Appreciating cultural differences is key at work

Understanding the basic ‘codes’ of the office in France is important to a successful career

French and British businesses do not operate in the same way – as any Briton who has worked for a French company will tell you. It means meetings can easily turn into a minefield of misunderstandings due to cultural differences.

Hélène Fages who left a career in international banking to run workshops on understanding these differences, including for the British Embassy in Paris, likens the topic to an iceberg.

“The tip represents obvious differences such as food, clothes, architecture etc.

“The hidden part is much bigger and represents the aspects you have to work at to discover,” she said.

“You can put them into seven broad headings for business: modes of communication, relation to hierarchy, to risk, to time, to space, to rules and modes of thinking.”

The importance of understanding this to businesses who work in both cultures is clear.

Guy Bondonneau WCT Cross-Cultural
"A decision may have been taken but you may have missed it" says Guy Bondonneau

In fact consultant Guy Bondonneau, from WCT Cross-Cultural, said understanding key differences is vital for anyone planning to work in or with a French firm: “France and Britain are very close geographically but there are enormous divergences in the way they operate in business.

“A lot of people think they can continue with their own culture, but if you do not know the way things work and do not fully ...

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