Meals, Clothing Code & Gifts

Even low-paid, entry-level executives buy the best clothes they can afford

Dress tends to be on the formal side for both men and women, whether in business or social situations

The French will perceive the way you dress as being a reflection of your social status and relative success, do your best to make clothing choices that are tasteful and stylish

Men should wear dark suits, particularly during the winter and when visiting the north

Never be the first to shed your jacket

As blue shirts are worn by raw French military recruits, you may be labelled ‘Un bleu’, the French version of a ‘greenhorn’ if you choose blue for your shirt

For women– a well-tailored business suit or dress is appropriate and good shoes are a must

French women are also more careful with makeup than many of their European counterparts

High quality and conservative suits and accessories are recommended

When you receive an invitation stating “informal” dress, don’t assume you’ll be welcome in a t-shirt and jeans

For a social gathering, informal usually means tastefully coordinated clothes, sometimes including a jacket and tie for men

The French in general are typically conservative when it comes to body language

Business lunches can be long and not necessarily for the discussion of business

Business meals are common practice and usually conducted in restaurants rather than cafes since the latter tend to be too noisy

Because of their love of food, French business people do like to concentrate on a discussion of the dishes during your meal

Be aware that displays of warmth and generosity between business associates, are not the norm in French business culture

Giving presents is acceptable here, but exercise discretion. Business gifts are usually not exchanged at the first meeting

Give a good quality gift or none at all

Gifts are expected for social events, especially as a thank-you after a dinner party

If you need to discuss business matters, wait until the desert is served or unless invited by your counterpart to do so

The earlier courses are usually used to discuss your food and wine preferences

Meal times are used to develop a more personal relationship and discover shared interests in food and wine

Food is very important in France and is taken very seriously, thus long meals are customary, and offer great opportunities to conduct a more open and less formal business discussion

You would need to have several courses – a starter, main and a desert are common practice

The French are very particular about their food and high quality is more important that quantity

Eating etiquette and table manners are highly important – “bon appétit” is a good phrase to use before starting to eat since this will illustrate your respect for the French culture

If you dining in a party, it is considered impolite to leave until the last person has finished their final course

Guests of honour are seated either to the right of the host if they are female, or to the left of the hostess if they are male

Appreciate the Food, Enjoy the Lunch Hours

Is the country’s cuisine is very important, and the French take their food very seriously

Business lunches are often very long, running two hours or more, and may not even involve discussing business at all, Instead, they are often used as a way to build the close relationships

Lunches are a big affair, so be sure to come hungry

If you’re at a dinner party, don’t start eating until the host says bon appetite

Pass dishes to the left, keep wrists above and elbows off the table, and eat with your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right

Good tabel manners are very important, so follow your colleagues’ lead

Try not to add seasons to your food, since this implies the food is tasteless or poorly done

If you are doing business outside Paris and want to impress your colleagues and host, do a bit of research on the cuisine in their region

For social events, being on time is more important, especially if your hosts have cooked a meal

Most restaurants will have reservations and a waiting list, so it is important to reserve a table

if you are looking for last minute bookings, consider a brasserie or a hotel where reservations are not as important

The person who extends the invitation for a meal is also expected to pay for all

The seating arrangements are important with the most senior person, being seated at the head of the table, and the second most senior person to their left and third most senior to their right

If you are invited to a French home, consider it a rare honour. Bring flowers, quality chocolates or liqueur for the host, and present your gift before the entertaining proceeds

Flowers should be sent in advance on the day of the dinner

In accordance with the old European tradition, a bouquet should have an odd number of flowers, but never seven or thirteen

Never send a gift for a French colleague to his/her home unless it is related to a social event