When scheduling your meetings, remember that with five weeks of vacation to which they are entitled by law, many French employees take several weeks off in the summer. Some companies even close operations for the entire month of August.
With the mandatory reduction of the working week to 35 hours, executives receive additional vacation time in lieu of shorter working weeks (14 to 16 extra days every year). This results in a lot of offices being practically deserted during Christmas and Easter school closings. You will need to take this into account when planning your business trips to France.
The best time to schedule meetings is considered to be in the late morning or mid-afternoon – usually 11:00 am or 3:30 pm. Ensure that you make appointments for both business and social occasions, with at least 2 weeks notice. French business people like to have their social itineraries planned as well as their business ones.
Appointments may be made in writing or by telephone and, depending upon the position of the person you are meeting, are often handled by a secretary. While you should strive to be punctual, you won’t be considered late if you arrive ten minutes after the scheduled time. Be careful and don’t take unnecessary risks! If you expect to be delayed further, telephone immediately and offer an explanation.
It is important to note that in France, meetings are held to discuss issues, not to make decisions. The French view formal surroundings as appropriate for meetings and don’t hold meetings in bars or cafes. Lunch/Dinner meetings however are growing in France, particularly during the initial phase of the business relationship.
When the meeting includes female business personnel, they will be treated with special respect by men, both in business and social situations, and this is meant to be perceived as an honour.