Since settling in Paris many years ago, my experiences of working in the capital have been exclusively with international companies, where the working language was English. Most recently, I joined a French, very Parisian institution.
I soon discovered that working methods, reporting lines, social interactions, attitudes towards clients can greatly differ within French companies, as compared to those of the more Anglo-Saxon corporate cultures of companies I have worked with previously in London and Paris.
Take relationships with colleagues as an example… my strict banking and finance training and career experience has always dictated the need to maintain a professional relationship with colleagues above all else, and only after years of working together or in certain cases did a working relationship turn to friendship of the socialising kind.
To my amusement and surprise, upon joining the French company, I immediately noticed that strong personal friendships seemed to be the norm in nearly every department that I got to work with. Camaraderie and a sense of trust seemed to be an essential part of every team’s work ethic – almost a prerequisite. I also discovered that this extended to a rich and enjoyable social life after business hours.
Real friendships, true relationships at work… it was refreshing to witness. The one word that comes to mind is “family”: they were like one large family with the same strong bonds, friendships, and sometimes tensions and gossip that any family experiences. This might be attributable to the long periods which employees generally stay within the same company in France (understandable, given how difficult it can be to land a permanent position here), but nevertheless, it is a fascinating aspect of French corporate life, which I, with my ever-increasing mellowing and humaneness find touching and endearing.
This is just one example, among many, of potential differences in attitude and work methods between the Anglo-Saxon and French models.