France is one of Germany’s most important trading partners.
It takes second place for sales and third place for purchasing. Geographical proximity, the appeal of both these major European countries and their complementary know-how encourage companies to do business here, and there would be a lot more done if it weren’t for the language and cultural differences. Latin and Germanic roots mean that people may react very differently to certain situations, which is reflected in business life and can be an obstacle to clinching a deal. In Germany, for instance, people go out for a meal together after doing business, whether they sign a contract or not. In France, people sign contracts over a meal. Decisions are also made on gut feelings in France. The people or business partners involved play an important role in clinching a deal. Even if performance is good, an order will not be placed if the interpersonal chemistry doesn’t work.

In France, interpersonal relationships are built and maintained through networks. Recommendations and who knows who are all-important factors. The French have a polychronic concept of time in contrast to the Germans, who have a monochromic approach to time. In France, people think and act flexibly, true to the motto: “there’s always a solution”. Faults are accepted: if the usual way doesn’t work, an improvised solution will. Work relationships and unforeseen events have an impact on punctuality, being 15 minutes late is normal in France, and not considered impolite. The French language is the language of diplomacy. This means it has many interpretations and is much more indirect than the German language. If the language is right, the business deal can go ahead.

As in Germany, the price / performance ratio plays an important role for consumers, the difference being that in France price is evaluated first, and then performance. While there are two words in the German language for “low price”, which can be translated as “cheap” and “inexpensive”, in the French language only “pas cher” (not expensive) is used. But high-quality German products are also valued and in demand in France because they stand for reliability and durability. A particular business practice is to make consumers understand the added value (of the product/service), so that they spend more than initially planned (increase their budget). To prevent the French market from becoming a “difficult market”, adapting to its differences is a necessary step. Customers can be reached by speaking their “language”.

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