The cultural taboos to avoid when doing business in France

A list of French business cultural taboos

If you’re not prepared, doing business with the French can be like navigating a minefield. There are many things foreigners need to pay attention to that aren’t obvious if you don’t know about them.

  • Never ask about the salary

This can be a bit hard to grasp, especially for people who live in the US, but talking about one’s wealth is very bad taste in France.

  • Likewise, never talk about your own salary

Often, you’ll look like you’re trying to show off your wealth. This is considered extremely pompous, and this would be one of the worst possible first impressions you could make.

  • Never mix professional life and private life

For the French, the two are clearly separate.  Once you’ve been in doing business for long enough, a friendship might form between you and your partners; but until then, inquiring too much about their private life is a very bad idea. The same goes if you talk about your private life too much; acting overly friendly could actually make the French suspicious.

  • Never ask someone how they voted

It’s perfectly fine to talk about the current president or the current policies. Even if you end up in a heated 30-minute long debate, often, the French will enjoy the intellectual exercise. However, explicitly asking about political leaning is very bad taste.

  • Never call someone on their lunch break

The French are very proud of their food. As a result, lunch breaks might as well be sacred. If you’re expecting the French to eat their lunch in 30 minutes in front of their computer, think again. The only time you should talk about work at lunch is if you’ve been invited for a lunch meeting; and even then, the food and wine may be the subject of conversation for the first hour.