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Business Culture Differences: USA and France

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 2714 words Published: 7th Aug 2018

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Globalisation has prompted many researchers to conduct intercultural studies. This report analyses the case of Southern Candle’s Tour De France and identifies several cultural differences. The ideas of Hall’s cultural model and Shannon-Weaver’s communication process will be presented with cultural issues.


The purpose of report is to recognise the differences of business culture between U.S. and France and how they influence the cooperation of Southern and Belles companies. This report will be divided into three four dimensions. The first section presents a sequenced identification of cultural issues in the case. Theories of Hall’s and Shannon-Weaver models will be defined in the second section with clear tables and figure. The third section contains of some viewpoints about how the cultural issues relate to the chose models. Various perspectives of suggestions will be included in the last section.

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Based on the research (1), the French prefer to have a flexible meeting and often change the plan easily, whereas, the Americans prefer to have a formal meeting and often adhere religiously to the plan (2). The conflict of meeting structure can be described as a cultural distinction. Conversely, this conflict can also significantly affect the positive impression of companies. For instance, the Americans may think that the French do not respect the meeting, and the French may think that the Americans are not creative.


Another cultural issue between U.S. and France can be observed while Durand and his team members spent twenty minutes into meeting but used two hours break time to have a hot lunch. According to the research1, the Americans can just eat a small sandwich as their lunch and turn back to work, but a hot lunch is essential for the French to fulfill their energy.


At the end of meeting, the reactions between Picard and Durand can also be considered as a cultural issue. U.S. people often present their reactions on surface (3); for instance, Picard gave a quick “okay” sign to his team members after finishing a well-presented meeting but the U.S. “okay” sign actually means “zero” or “useless” in France (4). Contrarily, the French frequently reserve their reaction and then release their decision after a series of discussion3. For example, Mr. Durand had decided not to corporate with Mr. Picard after two weeks consideration.



In French’s culture, formal dress look is very important at all times particularly in the meeting with high management level5. However, Picard made a mistake of this different cultural issue as only he took off the coat during the business meeting after an uncomfortable hot lunch.


In France, eye contact, handshake, and double kiss are three main skills of non-verbal communication to show their friendly manner (6). In the case, Dubois extended a warm greeting in French to Durand. Nevertheless, the Americans usually avoid physical contact with people and this cultural issue creates an arrogant impression for the French1.


The problem of work and life separablity can be simply discovered when Picard kept mentioned several times the business meeting earlier in the day, but conversation always drifted back to social amenities. For the view of Durand, he has strong tendency to build lifetime relationship with Picard during the party dinner. However, Picard is accustomed to a short-term business relationship (2).


The serious barrier between two central leaders is that they do not have same language to do deeper communication and this problem may have impact on building a trust business relationship. Although Picard has hired Dubois as his representative, the problem of different languages still significantly influences the interaction with Belles. For illustrate, Durand and his team members are repeatedly staring at Dubois because they think that she is the only person to give response so they put more concern on her reaction.




Hall is an anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher and he developed a cultural model that emphasised the importance of nonverbal signals and modes of awareness over explicit messages7. There are three fundamental dimensions:


Hall adds that “high context communication or message is one in which most of the information is already in the person, while very little is in the coded, explicit, transmitted part of message. A low-context communication is just the opposite, that is, the mass of the information is vested in the explicit code7. The following table shows the characteristics of Hall’s high context culture and low context culture3:



Much convert and implicit message

Much overt and explicit message

Reserved actions

Reactions on surface

Distinct in groups and out groups

Flexible in groups and out groups

High commitment

Low commitment

Open and flexible time

High organised time


Hall explained that monochronic cultures value schedules and can evolve efficient bureaucracies. Polychronic cultures regard events as embedded in more of a simultaneous matrix of occurrences5.


The following table gives the characteristics of two different time concepts (2):



Do one work at a time

Do multiple works at a time

Concentrate on job

Are highly distractible and subject to interruptions

Are committed to the job

Are committed to people and human relationships

Work is clearly separate from personal time

Work is clearly not separate from personal time


Proxemics is the study of the human use of space within the context of culture. People handle space differently the way they do largely determined by the culture in which they are immersed9. Related to the case, only the theory of intimate and social distance will be provided. Intimate distance ranges from body contact to approximately 45 cm. At intimate distance, the presence of the other person is unmistakable (9). Social distance is the casual interaction-distance between acquaintances and strangers and ranges from 120 to 360 cm. Its close phase, 120 to 210 cm, is the characteristic of informal interaction9. The following figure shows that distance of Proxemics concept (10):



Shannon’s model of the communication process is a general model of the communication process that could be treated as the common ground of such diverse disciplines as journalism, rhetoric, linguistics, and speech and hearing sciences11. The following figure shows the communication process of Shannon-Weaver model (12):

This model consists of 7 elements which are (13):

  1. Information source chooses desired message among a set of possible messages which can be mixture of any form of written or spoken, image or sound.
  2. Transmitter changes the message into the signal, also known as encoder.
  3. Message is the thing which is sent and received and all communication is about.
  4. Channel is the path that message passes through from the transmitter to the receiver.
  5. Receiver is the reverse transmitter which changes the signal back into the message, also known as decoder.
  6. Destination is the target place of the transmitted message.
  7. Noise is any unwanted additions to the transmitted signal which cause distortion or error in transmission.






Meeting Structure

In the mind of the French, the meeting structure of U.S. represents low creativity and boring.

In the mind of the Americans, France’s meeting structure is not organized and disciplined.


Information is more likely transmitted in indirect way so the reaction is normally reserved.

Reaction is normally appeared in a very direct way and also comes up with different signals.

Interpersonal Relationship

People always have strong boundaries and hard to adapt an outsider as part of their group.

People are more flexible to accept outsider or a new culture.




Schedule can be arranged independently if the better achievement can be established. Also, they do not mind to do multiple things simultaneously and always have a great involvement with human relationships since they are more concerned with family and friends.

Time is very important as they often complete one project at a time or before the deadlines. Therefore, the Americans may think that time was dispersed with two hours lunch break and the French are not focused on the corporation.

Work-life separability

The issue of work-life separability also has direct impact on the corporation. Durand tended to create a close relationship with Picard but it was disturbed by irrelevantly conversation.

The Americans typically follow the rules, show great respect for private property and less to build long-term relationship. So, Picard kept mentioned the works during personal time is eliminating the potential of cooperation.



Interpersonal distance and Non-verbal communication

People can accept the intimate distance mean that they often have body involvement with people or strangers. In the case, Durand and Dubois have an extended greeting in French. However, Mr. Picard did not have this action with Durand.

People in the category of social distance mean that they have less body involvement with people and always in a common distance to do interaction with strangers. This kind of people usually avoids physical contact with people. Picard who from U.S. is a typical example.




Party dinner


Durand receives the message and decodes the meaning


Dubois is the interpreter


Picard sends the message and encodes the meaning

Information sources

Business proposal



Noises Error messages, mistakes in translation,

Wrong meaning created by interpreter

Information source includes business proposal (written message), ideas, and argumentative opinion (spoken message) that were identified during meeting and party dinner.

Transmitter is also called as encoder. In the case, Picard is the sender who is encoding the meaning.

Message refers to the every information that was sent and received in the communication process.

Channel will be the interpreter. For example, Dubois is responsible for translating the meaning for Picard and Durand.

Receiver is also known as decoder. In this case, Durand may change the received messages and signals back into his preferred language or meanings.

Destination refers to the meeting or the target place to do presentation in the case.

Noises may include the error messages and meanings due to Picard and Durand are using different languages.



In France, people will never skip lunch and they are allowed to have lunch at least forty-five minutes at the company cafeteria and ninety minutes at a restaurant 14. Picard should have awareness of the French’s office hours and lunch hours and schedule the best time to have meeting.


If dealing with senior management level in France, a formal suit and well business dress code are highly needed15. Social gathering requires tastefully coordinated clothes even the invitation card with states that informal dress15. During the meeting, Picard should sustain his formal dress appearance.


Language barrier between Picard and Durand creates a resistance in their conversation. The best way to remove the barrier is to learn the same language; however, it could not be reached in a short period. There are some tips for Picard to increase the potential of success16:

Practice effective communication as much as possible

Convey ideas in a positive, clear and convincing manner



Actually, a business meeting is not supposed to be conducted during lunch or dinner. However, sharing a meal is intended to help establish a personal acquaintance17. In France, business lunches are the most common form of entertaining business contacts18. For that reason, Picard can use a business lunch to present his sincerity of cooperation and his respect to the French’s culture.


In French’s culture, some non-verbal communication actions are expected to be performed19. To gain more familiarity with French, Picard should learn some greeting behaviour and avoid some objectionable public behaviors.


In France, gifts are expected for social events, especially as thank you after a dinner party20. When Picard was invited to the party dinner after meeting, he should awake that gifts-giving for the host is important to show an honor manner in the French’s culture.


After looking the ideas of Hall and Shannon-Weaver, it is easier to understand why problems occur from different cultural backgrounds. These ideas especially help in workplace and international cooperation. The recommendations proposed will provide a guideline on how to cooperate and avoid some unpleasant problems.


1. http://www.understandfrance.org/France/Intercultural3.html

2. http://hackvan.com/pub/stig/etext/monochronic-vs-polychronic-time.txt

3. http://www.siu.edu/~ekachai/dimensions.html

4. http://www.executiveplanet.com/index.php?title=France:_Public_Behaviour

5. http://www.worldbusinessculture.com/Meals-and-Entertaining-in-France.html

6. http://www.culture-at-work.com/highlow.html

7. Hall, E.T. (1998). Basic concepts of intercultural communication: The Power of Hidden Differences. Maine: Intercultural Press Inc.

8. Hall, E. T. (1983). The dance of life: The other dimension of time. New York: Random House.

9. Hall Edward T.: “The hidden dimension”, 1966, Doubleday & Company, Inc.

10. Tool for Proxemic research: Edward T. Half, “A System for the Notation of Proxemic Research,” American Anthropologist, Vol. 65, 1963, pp. 1003-1026.


12. http://faculty.mdc.edu/jmcnair/Communication%20Theory%20A%20First%20Look.htm

13. http://www.zainbooks.com/books/mass-communication/introduction-to-mass-communication_4_elements-of-communication-and-early-communication-models.html

14. http://www.executiveplanet.com/index.php?title=France:_Appointment_Alert!

15. http://www.executiveplanet.com/index.php?title=France:_Business_Dress

16. http://plushtext.com/6-ways-to-communicate-more-effectively-in-the-workplace

17. http://www.worldbusinessculture.com/Meals-and-Entertaining-in-France.html

18. http://www.executiveplanet.com/index.php?title=France:_Prosperous_Entertaining

19. http://www.executiveplanet.com/index.php?title=France:_Public_Behaviour

20. http://www.executiveplanet.com/index.php?title=France:_Gift_Giving


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