French Office Culture Demystified

Bonjour !

The Community sent many requests asking for an episode about working in France. Ok! Here it is.

Today, we’ll talk about unwritten office customs in France.
Things no one will tell you but that are CRUCIAL for getting you integrated into the team.

Please note that even if you don’t work in France,
you can still see some of these practices outside of the office.

If you’re interested in the topic of “working in France, » click on the link below the video.
I’m currently thinking about starting a course on this topic and need to count the number of people interested. ????

Interested? Click here: YES! I want a course on French Office Culture Demystified

Et toi ?

Do you work in France? Any tips to share with the Community?
Especially: How did you find a job in France? or How do you run your business here?


PS: if you have expat friends working in France, it might be nice to share this episode with them.

Join the conversation!

  • Working in France can be a challenge as their culture can be quite difficult. However, cultural acceptance and understanding is key to help foreign workers be accepted by their French colleagues, and these tips and information about office customs will prove invaluable for those who are about to work in France.

  • Bonjour Geraldine, Merci beaucoup, beaucoup, beaucoup pour tous les choses vouz nous
    disez chaque semaine. J’ai lu ce matin le dernière concernant les mots un peux dangereuses. Malheureusement notre chat est une femelle! Bises, Romy. Xx

  • Hi Geraldine,
    I am super interested in this topic! Hope you build a course around it. It took me a while to understand why everyone was bringing vienoisseries and noone would touch them before 10 at the office 😀 now demistified.! Where I come from (Greece) it would be disrespectful or hurtful even to not touch the yummy treat straight away after it has arrived!

  • I have been reading the comments regarding your (Géraldine) English pronunciation (which I really enjoy) etc. From my experience some people learn more easily from aural and others from visual. Perhaps for those with a penchant for aural have an easier time learning another language by simply listening carefully. Those who find visual easier will have more difficulty learning by listening, but for a spoken language there is really little choice. I believe that repetition is the way to go. Be prepared to work hard at it, and it will happen. I find trying to make an English translation is detrimental – I prefer to try and make the mental picture in French, so not actually translating, rather understanding. Just an opinion from someone who is making good progress in French – and no çhicken”either. Géraline – you are a great help!! Thanks.

  • yes!! very interesting topic, I’m working in France for 2 yrs now…! definitely would be interested in a course like this

  • Raphael , I do not want to sound unkind but your English sounds a little “awkward” at times . Is it your native language , spoken at home fron birth?

    I don’t wish to sound unkind but your English sounds rather awkward at times. Is it the language you have spoken at home from birth ? I only ask because as you say we all havlpe different ways of learning . As an English teacher who did not stat to learn another language until I was an adult I am very aware that my way of learning another language is very different to my own children who have been exposed to other languages and cultures from an early age. I prefer not to have “props” which encourage my laziness . It is
    too tempting to focus on the English and I think delays the learning process. Well it is taking a long time for me to learn French but I love it and thank Geraldine for all her
    efforts on our behalf!

  • Just think about this for a minute: if Geraldine hadn’t decided one day to make Comme une Francaise, it wouldn’t exist.

  • Merci Geraldine, pour la petite lecon aujourdhui. C’est tres utile et peut etre,en jour, je pourrai visite la France (avec optomistically). sandy

  • If there 50 people on a floor, that means you will greet or be greeted by 49 people. That would take some time. Once all the greetings are done, do you just go out for lunch?

  • I love the videos, I hope to move to France soon, and would like a some idea about how to find a tutor. I recommended your videos to my French teacher here and she is grinding it really good for tips on things to teach her school age children. I was away from home when you advertised the last course, so I would like to try another course if you are going to run one soon?

  • Hi Geraldine, I work part time here in France and my hubby works full time. He can’t have lunch with his colleagues as they all go home but they do stop for a drink Friday evenings after work. I work in a perischolaire group and all the children tu the staff and we tu each other but when I work with my boss I feel that I should vous her. What do you think? Thanks for your help.

    • Bonjour Donna,

      What does the staff use with your boss?
      This will determine what to use 99% of the time. 🙂

      • Hi Gerladine,

        There is usually only 2 staff at a time because we can have 1 staff per 10 kids, so I don’t normally see my boss interact with other staff. Because if I am working with her it is usually just 2 of us. We have only had one staff meeting since I started in September, and that was a few days after Rentree and i had only just started work. Because of that I was nervous and didn’t note what the other people used.

  • I would definitely be interested in this course. My husband and I plan on moving there and would really appreciate the tips. Merci!

    • I find that I can scarcely hear any difference between dessous and dessus even when it is said very slowly any tips on getting this right?

      • Lynne, I’d like to know this too!
        The best I can make of this is the slight difference between the “ou” and the “u” sounds. The “ou” sound, when I hear it in French, seems to me more like an “oh” sound (as in the word “so”) in English, while the “u” is more of an “oo” sound (as in the word “sue”) in English.
        If I had to guess, I would guess at the pronunciation to sound something like, “Des-soh” and “Des-soo”. But this is only a guess. I’d love some feedback about this as well.

        • the “u” in French is pronounced more in front of the mouth and the “ou” in the back. They big difference is the position of the tongue. For “u” the tongue should be pressing against the top of the bottom front teeth and keep your lips nice and rounded. For “ou”, the tongue stays further back, (not touching teeth at all) and lips stay in same position. Try saying “ee” in English, then round your lips while keeping your tongue nice and tense against your teeth. This is the French “u” sound. It’s tongue gymnastics. French language has more front rounded vowel sounds than English does. And no diphtongues, so you have to keep your mouth very tense. This is why Geraldine has such a pretty accent. She also doesn’t always pronounce her English words stressing the proper syllable, but I find it enchanting.

      • My husband works for a French company with French employees, (he is English)
        When there are a group discussing these matters in a technical task, they use the English over and under so as not confuse the issue, and they are French !

  • Bonjour Geraldine!
    I love your videos! You are such a great teacher, very knowledgeable, very sweet and very VERY cute. However, I do have difficulty sometimes understanding your English.
    I notice that when you speak French you do so with your whole mouth, (with lips touching as you speak — enunciating very well), where I can hear not only WHAT you are saying but I can see HOW you are saying it.
    Unfortunately, when you speak English, you seems to speak with only your bottom lip and teeth and I cannont always understand what you are saying. I think perhaps it would be helpful that, when you show printed French words or phrases, you also include showing the English translations for them.
    Please, don’t misunderstand, I LOVE your French accent and the way you speak (don’t change this at all!), I just have a bit of trouble understanding some of your English without seeing the words.
    You are definitely a delight! And I thoroughly love watching your videos.

    • NO!! Please do not put any English words in the video. I understand you perfectly, Geraldine. It is also good for my study of French to hear you pronounce English words with a French accent. Please do not add any English words on the screen. It will make it harder to learn the French words because my eyes will go immediately to the familiar ones. Thanks!

      • I agree, please do not put any English words. I understand you perfectly , your accent is charming. There is only 1 word here that MIGHT not be understood if taken in isolation and out of context and that is “start” , the “ar” is not quite perfect but I still understand everything you say , every time .No problem at all.

      • Simone,
        I did not mean to offend anyone (least of all, Geraldine) by my comment. I too LOVE her accent (and I hope I made that clear) and I would never (EVER) want her to change it in anyway. Unfortunately, there are a few occasions where I do not have the same advantage that you do with fully understanding what she is saying in English. I really DO wish I did.
        However, I am really fascinated by your stating that this helps you learn French better and I’d like to know how this works. I feel like I must be missing something. If it is an advantage I am missing, I think I need to learn how to turn this into an advantage for me. When she says a phrase in French she puts the French on the screen then tells us what it means (which, as we know, isn’t always a direct translation). From my perspective, I don’t see how putting the English translation could be anything but helpful for those of us who might not be as lucky as you. I watch many other French/English videos where they do this for the precise reason that translations are always logical.
        Any insight you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

        • Hi Raphael,
          It isn’t a big deal. I don’t think that anyone is offended. Everyone learns differently.

          To answer your first question:
          Someone that I know was giving me tips on how to learn languages in general (and Hebrew in particular). She told me to avoid people who speak your native language like a native. For example, a French guy who spent every summer visiting his cousins in England. Besides immersion, the best way to learn is to surround yourselves with people who speak your language with the accent of the language that you are studying- like Geraldine. Even better is someone who is speaks English poorly but is native in your study language. It helps with pronunciation and grammar as well cadence (I am not sure if that is the correct word). I mentioned this to a French teacher and she said that it was correct! So, I sometimes try to speak English with a French accent (in private) to help me improve my French pronunciation. I am an adult learner so I will always look at a French word and think of the English way to pronounce it. If I hear the French pronunciation even when the word is English then it forces me to recognize the different way to verbalize that syllable. I know that I am not explaining it clearly but trust me that it works.

          Secondly, you can choose to learn French any way that suits you. I do not find using English translations helpful. I think that just the French word and the French text should be used to reinforce the association between the sound/picture/though and the French sound. No English. When she shows a picture of an object, our brains need to recall the French word for it. Not the English word which we then need to translate into French. Just my two cents….

          • Yes, I agree Simone. Everyone certainly does learn differently. In my case, I believe that seeing the English translation would help me tremendously yet I also understand, not for you.
            I reluctantly admit that I am still a little confused about how seeing these would hinder anyone from learning but I accept that you feel strongly that they would and I really appreciate you taking the time to try and explain this to me. As I mentioned before, perhaps the differences here are our levels of learning. You seem to be an advanced French learner and I am not.
            I too am an adult learner and speak several other languages (English [my native tongue], Spanish, German and Arabic). French has long been a desired language I passionately wish to learn and I am at about an intermediate level with it.
            In each case of learning a new language, I have always worked with the English translations to be certain of the proper meanings. This is MY comfort zone but I understand that it may not be the same for others.
            As I’m sure you know, idioms abound in foreign languages that don’t directly translate in what we might consider a “logical way” in our native language. For example, in German the phrase “überhaupt nicht” could be directly translated as “over head not” but means “not at all” in English. French, of course, has many “faux amis” as well.
            My original comment to Geraldine was perhaps a hasty impulse to give feedback where I thought it might help others who felt as I do. I did not mean to offend or cause any controversy over this. So, I do apologize to all.

          • Hi Raphaêl,

            Comme une Française is indeed aimed at more advanced students. And the episodes might be a little bit overwhelming to beginners. That’s perfectly ok.
            I have much more request to remove any English than any to add more…
            If you are looking for another kind of lessons or books with more explanations, I’ll be happy to help. 🙂
            Let me know.

          • Thanks for your input Simone! That’s brilliant.
            I’m not an expert on the theories of learning but what you said makes a lot of sense!

        • Hi Raphaël,

          It’s ok, no worries! No harm done.
          The Comme une Française Community is wonderful and I take all inputs are gifts.

          • Bonjour Geraldine,
            You say: “Comme une Française is indeed aimed at more advanced students. And the episodes might be a little bit overwhelming to beginners. That’s perfectly ok.”

            I just want to be clear about this; I am not a beginner and I subscribe and watch your videos regularly and understand them, the subjects, and the French in them rather well. While I do not consider myself an “advanced” student, I have NEVER been overwhelmed by them. Indeed, I devour your videos with enthusiasm and gain wonderful insights from them. If they are aimed at advanced students, this pleases me greatly. 🙂

    • I have to say I have never had a problem understanding Geraldine’s English. I am also sure that when we English speak French we don’t always enunciate perfectly either, it’s good practice to listen to how people speak and realise how hard they are trying to speak in a different language.

      • Bonjour Donna,
        Well, now I feel all alone in this struggle. I am certainly NOT an advanced student of French and that is perhaps at the heart of my trouble with understanding. I was trying to give what I thought was helpful feedback. I DO appreciate and agree your comments about this.

    • Bonjour,
      Thanks for your comment. I completely understand. 🙂
      As you see I always try to improve so your input is welcome.
      At the moment, I’m working on my pronunciation with an English teacher + a theatre teacher.
      So I hope to get better at it soon.

      However, as there is already A LOT of English (too much maybe), I won’t add any, right now. 😉

      Hope this answers your question.

      • I am a beginner to French. I ca understand her perfectly and do not want her to change a thing. This has been the most helpful site I have found. We all learned language as children by listening first not seeing written words. There are studies that show just listening first is the way the human brain assimilates language. Please do not put words in with the video. You are so real and down to earth. Don’t be a movie with sub titles.
        Rested comme vous etes

  • Bonjour Géraldine,
    Quand tu auras un moment, pourrais-tu expliquer la différence entre une entreprise et une société?

    • Bonjour JB,
      Ah… Tu as toujours de bonnes questions, toi ! 😀
      Dans le langage courant, il n’y en a aucune. Parfois, je parle de “Comme une Française” comme ma société, parfois mon entreprise. Bien que c’est une entreprise.
      Le plus souvent, les gens utilisent le mot “Une boîte”.

      Pour les détails légaux, la société est une “personne morale” et elle a un statut juridique.
      Alors que l’entreprise, non.
      Mais ce n’est pas ma spécialité alors je t’invite à Googler la suite. 😉

  • Hello Géraldine, It is very difficult for us to find work as an ex pat but we have encountered les associations far more than in the UK. That is a minefield of paperwork and bureaucracy and one that we have gone through before. An excellent topic Géraldine merci comme toujours!

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