France is one of the political and economic leaders in the European Union. Recently, the country faced many problems such as migration, high unemployment rate, Brexit, terroristic attacks, change of political preferences in society, and negative trade balance. However, the successful business environment and behavioral aspects of a business contribute to the gradual development of the company.
Country’s Trade Issues
France has many barriers that prevent other countries from trading with it. For instance, among the challenges are a ban of biotech applications, a prohibition of food containers containing Bisphenol A, a pricing control over pharmaceutical products, a widespread piracy on the Internet, the quotas on the EU origin programming and French-language content, the requirement of being a EU citizen to operate in pharmacy business. France has a protective economy that prioritizes and protects national manufacturers and the members of the EU. Hence, the US and other non-European countries have difficulties with establishing trading rapport with France. On the other hand, France abides by European Union laws. According to trade regulations of the European Union, France should fulfill the same import duties towards the third countries. Furthermore, there are central recommendations for the manufacturing of certain products, meaning that France cannot produce as much as it can and export these products to other European countries. Therefore, whereas France as a member of the EU has many privileges and access to a major market, it has many restrictions that are not under its control.
The country has a strong economy and is one of the leading countries not only in Europe but also in the whole world. France is ranked third in the world by GNP ($2,979.103 billion) after China and the United States. In 2017, the GNP growth was 5,2%. As a highly developed country, services contribute most to the GDP composition; industry constitutes 19.4% while agriculture scarcely influences the market value. The economy of France is strong, based on its high rank in the world rating.
Major Industries and Organizations
France has a diversified economy, which means that there are different industries and organizations that contribute to the economic success of the country. Energy, manufacturing, technology, transport, agriculture, and tourism are the major modern industries that contribute to the economy. Such industries as healthcare, food industry, robotics, automotive, aerospace, information technologies, cleantech, financial services, logistics, and chemical industry are also large and promising in France . Électricité de France S.A. (EDF) is the largest utility company in the world. In addition, Engie and Total S.A. are also the leading companies in the energy sector. Automobile manufacturers Peugeot and Renault make France the fourth biggest producer of cars in the world. Airbus is a French biggest aerospace company known globally. As one of the technologically advanced countries, France is a homeland for such companies as Publicis, 3Roam, Air France, Orange, ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), and Skema Business School. Therefore, France has many companies and organizations that are famous in the whole world.
France is a highly active player on the international market, ranking sixth in export and seventh in import. In 2016, France exported $498 billion and imported $550 billion, which resulted in a negative trade balance of $52.3 billion. On the one hand, France mainly exports planes, helicopters, and spacecraft ($49.1 billion), packaged medicaments ($24 billion), cars ($20.4 billion), vehicle parts ($17.7 billion) and gas turbines ($13.1 billion). Germany, the United States, Belgium, Luxemburg, Italy, and the United Kingdom are the biggest consumers of French products. On the other hand, French people and companies prefer such imported products as cars ($32.1 billion), aircraft parts ($15.7 billion), crude petroleum ($15.5 billion), packaged medicaments ($14.3 billion), and refined petroleum ($13.9 billion). France usually imports products from Germany, China, Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg, and the United States. An interesting fact is that France, which is the fourth larger manufacturer of cars in the world, actively imports cars.
Emanuel Macron’s main mission is to make France business-friendly and to create a new technology hub that will be greater than the one in London. Although the technologies are much more progressive now than they were several years ago, there are still many barriers to France becoming an unequivocal technological leader. There are numerous French large companies operating in technological business mentioned in the section “Major Industries and Organizations.” In addition, the country actively attracts the attention of investors. Since Great Britain leaves the European Union, France has all chances to become a technological capital of the EU. For instance, DeepMind owned by Alphabet is going to expand its operations in France due to Brexit. In addition, both Facebook and Google are going to increase their presence in Paris while Salesforce announced a new $2.2 billion investment in its business in France. Thus, France is moving slowly but steadily towards its aim to become a technological country.
As a highly developed country, France has been experiencing a gradual economic increase. There are several economic trends in France. First, the economy is mainly based on the distribution of services. Second, the country exports and imports in large scales, meaning that it ranks high in the world rates. Third, France is on to the verge of turning into a technological country. Fourth, the unemployment rate is very high in France due to the problem of immigration, which hinders economic progress. Fifth, France exports more than imports, which is also a disadvantage to the French economy. Sixth, the growth of GDP is comparatively slow, but this trend is common for advanced countries. Seventh, the French market welcomes other European countries, but it is less open to non-European nations. Therefore, despite numerous challenges, France has been improving, being able to preserve one of the leading positions in the world.
Behavioral Aspects of Business
France is a unique country where people combine both individualism and power distance according to Hofstede. The French prefer caring about themselves and their families instead of caring about society in general. The feeling of collectivism is not common for France. That is the reason why French employees are more eager to work in the pursuit of gaining promotion rather than the general success of a company. They aim to obtain credit for his/her work. At the same time, there is a high level of power distance in France. It means that directors of the companies and employees on managing positions are not considered as equals. There is a strict hierarchy in the business. In comparison, the US has lower power distance, which means that the hierarchy in a US company is not as visible as in France. Therefore, such a combination of different traits creates a unique business environment in France that should be considered before entering the market.
Similar to any culture, France has its special customs that are worth paying attention to in business. First, punctuality is important in the country, but being late for ten minutes is an ordinary case. It is much worse if the meeting is not appointed. Second, gift giving is not a common practice in business. It is better to organize a dinner instead of presenting a gift. Third, the way a person is dressed is the reflection of a social status. Paying attention to the dress code is one of the most crucial customs in French business (Passport to trade). Fourth, respect of the language is also important. It is better to have at least one side of a business card in French. Besides, the country is also in the top 25 least corrupt countries. Hence, briberies are not acceptable in the business environment. Fifth, France as a supporter of environmental protection fulfills corporate social responsibilities. Companies try to be as eco-friendly as possible, meaning that a plastic bottle during a meeting can create a negative impression. Hence, the French business environment is not as demanding as some Asian environments, but still knowing the cultural specifics of French executives is an additional bonus.
French managers are autocratic and paternalistic. It is because they tend to be the primary force for understanding and addressing various issues facing the company (Lubin, 2014). Leaders in France do not always take into consideration the opinion of experienced middle manager or technical staff. However, leaders often discuss some issues with other employees, but the decision is often made independently and is not discussed further. It is strange to observe such a hierarchical system in a society with strong individualism. However, as already mentioned, the level of power distance is high in France. The French have a high tolerance towards their leader and tend to recall his/her success rather than failures. Another feature of the French leadership style is that a strong leader is preferred for tough times while a weaker leader is expected in ordinary times (Passport to trade). Therefore, the leader in the French business world is a strong personality that takes decision independently from employees and expects that his/her decisions are implemented without discussions.
There are two types of society: masculine and feminine. Masculine refers to the society where competition achievements and success are the driving forces. Masculine patterns require people to compete to be the best in their field while feminine society is the one where the highest value is caring about each other and doing what a person loves. According to Hofstede Insights, France is closer to feminine society. French workers are motivated by what they love to do. They also aim to work hard in order to have social guarantees such as holidays, insurance, and pension among other protections. Nevertheless, lower class has a tendency to belong to a masculine type. It means that their driving forces or motivation to develop is to be better than others are. They expect both professional and financial recognition for their work. Thus, French society combines both masculine and feminine types, which is also a unique combination. Depending on a type, French have different motive to develop and strive to be successful.
Women and Minorities in Society
France faces the same problem as the European Union does – the gender pay gap. Women traditionally earn less than men do. The wage gap in France is 15,2%. Nevertheless, such a difference in income depends much on the position of women and men. Women usually hold low positions in the company while managing and top positions usually belong to men. Moreover, France is the country that suffered most because of the Syrian crisis, resulting in mass migration of Muslims to Europe. The flow of illegal immigrants led to terroristic attacks when hundreds of people were killed and thousands were wounded. That is the reason why discrimination against Muslims as a minority group in French society exists both in personal and in business lives. African people have become part of French life a long time ago, which means that they are treated equally. Hence, in general, France is a tolerant country, but due to recent events, some people are careful with some minorities, Muslims in particular.
Attitudes towards Change
France scores high in the dimension of long-term orientation (63). It makes the French pragmatic. In other words, the attitude of the French towards a change is rather positive than negative. In fact, people think that the truth depends much on context, time, and situation. Citizens of France show an ability to adapt traditions to changed conditions without any efforts. Besides, the French tend to be thrifty. Furthermore, they are persistent in achieving results. In comparison, the US is a more normative society where changes are adopted more slowly and where short-term results are more significant than long-term ones. The flexibility of French society also results from external factors such as migration and the influence of the European Union. Hence, the French society is highly flexible and ready to adapt under various conditions at a different time.
Thus, France is a progressive country exposed to the influence of globalization on its economy. Despite the protectionism of the European Union, France tends to be open to other countries. It is now turning into a technological country. France combines both individualism and strong hierarchy in a business. In comparison with the US, the business in France is concentrated more in the hands of one person while in the US, the cooperation of employees plays a more important role. Recent problems with mass immigration and terroristic attacks have affected the attitude towards Muslims as a minority in France. However, such a change in the perceptions is temporary.