Location and population
France has an area of over 200,000 square miles, making it the largest Western European nation. It covers 5 percent of the European continent. Paris is the capital. France borders Andorra, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Spain, and Switzerland. The country has an opening to the Atlantic to the west and has coasts on the Mediterranean Sea to the South and the English Channel to the north.
In 1999, the population was 58,518,748. France has a low population density compared to other countries in Western Europe. In attempt to keep the population up, family allowances are given to each family per child, with no income restriction. Migration has added to the population and it is accounted for half the total population growth.
The official language is French. Also some of the regional languages and dialects such as Breton, Catalan, Corsican, Basque, Alsatian, and Flemish are still in use, and some are still taught in regional schools.
Religion: Roman Catholic 83%-88%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslims 5%, unaffiliated 4%.
Society and Culture
Family is the social adhesive of the country. The extended family provides both emotional and financial support. Despite the French’s reputation of Romance, they are quite practical towards marriage. Families have few children; however parents take their role as guardians and providers very seriously.
French people separate between their personal and business life. They are generally known to be polite in their dealings outside their family and close friend’s circles, where they can be themselves.
Friendships bring a set of responsibilities with it, including being available when you are needed by friends, and it requires frequent contact if not daily.
Food: Food is one of the greatest passions of the French people. They are quite careful and dedicated with their food preparation. The food taste and preparations is greatly influenced by region and what is grown locally. All French people like using fresh ingredients in their food.
Classes and casts: The social class is divided into three groups: small upper class, large middle and lower-middle classes, and a small number of poor people. The upper class includes wealthy Polynesian-European families, Chinese merchant families, and foreign residents. The middle class includes members of all ethnic groups. The families usually own their homes and have at least one wage earner in the household.
Economy and Trade
The economy is heavily dependent on French social programmes and military spending. The most important goods are black pearls, followed by flowers, agricultural exports. The active agricultural trade are fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish. Tourism is underdeveloped; however the jobs and income from tourism are significant in islands that have resorts. Imports of food and other goods including automobiles, appliances, and building materials are enormous by comparison to exports of locally produced goods. Most trade occurs within the Pacific basin with major trading partners in Taiwan and Hong Kong, Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Hawaii, and California. Also a luxury trade take place mainly within the European Union such as wine, cheese, automobiles, and clothing.
Generosity and hospitality are central values in France. Greeting take place by handshaking and exchanging three kisses on the cheeks. It is extremely impolite not to shake hands with everyone present in a room unless the number of people is extremely large. Shoes are taken off when entering someone’s home.
Dinning etiquette: If invited for dinner into a French home, insure you arrive on time. If it is inevitable to be late, call your host and explain! If you are invited for a large dinner in Paris, send flowers that morning of that day, so they can be displayed that evening. Dress well!
Table manners in France are Continental- Fork in left hand and knife in the right while eating. There might be a seating plan so wait until you are directed to where to sit by your host. Do not starts with eating your food until your host say “Bon appétit”. Do not rest elbows on the table, although your hands should be visible. Never cut your salad, but folded over your fork before eating it. If you haven’t finishes eating place your cutlery on your plate with the fork over the knife. Always peel and cut your fruit before eating it. Insure your plate is empty when finished eating. Leave your glass of wine almost full to indicate that you do not wish to have anymore.
French business behaviour emphasizes courtesy and a degree of formality. Mutual trust and respect is required, and it is achieved by proper behaviour. It is advisable to think about quickly creating Business alliances as this will aid your business enormously. If you do not speak French, it is polite to apologise for not knowing the language, as this might aid in developing a relationship. It is also a good idea to learn a few phrases of French to show your interest in developing long- term relationships. The French are quite direct in their business meeting and they are not afraid to ask direct questions. Written communication should be formal, and making an appointment is usually done by a secretary. Booking an appointment should be arranged at least two weeks before. Scheduling an appointment in July and August is not advisable as those two months are when the French take holidays. When attending a meeting, wait to be told where to sit. Keeping an eye contact when speaking is also important. Business is contacted slowly and patience is required. Avoid high pressure tactics. It will get you nowhere. The French are extremely thorough with analyzing every detail of a proposal. Decisions are usually made by the top leaders of a company. The French appreciate a good debater and an intellectual grasp of the situation. Never attempt to be overly friendly. The French separate their business and personal life. Business discussions can be over heated and intense, however avoid high- pressure tactics, and keep to a low- key level.. When an agreement is reached, the French will insist it be formalised in a precisely worded contract. So be aware what you are signing for and you will only get what is in the contract.
Business dress code should be stylish and understated. Men on the first business meeting should dress in a dark conservative suite, after that it largely depends on what kind of business you are conducting. Women should wear business suites or formal dresses with light colours.
The exchange of business cards takes place after the introduction without formal ritual. It is not necessary to translate the other side of your card however; it will reflect attention to details on your behalf. Include any advanced academic degrees on your business card.