If you’re about to start working in a France-based office or among French colleagues, get ready to experience some differences.
Instead of munching throughout the day, French people tend to stick to the larger meals of lunch and dinner. Petit déjeuner (breakfast) really is petit. At lunch, however, people go all out. They even buy dessert from the local boulange or the frozen food haven, Picard.
Except for American companies with offices in Paris — places like Google — French offices rarely provide employees with free snacks. (After all, who’d eat them?) The free food comes in when an employee’s heading out. It’s customary for a parting employee to buy viennoiseries for the office on their last day.
In the French workplace, don’t be surprised if colleagues drink an espresso with every cigarette break up until when they leave for the day.
Unless your office has a Nespresso machine, you won’t catch colleagues drinking café au lait very often. They prefer espresso or café allongé, so you’ll want to bring your own milk.
Whereas S’well has taken off in the States, the reusable water bottle trend hasn’t quite landed in France. If colleagues do end up getting in a few sips of water between shots of espresso, they’re more apt to refill the plastic water bottle they bought at the supermarché a month ago than a reusable one.
Since the French government mandates that companies with more than 25 employees provide them lunch in the form of an on-site cafeteria with subsidized meals or restaurant tickets, most employees buy lunch instead of packing one.
The French don’t take dégustation lightly. Even if you’re discretely eating cold leftovers, your French colleagues will make a point of coming up to you and wishing you a pleasurable eating experience. They’ll also throw in a side-eye since you’re eating at your desk in the first place instead of taking a real pause déj.
Whereas the line between professional and personal can be rather blurry at workplaces in the U.S., in France, it remains more defined. French colleagues rarely personalize their desks with memorabilia. Sorry, you won’t steal glances of your colleagues’ furry family members.
Whereas plenty of offices in the U.S. have gyms, yoga studios, softball teams, organized volunteering, it’s not common for colleagues to see each other in out-of-office contexts besides the occasional afterwork (a.k.a. happy hour).
To bise or not to bise, that is the question. Well, not really. The famous two-cheek kiss occurs between colleagues or clients who vibe well and who haven’t seen each other in a while, or for a weekend. Obviously you won’t do la bise with everyone in the office, but it’s strange that it occurs at all.
Don’t hold your breath waiting to receive the contract of a job offer or reimbursement for client dinner. They’ll arrive on their own time.
Colleagues, usually male, don’t simply make sexual innuendos at work, other people laugh at them. In general, French workplace culture is more tolerant of edgy (or offensive, in the eyes of some) humor that toes the line between appropriate and inappropriate than in the States.
Forget the American compliment sandwich: the French are more direct when it comes to negative feedback. Don’t be surprised if a manager chastises an employee for a mistake in front of coworkers. C’est normal.
Featured image: Stock Photos from topseller / Shutterstock