You wouldn’t think that France is all that different…


Everyone’s driving at top speed – who will cross the finish line first?

… than America. After all, the populations are very similar, with a fair amount of diversity overlaying a Western Caucasian “base”.  We have a lot in common, France and the United States, and we’ve been fighting on the same sides in a number of conflicts. Heck, the USA even inherited conflicts from France — I’m thinking of Viet Nam. Not always to our advantage…  but there you have it.

In any case, when we travel abroad, especially to Western European countries, we Americans can lose sight of the considerable differences between our countries and cultures. We may not even be aware they exist.  A lot of us go to Paris for vacation — passing through or staying a while — and plenty of American college students spend at least some time in la France.

But traveling for pleasure and business are two different things. And when you’re doing business — as a full-fledged adult — in a commercial context, the separation between the two countries can become quite pronounced.

Prohibitive, even.

In the years that I worked for a company based near Paris, the differences were a source of constant bafflement and frustration for both sides. A lot of what  Americans did, didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to the French. And vice versa, for sure. The odd thing was, there was no concerted effort on the part of Management to help anyone overcome the blocks. I’m quite sure it impacted the bottom line, but there was an almost carefree indifference about the cultural divides between France and the USA.

As though it were simply our jobs to deal with it.

As though “it” (being the divide) didn’t exist at all.

Looking back, it seems odd. Or maybe it was A French Thing, where you pay no attention to the seething chaos around you, and simply go on your merry way as though all is well. I certainly saw plenty of that in the lower ranks. Perhaps it reached northwards up the ladder as well.

In any case, we were left to our own devices to figure things out, sort out how to deal with one another — or not. Some of us did it better than others.

Some of us just picked up and left.

Others hung in there and toughed it out.

Bottom line is, France and the USA are really quite different – especially when it comes to corporate culture. And when you’re an American working for a French company, be aware. And beware. There’s potholes on that thar race track to greatness.

 

 

 

 

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