Just the mere mention of the French can incite exhilaration or exasperation to an American. It should inspire. From the French we inherit three principles that are seminal to our nation: Egalite, Fraternite and Liberte.
Go to www.CultureGPS.com and compare the United States with France to learn about the 5 Dimensions of culture that make them tick BEFORE you do business with them. After all, they are a culture all about good food and enjoying life -- nothing to really be at odds about, right?
When it comes to who’s in charge, the French are fairly "flat" or "democratic." This means the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power will be distributed equally.
They rank high on the "individualists" scale like the U.S. and share the "me" versus “we” outlook. This is about the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups. For them, like Americans, the needs of the individual supersede the group. We like our superstars!
France is a masculine culture, but women are changing their status by voicing their concerns about the treatment of women especially in light of the Doget risk takers like Americans. It is unlikely that they will act rapidly in dealings and negotiations because they need a lot of information to make a decision. For Americans, this be perceived as deceptiveness and it feels frustrating because they take a long time to "get to the bottom line". And we are, all about the need for speed.
Subsequently, the French are indirect communicators. That can be even more frustrating because this is in contrast to the American way, which is very direct, or "low context". What you see is what you get for Americans while they are frittering their lives aways with obscure references to culture, literature, politics, and philosophy, which may seem like a lot of hot air. This is called high-context communicating which means they have a backstory you are not familiar with (think of an inside joke). They are in a sense, testing your intellectual prowess, a practice deeply rooted in the practice of and appreciation of eloquent conversation and wit. To understand this concept, watch the film Ridicule to really understand this art of conversation
Perhaps above all else, one's intellectual ability supersedes everything else you can do to win them over. This is a culture of "the mind". City streets are are named for the great men of letters like Montagne and Hugo, which not only honors them, but provide "guidance" to those who walk along their routes.
In short, you had better get your intellectual “A” game on. They do not suffer fools lightly and they will expect you to just “know” what they are referring to. Not right, not wrong, but a little local knowledge goes a long way to pave the way for smoother business dealings, but be careful: they are opnionated and do not apologize for it. Freedon loving as they are, they will have strong opinions about capitalism. They like it, but it is not without its discrepencies.
C’est la vie.