Before you begin working your way to foreign language fluency, it helps to understand the culture behind the language you’re learning. After all, language exists to help a group of people express their ideas and beliefs. France is an old country with a rich history and culture. As you begin your French language program, gaining a strong grasp on this history, the values, and the etiquette will help you rapidly achieve success. While speaking French is a great asset, it also helps to know how to get ahold of people when you want to contact them. Luckily, there is no shortage of methods you can use to reach your French acquaintances.
Telephone numbers in France have ten digits, which include the area code. The country code is 33 followed by 1 for Paris, 2 for the west, 3 for the east, 4 for the southeast and Corsica, and 5 for the southwest. If your number contains ten digits, you don’t need to add anything. Eight digit numbers add the area code or “indicatif” of the region. Inside of France, you add 0, so you would dial 01 for Paris. From outside of France, dial 33, which is the country code, followed by the area code without a 0, and then the number. Dialing out from France, you dial 00 and then the country code of the country you are calling. When calling a cell phone number, the number will usually begin with 06 or 07. Free phone numbers, “numéro vert,” frequently begin with 008.
Until the early 2010s, France used to have payphones throughout the country, even in the smallest villages. Most of them either don’t work anymore or have been removed as everyone possesses at least one mobile phone, often a smartphone, and 3G and 4G are widespread.
France has a very efficient and reliable postal service. Their mailboxes are painted yellow. The post offices, or “Bureaux de Poste” in French, are typically open between 10:00 a.m.and 6:00 p.m. during the week, and close at noon or 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. Hours are extended in big cities, and in small villages the post office can be opened only 2 mornings a week. Post offices in the countryside may be closed for lunch from 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. They have a special delivery service for business mail called Cedex. UPS, Fedex, and other such services are also now widespread in the coutnry. Instead of waiting in line at a post office, you can purchase stamps at a tobacconist’s shop, called “tabacs” in France. Some may have a variety of postcards as well.
The postal codes for France are made up of 5 digits; the first two are the department’s code and last three are the town’s code. For example, Paris’ code is 75, and the additional three digits represent the districts, “arrondissements” in French. 75008 is Paris’ eighth district, which is an area near the Champs Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe. When completing the addressee’s information on the envelope, the full name is written out, including the person’s title and sometimes the last name may be written first. The address is written out with exact directions to the location. The city or town address may be written as “Appartement n°4, 3e étage gauche,” meaning apartment no. 4 on the third floor on the left. “Gauche” means left and “droite “means right. You would then write the number of the street and then the name, like 9, rue de Berri, and then the number of the city and its name. So an address in Paris may appear like this:
Madame Marcelle Dufour
Apt 15, 5e étage gauche
9 Rue de Berri
75008 Paris Cedex
Making contact with people to set up a business meeting in France is typically accomplished by writing a letter, composing and sending an e-mail, or simply by making a phone call. Whenever possible, meetings are planned at least two weeks in advance for the convenience of both parties, but they are never planned during the holiday months of July or August.
It is not unusual for business executives to make their own appointments. However, senior executives often have an assistant or secretary handle this task. An acceptable way to proceed when setting up a meeting with a letter is to follow up the correspondence with a telephone call. This is because a mere letter or e-mail may not be viewed as genuine interest by the other party. After hours’ business appointments are rare. Rather, most meetings of a business nature are held between the hours of 9:00 or 9:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
In certain instances, a manager may stay later at work to attend a meeting after 6:00 p.m.. You may discover that once an appointment is made, it may be canceled or changed if something else comes up that is viewed as a higher priority. It is also essential to understand that the month of August is regarded by French business people as a sacrosanct holiday. For this reason, business meetings should not be scheduled during this month. Nor should you expect contracts to be signed in the month of August.