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Exploration of Franco-Estonian Cultural Differences: Key to Success in International Partnerships

In today's globalized business world, borders between countries are no longer insurmountable barriers but bridges to new opportunities. However, to successfully cross these borders, it is essential to understand and respect the cultural differences that may exist between nations. With this in mind, we spoke with Mari-Liis Garcia, an Estonian entrepreneur based in France, who shares her valuable experience on the nuances between Estonian and French business approaches. 


cultural differences between France and Estonia

Communication and Working Style

Mari-Liis emphasizes from the outset that communication and working style vary considerably between Estonia and France. In Estonia, exchanges between different hierarchical levels are more permeable, favoring direct exchanges and the free expression of opinions, even if they contradict management. In contrast, in France, questioning authority can be poorly received.

Meetings in Estonia are marked by their efficiency and conciseness, typically not exceeding 30 minutes, whereas in France, they are often scheduled for longer durations, without always leading to clear decisions at the first meeting.


Time Approach and Flexibility

Differences in time management are also notable. In Estonia, payments are processed quickly, and settling an invoice is expected within a week of its issuance, while in France, payment deadlines can extend up to 30 days or more. Similarly, responsiveness to emails is higher in Estonia, where responses are sent within half a day, whereas in France, it is more common to wait a day before responding.


Negotiation Approach

In the field of negotiation, cultural differences are also apparent. In France, bargaining is common practice, especially when negotiating prices, where it is often expected that parties make concessions to reach an agreement. In contrast, in Estonia, negotiation may focus more on other aspects such as volumes or additional services, rather than on the rates themselves, as Estonians believe the proposed pricing is most of the time a fair price that is not meant to be negotiated.


Professional Charm

In France, professional charm is a sometimes surprising but omnipresent component in the business world. This practice can manifest in relationships between superiors and subordinates, among colleagues, but most often, it occurs in interactions with clients. Winning over the client to sell one's product is a French art that can be bewildering in initial exchanges. However, Mari-Liis notes that she has learned to understand and integrate this dynamic, which seems to be an integral part of the French professional fabric.


Remote Work

In Estonia, remote work is more widespread and better accepted. Estonians have significantly embraced remote work, allowing for greater flexibility and better work-life balance. This remote work culture can be attributed to several factors, including mutual trust between employers and employees and technological advancements facilitating remote collaboration. In France, the notion of workplace presence is highly valued, often resulting in pronounced presenteeism where employees are expected to be at the office from 9 am to 7 pm. Although remote work has gained popularity, a perception persists that working from home means less work being done.


Attitudes towards Age and Education Level

Differences in attitudes towards age and education are also striking. In Estonia, it is common for a relatively young person to hold a managerial position. This approach is based on the recognition of individual skills and merits, regardless of age. In contrast, in France, age is often seen as an important criterion for holding positions of responsibility, which can sometimes limit opportunities for young talent.

Furthermore, social norms surrounding education vary between the two countries. In Estonia, possession of a master's degree is highly valued and can open many professional doors. In France, possessing a master's degree is not as highly regarded, in the sense that to practice a certain profession, one must hold a degree in that specific field and not just any master's degree.


Attitudes towards Employee Well-being and Alcohol Consumption

In Estonia, a growing awareness of the importance of employee well-being is reflected in initiatives such as subsidies for sports or massage sessions, reflecting an increasing recognition of mental and physical health in the workplace.

In France, although the issue of well-being is acknowledged, bureaucratic and cultural obstacles can hinder its implementation. This disparity is particularly notable between large companies, which often offer benefits and ergonomic adaptations, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), where access to such benefits is more limited and often requires complex procedures involving occupational physicians. This disparity between the practices of large companies and SMEs is either minimal or nonexistent in Estonia.

Finally, Mari-Liis highlights an interesting difference regarding alcohol consumption during professional meetings. In France, it is often considered normal to have a drink during business meetings, which can be perceived as a way to relax the atmosphere and strengthen social bonds. In contrast, in Estonia, alcohol consumption during professional meetings is less common or even inappropriate in certain contexts.


Conclusion

Taking into account these surprising but instructive observations, companies seeking to establish cross-border collaborations between Estonia and France can better understand the cultural nuances that influence professional interactions. The insights gained from the interview with Mari-Liis Garcia reveal notable differences in communication, time management, negotiation, and professional attitudes. By recognizing and respecting these nuances, companies can not only avoid misunderstandings but also build strong and mutually beneficial partnerships, based on mutual respect and awareness of each country's cultural specificities. In this regard, the bi-cultural support offered by CAdFE to facilitate exchanges between companies is of crucial importance. By providing a holistic approach, CAdFE helps overcome cultural barriers and maximize collaboration potential, thus contributing to the success of cross-border partnerships between Estonia and France.


Disclaimer:

The observations presented in this interview with Mari-Liis Garcia reflect her personal perception of cultural nuances between France and Estonia in the context of business. It is important to note that these perceptions are subjective and may vary from person to person. They do not claim to represent an absolute truth but rather offer an insight into individual experiences in the field of cross-border collaboration.


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