basic rules may not just be embarrassing on your end, worst is that it might be the cause of failure. So here are just 3 main DON’T’S on which I wish to bring your attention:


«When in Rome, do as the Romans do». This expression applies of course for the French. Even if English is the international business language and you’ll find that the generation of French young professionals usually speak and understand English, having your sales material and website in French is essential to as successful marketing strategy in France:

  • If you have online presence, duplicate your website entirely in French, and avoid a cheap online translation. Go for a professional!
  • If you are attending a trade-show, have all your sales documents in proper French (not translated with online tools or a French major student.

Showing that you respect their language will take you a long way in gaining credibility and a professional image.


French consumer trends are very specific. You’ll need to find a plan adapted to the market’s special needs so that your product appeals to your target consumers. You may choose to emphasis your country of origin, or decide it’s better to keep it on the down-low. You may need to find a new name and create a whole new and specific advertising campaign. Beware of local trademarks or even translation blunders to make sure you won’t have to change all your strategy once the launch it on the way. Going global doesn’t mean you can just apply your winning home strategies to every market you’re entering. Go global… but think local. Getting an insider’s look on cross-cultural issues is unavoidable.


Though globalization tends to fade away cultural differences, some remain, especially in business relations. Here are just 5 do’s and don’t (this would need an article all on its own!) :

  • Do not under-dress. Looking too casual will be perceived as non-serious and not trustworthy.
  • Present yourself professionally, stating your name and surname, as well as your position. A bilingual business card is a plus.
  • During a business meeting, do not press for immediate decision making. It usually has to be validated “above”.
  • Do no neglect lunch breaks… this cliché is a must. No need for an expensive place, but anything is better than grabbing a sandwich.
  • Keep your professional and personal life separate, even when doing small talk… at least at the beginning.

With these few pieces of advice, you will be starting on the right track. You’ll need to get help and advice from your local representatives, or from a French based marketing and communication agency. It’s an initial investment that will get you past very costly misunderstandings on the long run.

Need help ? Contact Jennifer Raimond

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