The work culture in Paris

The work culture in Paris
Updated 2022-05-03 20:32

Being the new girl or the new guy can be pretty intimidating. But with little preparation can save you from faux-pas and embarrassment! Document yourself on the Parisian workplace etiquette, from dress codes to social and cultural codes.

Working hours

You may often have to work overtime. In theory, the usual work day ends around 6:00 pm, but in practice it can go on until later. Lunch breaks of an hour and a half, two hours is not unusual in Parisian companies. The French labor code limits the work week to 35 hours, although overtime is allowed. Moreover, with five weeks of annual leave, working in France has excellent benefits.

Dress Code

Known as one of the most stylish cities in the world, Paris is the place to be if you want to look good. Clothing is considered a crucial indicator of your style and success for both men and women, so to get off to a good start in a new business environment, make tasteful choices.

In a "classic" company, women tend to be simple and elegant, while men should wear dark suits or at least wear a shirt. However, in start-ups and other young companies, the style can be much more casual. Do not hesitate to watch out for the dress code during your interview and even ask the interviewers what the dress code is.

Sometimes it is even mentioned in the company's internal rules, so you can't go wrong.

Greeting each other

During your interviews and your first days, it might be common to shake hands to greet each other. This same greeting is to be maintained with CEOs or even with clients.

Depending on the company where you are hired and the work culture, it might be customary to kiss when you get acquainted, a kiss on each cheek. If this is the case, you do not have to actually kiss each colleague on the cheek but simply brush their cheeks with yours. This way of greeting each other is natural among longtime friends and colleagues, so be aware of your office protocol and act accordingly. Although it may seem excessive, in Paris it is common practice to greet all colleagues in the morning and say goodbye in the evening. Again, be mindful of your office's customs, but don't be surprised of how long it can take to get in and out of the office in the interest of courtesy!

A word of advice, if you're not sure how to greet the person in front of you, wait for him or her to make the first move, then just follow their lead.

Choose your words carefully

Pay attention to the way your co-workers interact with each other, especially if they are on first-name or last-name terms. As a general rule, switch to "you" only when your colleague has done so. Avoid vulgarity and colloquial language when you are in a professional environment. Stay away from personal topics and opt instead for more generic conversations about the arts or culture, as Parisians like to separate their personal and professional lives.


In Paris, business and social appointments must be planned well in advance. Making an impromptu visit for social or business reasons is considered rude, so make sure you plan your appointments and be on time. That said, punctuality is not strict in France, so don't be surprised if your French colleague or contact is up to ten minutes late.

Business lunches

These can last up to two hours and can include wine. During the eating portion of the meal, avoid personal and business conversations, the latter will take place after dessert. Opt instead for cultural or intellectual topics, avoid jokes, slang and foul language. Maintain good posture and place your hands on the table, not on your lap. Pay attention to the volume of your voice and lower your pitch to match your environment if necessary.

Don't expect overnight results

Expatriates may become frustrated with how long it takes to make decisions in the French workplace. Meetings are common and can lead to multiple discussions on the same topic, and thorough questioning and lengthy discussions are also part of the norm. Avoid pressuring your colleagues to make a decision, it will be frowned upon.

The afterwork culture

While socializing with colleagues is a relatively new concept compared to other countries, this trend has taken off in Paris. In fact, the culture of the “afterwork” with colleagues is a British concept adopted by the French. Despite the growing popularity of this practice, be considerate of your company's work culture, which may not be very social but focused on work.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.