7 Mistakes to Avoid When You Trade With French People

1) Use a free online translation tool for your website

This is not good. Worse: to do it yourself.

Gobbledygook can make French people laugh. But is it what you want really?

When you need their attention because you want to tell them something, be serious.

Ask a professional translator or a translation agency for help.

Not a French teacher in the UK or your teenager doing French for their exam. Or a free online translation tool either.

Show that you respect the language of your customers.

2) Display your English marketing material in a trade fair in France

Believe it or not, it happens. A lot.

Even if your English brochures, posters and products description can be appreciated by some French directors or distributors, many visitors will be disturbed and can feel rejected because they won't be able to read.

Bad start. Make it easy and provide information in French.

Glossy printed or digitally printed. Or a black and white office printed document when you want to save on costs. But all in good French.

3) Think the French don't like British brands

Burberry, Barbour, Boden. And Cadbury, Jelly Babies, Tetley. And Tyrrells.

Not everybody's taste but all loved in France.

And Farrow & Ball, and Little Greene for the purists of home decoration.

The Austin Mini, Dorothy Perkins and Vivienne Westwood.

Adnams beer, made in Suffolk, is served in Paris.

Doc Martens? I still use mine, made in the UK and bought in Paris in the late 80's.

Did you know that France is the 3rd online market for Asos after Australia and the US?

The list is longer and I don't talk about music because I am not too good at it.

No doubt: French love British brands (even when they have been sold to overseas companies).

And there is a lot to do to promote engineering, manufacturing and food and drink British SMEs.

4) Neglect the lunch break with your French visitor in the UK

Be careful with this one.

Food culture has changed a lot in the UK.

But for the generation of French people born in the 60's who spent time in British families as students, their memories of British food is a bit... sad and clichés remain.

Your French visitor may not know about 3 star Michelin restaurants in the UK.

And totally ignore what is happening for British food in many places.

A lunch break is important for French people, even more when they live outside Paris.

5) Tell your French visitor the factory is 5 miles away

Good chances it will not make sense.

Tell them it will take 10 minutes or so by car.

Same with pounds, pints, inches and feet when you invite them to discover your production site.

Make it easy to understand how tall, how heavy, etc.

If you do not feel comfortable with kilogrammes, litres and metres (which I can understand because the other way is confusing too), try to make comparisons.

6) Make a lot of emphasis on French holiday

Talking about your family holiday in France as a child can be charming.

Talking about your second home in Brittany too.

Talking about the number of Bank holiday and the length of summer holiday can be too much.

Yes, officially French people work fewer hours per year than people in many other countries.

That is right.

According to several international surveys France ranks really well in the world for productivity. Last available figures from OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) indicate that France is well ahead of the United Kingdom.

And 2012 Eurostat figures show very close GDP for the UK and for France.

So... what is the trick?

(It deserves a post sometime).

7) Get involved in clichés

Unless you are a specialist selecting French wines for the British market, talking about wine at the first meeting can be sensitive.

You do not know how skilled your prospect or client is on the topic.

Being French does not make you automatically a specialist of wine, food or bread. Or perfumes, haute couture and literature. A connoisseur, probably.

Be careful with the accordeon, Napoléon or football stars, because it is not the passion of every French person.

And you will be fine.

But if you want to "Mettre les petits plats dans les grands"... Great!

Have you heard about this French expression?

It means spending or making big efforts to please somebody.

"Un petit plat" is usually a very nicely cooked dish.

And "les grands plats" are expensive cutlery and plates.

So, a good meal is on its way with a lot of food.

What would you say in English? "Going the extra mile"?

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