France - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel

Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel.

Last published date: 2021-03-04

Business Customs

The most important characteristic of French business behavior is its emphasis on courtesy and a certain formality.  Appointment schedules and hierarchical titles are to be respected and correspondence, whether by mail or by fax, should be acknowledged promptly.  A handshake is customary upon initiating and closing a business meeting, accompanied by an appropriate greeting.  Professional attire is expected.  Today, many French executives put less emphasis on long, heavy business lunches for reasons of health and time.  Nevertheless, informal business discussions in restaurants where everyone appreciates a good meal are one of the best ways to promote good working relations.

Travel Advisory

Since November 2018, France has suffered from significant public demonstrations from the Yellow Vest protesters that has affected travelers plans, primarily over the weekend.  In Paris, these demonstrations have affected metro lines, suburban commuter lines and has led to street closures where protesters congregate.  Travelers should vist the State Department Travel Website for the latest information.

Visa Requirements

U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should be advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process.  Visa applicants should go to the following links.

Currency

https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/euro_en    

Telecommunications

Telecommunications to and from Paris compare favorably with those of any large U.S. city.  A direct-dial telephone system links France to the United States and most of the world.  Calls to the United States may be charged to international telephone cards such as AT&T, MCI and Sprint. The contact for AT&T Direct U.S. operator is: +33 1 41 88 46 00  

Transportation

Frequent direct air service is available to many U.S. and French cities.  The two airports serving Paris, Charles De Gaulle Roissy and Orly, are easily accessible by excellent bus (Air France) and rail service.  The French railway system is among the best in the world; its efficient network ties in conveniently with public transportation in most French cities.

Buses and the Metro (subway) may be crowded during rush hours, but they provide fast and efficient service; however, a word to the wise: as in many large cities worldwide, one should be alert to the dangers of pickpockets while in public places.

Language

While French is the official language in France, many businesspeople speak English.  Product literature, correspondence and negotiations in the French language provide a distinct advantage over competitors who use only English.  It should be noted that other EU suppliers are accustomed to dealing in the French language.

Health  

American Hospital in Paris

63, boulevard Victor Hugo

92200 Neuilly sur Seine

Tel: +33 1.46.41.25.25

American Hospital in Paris

(24-hour English-speaking medical and dental emergency service; credit cards accepted.)

Emergency Medical Team and Ambulance (SAMU)

Tel: 15 or +33 1.45.67.50.50

Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays

The working days abutting the French holidays and vacation periods are not prime time for business meetings; this includes the month of August and the several vacation periods between Christmas and Easter.  Business hours in France are generally 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (banking hours 9:00- 5:00) Monday through Friday, while stores are generally open 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Monday through Saturday.  To ensure availability, advance appointments are recommended.

Holidays 2021:

January 1, 2021                  New Year’s Day

April 5, 2021                       Easter Monday

May 1, 2021                        Labor Day

May 8, 2021                        Veterans’ Day (WWII)

May 24, 2021                      Ascension Day

June 1, 2021                        Whit Monday

July 14, 2021                        French National Day

August 15, 2021                  Assumption Day

November 1, 2021               All Saints’ Day

November 11, 2021             Veterans’ Day (WWI)

December 25, 2021             Christmas

Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings

Every U.S. citizen entering France must present a valid American passport; for stays of less than three months there is no requirement for visas, entry permits or health certificates.

Bonafide personal effects in a visitor’s luggage (or hand-carried) are not normally subject to customs duties.  Items to be declared, however, include those intended to be left in France, goods for professional/commercial use as well as any prohibited items.  Goods imported for exhibition may enter under bond, deposit or an ATA carnet.

Professional equipment may be temporarily imported into France free of duty and tax under the Customs Convention on Temporary Importation of Professional Equipment; the appropriate carnet may be obtained from the U.S. Council of the International Chamber of Commerce.

Web Resources

State Department Travel Website

State Department Visa Website

Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy Paris

Commercial Service of the U.S. Embassy Paris