Whether you plan to visit for business or pleasure, it’s important to be prepared when flying to Paris, France. Travel tips are often directed at the tourist, but we here at Executive Class Travel would like to discuss what the traveling business professional needs to know: key phrases, customs, French business etiquette, and important business practices. After you’ve booked a cheap first-class ticket with Executive Class Travel, prepare for your trip with these Paris travel tips:
Emergencies and Safety
Pickpocketing is not necessarily common, but it’s not uncommon, either. It’s important to have your wits about you. To call the police, dial 112 or 17. In urgent medical situations, call 112 for an ambulance. The French word for help is “Au secours!”
Be sure to bring a power adapter when you go to Paris. Travel tips often fail to include this bit of advice, and many business professionals forget them! The two-pronged European power adapter will work here.
The euro currency is used in Paris, which is fairly comparable to the U.S. Dollar (although rates fluctuate). Should you spend more than 175 euros in one store, you can get a VAT refund within three months. Note that in Paris, there is an extra tourist tax.
In France, service charges of about 15% are always added to your bill. Tipping on top of that is only for exemplary service. This is a gesture, not an obligation. If you require special attention, such as needing help with the menu because you don’t speak the language, it’s polite to provide a little bit extra. If you want to tip, leave coins or cash in the tray and don’t add it to the credit card slip.
The French are most known for their fine tastes. Wine, cheese, and simple meals are valued here. You may be asked to attend a business lunch. Business lunches are an important affair, and they tend to run long, often two hours or more. Table manners are important, so keep your hands above the table. Leaving food on your plate is impolite. While at dinner, wait for your cue to eat: “Bon Appétit!” Business is rarely discussed at dinner.
French Business Etiquette
Unlike Americans, the French often make a hard line between their business and personal lives. Privacy is appreciated, and attempts to bridge the gap between personal and professional relationships won’t be appreciated. There is an overall cultural mistrust of business and bribery. The French appreciate and emphasize their individuality. As in Japan, however, there is a strict hierarchy, with a vertical line of command. Here are a few more tips for traveling to Paris and doing business there:
- Punctuality – Punctuality is important in France, but the attitude is certainly more relaxed than in other countries. Arrive for meetings within ten minutes of the agreed-upon time. However, arriving unannounced and “dropping in” on someone is not acceptable. Meetings should be scheduled about two weeks in advance.
- Greetings – Here are some tips for your first meeting with your French business associates:
- People enter and are seated in a room by rank.
- Brisk, light handshakes are the norm. Men should initiate handshaking with women.
- Use last names rather than first names unless instructed otherwise. You can also address business people with Monsieur or Madame.
- Be sure to provide business cards to the secretary and to anyone you meet subsequently. If one side of your business card is in French, it is often appreciated!
- Gifts are occasionally exchanged, but not at the first meeting. Give a good gift or none at all. Cakes, flowers, or candies are often appreciated.
- Communication – In France as in America, maintaining eye contact is a good thing. Speaking with a lower tone of voice is often appreciated. Hyperbole and high-pressure tactics, on the other hand, are not appreciated. You may receive questions and interruptions before you are finished speaking. This is normal.
- Negotiating – Deliberations may move more slowly than in other countries, as details are important here. It’s important to note that meetings serve a different function in Paris than in America; they’re used to discuss issues, not necessarily to make decisions. Decisions are typically made at the top of the business hierarchy.
- Faux Pas
- Slapping your palm over your fist is considered to be vulgar.
- Yawning, scratching, and sneezing loudly in public is inappropriate.
- Don’t make the “OK” sign with your fingers, as in French that means “nothing” or “zero.” Use the thumbs up sign to signal if things are good.
- Cheek-kissing should be initiated by a female coworker, not the other way around. This practice is not often done in formal business situations.
- Don’t discuss personal affairs in a business setting.
- The “hard sell” approach rarely works in France.
- When exchanging gifts, don’t give something with your company’s logo on it. It’s confusing business with personal relationships, and considered rude.
- When giving a gift at a dinner party, don’t bring wine. The host will select the right wine pairing.
- When giving flowers, give them in odd numbers, but not 13.
Simple French Phrases for Professionals
The French are extremely proud of their language. Even though most businesspeople know English, failing to learn any French or making incorrect pronunciations of the French you do know is insulting. Make an attempt to learn some key phrase really well, and be sure to apologize for your lack of fluency in the language. Here are some important terms:
- Bonjour: Good day.
- Bonsoir: Good evening.
- Merci: Thank you.
- S’il vous plaît: Please.
- Pardon, or, Excusez-moi: Excuse me.
- Je comprends: I understand.
- Je ne comprends pas: I don’t understand.
- Parlez-vous anglais?: Do you speak English?
- Au Revoir: Goodbye. (Meaning, “until I see you again.”)
Your U.S. passport must be valid for six month or more upon entry into France. Then, you may stay for up to 90 days without a visa. Be sure that your passport meets the European Union’s Schengen requirements. On the other hand, if you plan to work in France for 90 days or fewer and plan to be salaried by a French business, you’ll need to plan on applying for a valid work permit.
Popular Activities for Your Day Off
Paris is an internationally-known tourist city, so you’ll be sure to find plenty of things to do if you have some time off there. If this is your first time in Paris, be sure to visit the must-see landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, the Opera House, and Versailles. A boat tour along the Seine can be educational and a lot of fun! Visitors typically have a fairly easy time getting about with the Paris Metro. If this is a repeat visit, try the local cuisine and be sure to explore.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these tips for traveling to Paris, France! Travel tips are important to keep in mind, but it’s also very important to have fun. When planning for your trip or looking for a first-class or business-class flight at a discount, keep Executive Class Travel in mind!