As France is a part of the European Union (EU), it is subject to the EU's trade regulations. France's economy has been a bit slow in recent years due to high national and public debt. However, that is not to say that there are not still opportunities for Australian businesses in France.
French culture emphasises courtesy and formality in business settings. Suits are the most common form of business attire, although women can wear conservative dresses as well. For the most part, you should address your business counterparts as Mr. or Ms. The use of first names in business settings is not common. Women should be aware that flirting and genuine compliments on appearance are common in the workplace. However, these mild actions should not be confused with sexual harassment, which is not acceptable.
Relationship building is a key component of business in France. Once you have established a working relationship, you will be expected to return to France on a regular basis to maintain that relationship and continue to grow your business to assist with going forward.
The French typically go on holiday during the summer, so it is best to avoid scheduling meetings during this time, particularly in August. Days surrounding public holidays are inadvisable as well.
In France, many executives speak English, but not all, so it is best to check with your host beforehand to determine if you will need a translator. It also helps if you try to learn at least a little bit of French. Your efforts will be appreciated, even if you still require an interpreter.
The French are not big fans of ambiguity or uncertainty, so do your best to be direct and straightforward in your business dealings. Try to avoid using Australian slang or humour, as your hosts may misunderstand and interpret this as disrespectful.
Normal business hours in France are from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, although some businesses close early on Fridays. Government offices are the exception, with many of them keeping different hours. Shops usually stay open until 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It is rare for them to open on Sundays. France is 10 hours behind Australia's eastern time zone.
Because France is part of the EU, its currency is the euro, which is available in both coins and notes. ATMs are common in public places, as are currency exchange shops.
France's climate is relatively temperate, with cool winters and warm, humid summers. The weather in the southern portion of the country tends to be warmer year round, and tourists flock to the southern cities during the summer for their holiday. The south tends to get a bit windier than the north.
France's electricity is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-prong plugs are the most prevalent.
France offers a variety of visas depending on the purpose and length of your visit. It is important that you obtain the correct visa because they cannot be altered or modified once you arrive in France. Check with your local French Consulate for more information about which visa you will require.
From Australia, business travellers are most likely to fly into Paris' Roissy-Charles de Gaulle International Airport. France does have a number of other international airports in major cities, but CDG is the most commonly used.
Train travel is common in France, and most trains are efficient, safe, and well maintained. Both high-speed and regular options are available, depending on your schedule and budget. This is a great way to move about the country, as most trips only take a few hours or less.
In Paris itself, the metro train system is the best way to get around. It is inexpensive, and the various lines are clearly marked by colour, making the system very easy to navigate. Taxis are also available and charge metered rates. Some accept credit cards, but not all, so be sure to check first before accepting a ride.
Cars are available for hire from a variety of companies. Some prefer that you make a reservation in advance, while others allow you to hire a car on the spot. In France, they drive on the right side of the road, and road signs are measured in kilometres.
Tipping is appreciated but not expected in France. In most restaurants, a service charge of 12 to 15 percent will be added to your cheque. If the service was good, feel free to leave a few euros for your server, more if the restaurant is very expensive.
France offers a wide range of accommodation options for you to choose from. At the high end, there are beautifully luxurious hotels with classic architecture, and there are hostels at the lower end. Availability varies from region to region, so it is advisable to book in advance, particularly if you are travelling during summer or to a smaller city.
When it comes to dining, France has some of the best cuisine in the world. Their food has served as a benchmark for quality in restaurants around the world. In visiting France, your trip will not be complete until you have sampled some of the local fare. Restaurants are widely available at a variety of budget levels, many of them offering outdoor seating where you can relax and people-watch. The dining pace in France is leisurely, so don't expect to be in and out quickly.
Visitors to France will not be short on options for things to do in their leisure time. France offers some of the best museums in the world, including the world-famous Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay, and of course, the instantly recognisable Eiffel Tower in Paris. Take a stroll down the Champs Elysee for some of the best shopping and dining the city has to offer. The central part of the country is home to many vineyards and wineries amid spectacular views of the French countryside. If you prefer sun and sand, the southern region boasts beautiful sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters along the French Riviera.