How the French Prioritize a Proper Work-Life Balance

By OptiLingo • 5 minute read

Every nation has a different attitude to work. Some live to work, others work to live. And France is definitely the latter. The French reputation for less work and more holidays is true. But does that mean the French have a lower work ethic? Do the French work hard? Find out what the French work culture is like, and how we can all learn from it.

Working Hours in French Work Culture

Overall, French workers are on the job for 35 hours per week. French laws protect this limit. Legally, a company can’t force its employees to work overtime. And if they do, they’re well-compensated for it. Apart from the national holidays, French workers get five weeks paid time off. This is far more than average American gets.

Typical working hours in France are Monday to Friday from 8am or 9am to 12:00/12:30 and then from 14:00/14:30 to 18:00. The longer lunch break accounts for the French custom for bigger lunches. While lunch in the US would be a quick snack, in France it’s considered a meal.

French “Right to Disconnect”

In 2017 French lawmakers introduced a law for the ”right to disconnect”. This means that companies above 50 employees can’t send or read emails in off-hours. 

The legal protection of the workweek and its boundaries are very clear in France. However short these working weeks may seem, the French work culture makes up for it. Above all, the French are hard workers. The entire time they’re supposed to be on the clock, they’re diligently doing their jobs. As a result of respecting their free time, they actually become more efficient workers. 

french work culture

Holidays and Vacations in the French Work Culture

The French people are hardworking and dedicated, but that’s not to say they don’t know how to unwind. In fact, recreation and relaxation are just as vital to the French lifestyle as ambition and productivity. 

France has 11 national holidays. Many of these originate from Christian holidays: 

  • Easter Monday (Lundi de Pâques)
  • Ascension Day (l’Ascension)
  • Whit Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte)
  • Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (l’Assomption)
  • 1st November – All Saints’ Day (La Toussaint)
  • 25th December – Christmas Day (Noël)

And others are internationally celebrated or a celebration of the country’s history:

  • 1st January – New Year’s Day (Jour de l’An)
  • 1st May – Labour Day (Fête du Travail)
  • 8th May – VE Day – (Fête de la Victoire 1945)
  • 14th July – Bastille Day (Fête Nationale)
  • 11th November – Armistice Day (Armistice 1918)

In France, holidays that fall on a Tuesday or Thursday are cause for special celebration. The French will employ a concept known as making the bridge, or “faire le pont,” and institute a long weekend away from business. 

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Business Relationships in France

The French workplace is quite formal and conservative. The French are hard workers, and they achieve their goals with efficiency. And there’s a lot of ways to show respect in the French work culture.

If you’d like to get something done, you need to make an appointment. The French consider two week’s notice for appointments universally respectful. Dropping in to a place of business without announcement is rude.

If you’re starting a new business relationship in France, or you’re meeting your French colleagues for the first time, a handshake is appropriate. The typical French kisses on the cheek are only for long-time business partners and friends. 

Even though French executives are typically quite business-minded, they place a significant amount of importance on building strong personal relationships. They’ll want to know your beliefs and discuss intellectual topics of conversation before doing business with you. In some instances, relationship building may span the course of several meetings before you actually begin discussing business.

french work culture

French Work Etiquette

The French are very hard working. They’re proud of their work, and their conduct is very professional. They show this through their appearance and methods of communication.

Dressing right in the workplace is very important in France. Since French fashion forms a fundamental part of French culture, it’s expected to dress smartly for the job. 

While English is the international language of business, when you’re doing business in France, it’s crucial to speak at least a little bit of the language. This shows that you respect their country and culture, and you take your relationship seriously. 

Learn French to Fit Into the Working Culture

If you’re planning to move for work, or you’re starting a new business relationship in France, it’s crucial that you learn French. Speaking the language well can give you an advantage that can propel your career ahead. And to get you to French fluency fast, OptiLingo’s here to help.

With OptiLingo, you learn more with less. By presenting you with high-frequency phrases, you’ll learn the most useful phrases. And you’ll learn to speak as the locals do. Bring your French skills to the next level with OptiLingo, and chat with your French colleagues with ease!