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Cultural Information - France

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Cultural Information

Answers to your intercultural questions from a Canadian and a local point of view.

Cultural Information - Conversations

Question:

I am meeting someone for the first time and I want to make a good impression. What would be good discussion topics?

Local Perspective:

When meeting someone for the first time, a good way to begin conversation is to talk about things that France is known for abroad; you could show an interest in French cuisine. Ask questions about French wines, various regional specialities, traditional dishes, gourmet pastries, etc.

Also, do not hesitate to ask questions about various historical monuments, museums, or neighbourhoods worth visiting. The person with whom you are speaking will be happy to give you suggestions as the French are proud of their cultural background.

France also has a number of social advances such as an excellent social security system, minimum wages, guaranteed retirement, seven weeks vacation per year as well as a 35-hour work week. These are all good topics of conversation and you can also make comparisons with the Canadian system. It is, however, best to not pass judgement on the economic repercussions that these benefits may entail. Limit your conversation to the positive effects that they may have on everyday life such as on hobbies and family vacations. On the subject of vacations, you can also talk about the different types available in the diverse geographical and cultural regions in France (i.e., at the sea, in the mountains or in the country). People may also talk to you about the transportation systems as France has a network of high-speed trains (the TGV) that may reach speeds of 515 kilometres an hour.

Talking about travel gives you the opportunity to speak about Canada as many people from France spend a good part of their vacation abroad. Above and beyond the link with French-Canadians, the French also appreciate Canada for the people and for its natural environment, for which it is best known. The person with whom you speak will undoubtedly be interested in this topic of conversation.

In general, a good way to break the ice is to ask questions about the person with whom you are speaking and his/her country, family, and way of life. He/she will likely do the same and this can keep the conversation flowing for a number of hours.

There are, however, subjects that may be dangerous; I am referring here to the advances in social safety net. Most of these advantages are due to negotiations between unions and the government, and in the majority of cases, unions get their way by means of strikes that often paralyse the country. French people are, therefore, divided on whether unions are useful and what the day-to-day repercussions of their actions are. Therefore, I recommend caution when talking about this subject as every French person has a different opinion about it.

I also suggest that you take great pains to avoid talking about politics.

Humour is a good way to create a relaxed atmosphere; therefore, you can joke around as much as you usually would. Even if you might not be understood, your audience will still laugh; in fact, you should expect that people will return the joke. The French use a lot of irony, so be prepared for people to joke about you. Do not be shocked; play along and have a good come back.

Canadian Perspective:

Family and your respective countries of origin are always good topics to start with. French culture is also strongly focussed on food and socialising therefore discussing highlights of your local region and travels is always of interest. The French are very proud of their country and discussing the various cultural and natural attractions is received very well and can bring about some fascinating discussions.

There is a long and often contentious history between the French and English and you may encounter some strongly worded comments regarding the English, particularly during soccer season. The French are very passionate about this sport, and during the world cup, do not be surprised by strong displays of patriotism.

Canadians are generally very well accepted and the French are fascinated and interested in our country’s natural beauty. There is also a strong sense of ‘connectedness’ to Canada because of our French history. Expect to meet very knowledgeable people who are well informed about our country’s current and past political history. Discussions and questions regarding Quebec’s relationship with the rest of the country is likely to arise, so having a good knowledge of the situation is helpful.

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Cultural Information - Communication Styles

Question:

What do I need to know about verbal and non-verbal communications?

Local Perspective:

French people are generally courteous and are set on certain conventions such as using the formal form of "you" ("vous" in French); particularly older persons.

Whereas the informal form of "you" ("tu" in French) is common in Francophone areas of Canada, the use of "tu" would be particularly bad form when first meeting someone in France. It is only appropriate to use the informal form of "you" with your family, friends, or colleagues of the same level (hierarchically) with whom you have been working for a long time. The same goes for eye contact—it is important to look in someone’s eyes, otherwise people may interpret this to mean that you are not paying attention. Or, even worse, you may appear to lack self-confidence or honesty. Because of their Latin roots, the French appreciate forthrightness. Gestures are not very different.

Distances and male-female relations are basically the same as in Canada. It is normal for people of the opposite sex to kiss one another on the cheek. Men greet each other with a handshake. Longstanding friends or colleagues can be greeted with a kiss on the cheek, but if your superior is a woman, it is best to shake hands.

French people are initially somewhat guarded. Foreigners who have lost their way will not likely be spontaneously approached for assistance as they might be in Canada.

Canadian Perspective:

The French are very physical people and it is important to understand their social forms of communicating. Upon meeting a friend or someone in a social context, the French give "la bise" which is a kiss on each cheek. Women greet both men and women this way, although men generally only greet women this way, unless they are close friends, or related to the man. When you come upon a group of friends or acquaintances in a social setting, it is important to great each person in the group with the bise and considered rude if you fail to do so. However, in a work setting, you generally do not greet your co-workers or superiors in this way, unless it is a very informal office.

The French have a tendency to stand and talk closer than Canadians are used to and often use gestures when expressing themselves. Upon first meeting, French people are friendly, but relationships tend to develop quite slowly. You often have to make considerable effort to be included in or invited on social occasions. It takes much longer to gain the trust of the French, and many people are hesitant to make connections with people from different cultures. This is of course dependent on where you are living and who you meet; generally French people who have lived or travelled abroad are much more inviting and will make a significant effort to make you feel welcome.

Making eye contact is generally considered important, much like in the Canadian culture. Specific gestures or expressions will vary depending on where in the country you are, although there aren’t any that differ greatly from what is used in Canada.

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Cultural Information - Display of Emotion

Question:

Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?

Local Perspective:

Young people often engage in public displays of affection. You will likely see "love birds" (young couples) laying down in the many parks or embracing in the movie theatre.

In public it is rare to see angry outbursts or people raising their voices. These kinds of behaviours are seen as a sign of a lack of self-control.

Canadian Perspective:

You don’t generally see people display anger in a public setting, and as a foreigner it is probably a good idea to keep as low a profile as possible in that regard. People quite often will display emotions such as love and grief quite strongly and it shouldn’t shock you to see very public demonstrations of these emotions at times.

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Cultural Information - Dress, Punctuality & Formality

Question:

What should I know about the workplace environment (deadlines, dress, formality, etc.)?

Local Perspective:

The way you dress depends on your workplace. In most office jobs, wearing a suit, shirt, and tie is a requirement for men. Men wanting to climb the ladder are known as "white collars." Women generally wear a suit jacket with a skirt or dress pants. This is changing with the emergence of start-up companies where business casual clothes, such as jeans and a shirt, are worn. Nowadays, it is not an uncommon to see an executive not wearing a tie even if he is interacting with clients. Casual Fridays are becoming more common.

It is normal for colleagues of the same level to use the informal form of "you" ("tu" in French). However, if you are a new employee in a company, wait until people ask for you to address them in a more casual manner. In the beginning, address your superiors starting with "Monsieur" followed by the person’s last name. If it does not seem awkward, you can call people by their first names, but continue to address them by the formal form of "you" ("vous") until invited to use the informal form. Nevertheless, if your superior is in the presence of his/her boss or another important person, use formal language (using Monsieur and the person’s last name as well as vous).

French usually place a lot of importance on their image in the workplace. Therefore, they generally get to work around 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning and finish between 6:00 or 7:00 pm. The amount of time spent at work is a way to gain your superior’s respect. Contrary to my work experience in Canada where productivity is the most important thing during the 8-hour workday, the French like to talk during coffee breaks and take 1 to 1.5 hours at lunch. In Canada, tasks should be accomplished in the least amount of time possible. In France, there will be the same end result, but bosses will value that employees have worked late as this symbolizes their dedication to the task at hand.

On the other hand, employees more frequently take off time for sick leave. Different social benefits for time off and a 35-hour work week as well as leaves tend to decrease company productivity.

Canadian Perspective:

The French language uses the formal "Vous" (=you) to denote respect and it is important to use this term for people you do not know, elders, colleagues, supervisors, and any officials you meet. It is a good idea to address everyone by "vous" until they either suggest that you use the informal "tu", or you notice that they are addressing you in this form. It is considered very rude to use "tu" with someone you are not close to, or have not been given permission to address in this manner.

French tend to take quite seriously how they dress and it is important to take care in your attire and to dress quite conservatively until you get a better idea of what is acceptable. Compared to Canadian standards, people are generally much more "done up" than we would expect. Do not be surprised to see a woman in what a Canadian may consider full evening-wear and make-up at an 8 am meeting. Grungy and baggy clothes are generally not regarded favourably, although this has been slowly changing in the past few years. Conservative and slightly dressy would be suggested to begin.

Time is a very different concept in France and treated quite casually. Be prepared to have flexible time lines because things will often start late, and take much longer than anticipated. Part of the reason for this includes the apparent necessity of social banter prior to discussing the topic at hand. Most businesses are also closed for long periods during the day and this can vary between businesses quite a lot. This is especially true for government offices, so give yourself plenty of time, and several days, if you need to deal with the government bureaus. When attending a social event, do not arrive at the indicated hour, usually a half-hour later is appropriate, or you could catch your host/hostess unprepared.

It is a good idea to stick to deadlines; however, you may find again that there is some flexibility involved. This will depend on the situation and the people involved.

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Cultural Information - Preferred Managerial Qualities

Question:

What qualities are most highly regarded in a local superior/manager? How will I know how my staff view me?

Local Perspective:

First and foremost, competence is one of the qualities that is most highly regarded in a superior. For most employees in France, their superior must be able to understand the work they are doing. Companies are very hierarchical. Education often wins out over everything. At any given level of education, certain schools are better known and provide better access to positions with more responsibility than those that would be open to employees with degrees from other schools who would need years of seniority to achieve such a position. Level of education is an essential criterion, but young managers will also have to prove that they have the necessary competencies, above and beyond degrees.

Superiors are generally respected appreciated for teamwork, availability, and empathy. Management styles differ depending on the sector of activity. More and more frequently people are looking for managers who can motivate employees by creating a good working environment and installing individual initiative. They must also oversee all work to be accomplished, but at the same time know how to delegate.

This is also true for foreign managers. Salaries are generally higher which increases expectations. Foreign managers should not encounter any particular problems with staff members.

Pay attention to hallway gossip in order to know what your staff thinks of you. Coffee breaks also offer a good opportunity to talk with others and find out more information. Keep your distance if you receive any criticism. A good manager must also know how to be in a position of authority and only keep in mind positive criticism that can help improve your work. Any form of personal attack should be punished without recourse.

Canadian Perspective:

From my experience in France I would say that although education is respected, there is also a high regard for the years of experience a person has. Characteristics that would be desirable in a superior or manager include: being personable, hard working, and organized; and having strong leadership/managing skills. The French work place can be more formal than the North American and it may be difficult to know how your staff view you. In comparison to North Americans, they can seem inexpressive at times. This does not mean, however, that they do not respect and enjoy working for/with you. There is occasionally some hesitance at first towards non-native French speakers/foreigners but this can usually be overcome once they get to know and understand how you work.

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Cultural Information - Hierarchy and Decision-making

Question:

In the workplace, how are decisions taken and by whom? Is it acceptable to go to my immediate supervisor for answers or feedback?

Local Perspective:

Strategic decision-making is done by the management committee (comprised of company departmental representatives). Managers will appreciate personal initiative in day-to-day operations; however, it is important to receive their approval. They also believe that you can bring methods of improvement to the table, as you are the person who is in the best position to understand the intricacies of your work. Nevertheless, if your ideas involve other employees then it is best to speak privately with your superior. He/she will decide if it should be undertaken or not and will take on responsibility for the benefits or fallout of the decision so as to avoid pitting you against your colleagues.

You should regularly consult with your superior, but first ensure that what you are asking is pertinent. It would be unfortunate to bring discredit to yourself.

Canadian Perspective:

How decisions are made will depend on the management style and hierarchical nature of the business/organization. Decision-making by consensus is not very common and management is usually quite top down - although again, this can depend. Staff are quite often asked and expected to give their impressions, ideas and suggestions, but being pushy and aggressive in doing so may be viewed negatively. Going to the immediate supervisor for feedback and asking questions would not generally be viewed badly. Attitude and respect are definitely important.

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Cultural Information - Religion, Class, Ethnicity, & Gender

Question:

Briefly describe the local culture’s attitudes regarding the following: Gender, Class, Religion and Ethnicity. What impact would the above attitudes have on the workplace?

Local Perspective:

Gender: According to the law there is no difference between the sexes. They enjoy the same freedoms. Women may hold the same positions as men; however, they are still in charge of bringing up children, doing housework, etc, although this is becoming more equally shared. All of these tasks impede women from spending as much time at work as men can; therefore, the evolution of their career takes much longer. There are fewer women in positions of responsibility, but those who do hold them are respected all the more.

Religion: More than 80% of French consider themselves to be Catholic. However, only 14% of them regularly attend church. Many think that religion belongs in private life and prefer to practise it outside of religious institutions. Muslims are the second largest religious group in France and most of France’s Muslims are from North Africa. There are also Protestant and Jewish minorities. The state is secular and discrimination, particularly in the workplace, is against the law.

Class: During the 1789 French Revolution the King and some of the nobility were sent to the guillotine. The new rulers of France were, therefore, bourgeois and these rich people built their fortune on trade. Today the two classes (nobility and bourgeois) coexist and continue to benefit from the wealth accumulated during the past. The middle class and the "new money" arose in the period from the Second World War to present day. The middle class makes up a major part of the French population and lives comfortably (i.e., they own houses, cars, and take trips abroad). Mandatory education has equalized the differences. Nevertheless, it is true that individual prosperity and belonging to the same class help people obtain positions of responsibility.

Ethnicity: The Gauls, who reigned from 1000 B.C. were the ancestors of the French. The fact that France needed workers during the "glorious thirty years" (the golden period for work during the 1950 to the 1980s) and the extreme poverty in former colonies that were primarily based in Africa resulted in waves of immigrants coming from North Africa and other Francophone African countries. The children of these immigrants automatically received French citizenship if they were born on French soil. These diverse backgrounds are usually seen as value-added. However, generally, these immigrants are factory workers and their children have a lot of problems getting better jobs even though there are laws in place to protect them and give them access to education. With the new Europe, there are more Polish, Yugoslavs, and Romanian immigrants these days. Yet, with the opening of the borders there have been a lot of illegal immigrants as well.

Canadian Perspective:

Gender: The treatment of women is much like in the Canadian culture, there tend to be greater divisions between men and women as friends. It is generally less acceptable or common to have a great number of male friends for a woman, and it is as a couple that you generally interact in mixed groups. In a work setting, there are the same machista characteristics that you can find in the Canadian workplace. It is accepted and normal however to find women in some positions of power and authority, although definitely not as frequent as men in that position. As a foreign woman you may experience greater attention and be faced with the stereotypes of a North American woman as seen in TV and film.

Religion: Although religion is ever present in the country, it does not generally affect day-to-day interactions and rarely seemed to come into discussions.

Class: Class is important in the French society and this is generally determined based on your dress, accent, level of education and where you work. For a foreigner this is less of an issue as you are almost automatically classed based on your country of origin (Canada is well perceived therefore of a fairly high class).

Ethnicity: Although not my personal experience, there is a definite tendency towards favouring the Caucasian ethnicity. Canadians will find a level of xenophobia generally not encountered in Canada and expect to hear jokes and comments considered offensive and insensitive in our culture. Certain ethnicities may be more negatively approached, depending partially on that region’s history with France. For example, where I was living, there were numerous Algerians in the city and where they tended to live was considered the rough, undesirable part of town.

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Cultural Information - Relationship-building

Question:

How important is it to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business?

Local Perspective:

It is crucial to establish good relations with people with whom you are planning to do business. Take the time to get to know them and find common ground. You should also meet regularly even if you do not have anything to discuss. This will help establish trust and maintain the relationship.

A good way to do this is to invite someone out for lunch. Golf, which seems to be very popular in Canada, is a good method to get to know someone. However, do not mix your private and professional lives. Do not get too close to business associates by accepting invitations to go to their house.

Canadian Perspective:

This would be considered very important. Business meetings will often involve food and socialising therefore it is a good idea to establish a rapport with the person you are doing business with. This is generally done through discussions, which can focus on such things as French culture and its unique richness, food and wine, world issues and politics, or family.

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Cultural Information - Privileges and Favouritism

Question:

Would a colleague or employee expect special privileges or considerations given our personal relationship or friendship

Local Perspective:

There are a few ways that Canadian work ethics differ. For example, the speed at which you act on something is very important in Canada. In Canada, if something needs to be mailed out right away, an employee will definitely not hesitate in lending his/her car to allow a colleague to go to the post office. The French employee will consider that gesture to mean that you appreciate his/her work and that you trust him/her enough to use your car. It may be difficult for him/her to understand why you reprimand him/her the following day. Therefore, be very careful about how staff perceive your attitude. Make a distinction between friendship and working relations. Above and beyond what is deserved, you should not give out any special privileges. Networking is sometimes seen as a good way to hire staff, but there is no VIP pass to life.

Canadian Perspective:

Although never having personally come upon this situation, it would be expected that if you have a personal relationship with someone that they be accorded a certain level of attention on your part (e.g. not have to stand in line, be told about deals coming up in the future). If this consideration can be given without compromising your business or any other legal issues, it may be a good idea to grant small privileges. Watch out, however, for people trying to push this too far.

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Cultural Information - Conflicts in the Workplace

Question:

I have a work-related problem with a colleague. Do I confront him or her directly? Privately or publicly?

Local Perspective:

It is recommended that you treat these problems behind closed doors to avoid getting on anyone’s bad side. This will ensure that the person in question does not lose face. In private, frankness is appreciated; however, be wary of making value judgements or being harshly critical. It is useful to be diplomatic.

In order to know if a colleague is having problems with you, I suggest watching for obvious signs of a change in attitude such as not looking you in the eyes when greeting you or a decrease in casual conversations at coffee break or other occasions. In that case, do not hesitate to approach the person to clarify the situation.

Canadian Perspective:

Generally, if someone is offended by your actions, you will know quite quickly by their very cold, and quickly changed, demeanour. If you have a work related problem with a colleague, it is generally a good idea to bring it up in a casual manner, instead of a direct confrontation and this should definitely be done privately.

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Cultural Information - Motivating Local Colleagues

Question:

What motivates my local colleagues to perform well on the job?

Local Perspective:

Motivational factors depend on the personality of your staff. Other than decent working conditions and recognition for good work, it is up to you to determine what other factors might motivate your employees such as raises, greater responsibility, independence, more attention, condensed working hours, business trips, etc. Figuring out which factors motivate individual employees is a good exercise. Negotiating the definition of objectives and method of remuneration before assigning a project can provide a good basis for motivation. The only rule is that you should be sensitive of other’s needs.

Canadian Perspective:

There is a combination of factors considered by most local people. These definitely include ability to support their families and themselves, as well as a very strong sense of tradition and family responsibility. Many people follow a career path consistent with what their family has been doing for generations. There is therefore often a very strong sense of duty to the family name and position. As things such as entertaining and dressing well are good indicators of class and important culturally; social events can also be strong motivators.

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Cultural Information - Recommended Books, Films & Foods

Question:

To help me learn more about the local culture(s), please recommend: books, films, television shows, foods and web sites.

Local Perspective:

To get to know French culture better, I recommend diving into French literature. Major authors include Alexandre Dumas, Edmond Rostand, Victor Hugo, Marcel Proust, Émile Zola, Gustave Flaubert and Albert Camus. Poetry is also a good source of inspiration; the best-known poets are Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud.

Newspapers are a good source of information and the best known include Le Monde, Le Nouvel Observateur, l’Express, Le Canard enchaîné, Ouest France. There are also papers that are more sensationalist such as Paris Match. You can also watch television shows that range from investigative reporting to entertainment shows.

Good sources of information on things to do include Le journal des Spectacles et Télérama (theatre and TV guide) which is updated weekly, as well as a number of Web sites including inside-paris.com (a portal on where to go out in Paris), pariscope.fr (also a magazine with cinema lists and outings), fluctuat.net (cultural events listed on-line), fnac.com/aden (daily on-line repertoire of cultural events), top.org (theatre and social events guide for the Island of France), french-nights.com (a number of sites for going out), and viafrance.com (a listing of outings and events in France).

Other great sites that can help you find restaurants or bars are resto-guide.com (a listing of restaurants in France) and francebars.com (an Internet guide of bars in France).

Canadian Perspective:

To learn about places to visit and quick, easy to read history about different areas, travel books such as the Lonely Planet and Let’s Go are generally a good source of information. It is important to know which wines are good as you will be expected to bring a bottle to social occasions. I would suggest finding out as much as you can about local and regional varieties.

There is a large number of excellent French films and viewing a variety of them will give you a strong feeling for the culture and the French taste.

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Cultural Information - In-country Activities

Question:

When in this country, I want to learn more about the culture(s) and people. What activities can you recommend?

Local Perspective:

French people have very active social lives and I suggest that in order to get to know more about the culture, try to engage in the same activities, which are not that different from those that exist in Canada. There is great variety of kinds and choices of dance clubs, bars, bistros, concerts, operas, plays (tragedies, comedies, modern theatre), and all different types of sports.

France is also known for its painters. Visit the many museums in Paris and all across France to see their works. Also take walks in the streets.

Studying different architectural styles such as chateaux, cathedrals, Renaissance palaces, and modern architecture will take you back in time and help you distinguish the different historic periods in France.

Plays and musicals are abundant in France. I suggest that you take advantage of this situation and go see a variety of films, plays and shows. The film "Amélie" gives a rather good representation of the Parisian lifestyle. I recommend going to independent theatres, which will give you a good feeling for French non-commercial films. In larger cinemas you will find the same films as in Canada.

France is known for its cuisine. Go out to the brasseries, which are coffee-restaurant-tea-shop establishments. Traditional cuisine depends on the region and the prices of restaurants are quite affordable compared to Canada. You will likely be served foie gras, sliced meats, baked snails, all kinds of fish and seafood, meat dishes such as beef bourguignon, coq au vin, stuffed crêpes (a Breton speciality), etc. France also produces many varieties of cheese, the best-known being Roquefort, brie, goat’s cheese, and camembert.

The most popular sports include soccer, rugby, tennis, skiing, cycling, marshal arts, and dancing (for women). The Tour de France, the France Championship, the soccer World Cup (which was won by France in 1998), track and field competitions, and Formula 1 are the most popular sporting events.

A good way to meet friends is to participate in cultural activities. People will be pleased to invite you into their home or take you out.

Canadian Perspective:

There are always local festivals and concerts taking place. These are a great opportunity to get a feel for what the culture entails. These often have a strong regional flavour and are well worth it (ie. Beaujolais Festival). Most centres have a tourist centre, which can provide you with information on local happenings. The local newspaper is also an ideal location to find out about events. There is generally a location in the city/town that advertises these events (a market etc) and checking out the weekly postings can help direct you to valuable events.

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Cultural Information - National Heroes

Question:

Who are this country's national heroes?

Local Perspective:

Joan of Arc: Her face is the Republic’s emblem and during the 100 Years War between England and France she heard voices that told her to save France from the English invasion. She was captured by the English in 1429 and burned alive at age 19.

Napoleon Bonaparte: Following the French revolution, the major European powers tried to re-establish France’s monarchy. Napoleon Bonaparte was successful in holding them back as well as achieving many military victories. Although his personality and regime were controversial, he symbolizes the ideal of the spirit of combat and is seen as the archetypical strategist.

Louis Pasteur: A research chemist who discovered inoculation for humans. Pasteur also developed "pasteurization", a procedure which uses heat to destroy dangerous microbes that are present in perishable foods. He is the one of the fathers of modern medicine.

General de Gaulle: He is the founding father of the resistance movement during the German occupation. The June 19, 1940 call to resistance over the London radio waves will be forever remembered in history.

Pierre and Marie Curie: French physicians (although she was originally from Poland) from the beginning of the 20th century who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1903 for their discovery of radium, a new element. Their studies have been expanded and formed the basis of other discoveries such as radiology and nuclear research programs.

Zinédine Zidane: Today he is considered to be one of the best soccer players in the world. He has made the French very proud, particularly those of Algerian background as he is the son of Algerian immigrants. He currently plays in Spain for the Madrid Real team.

Canadian Perspective:

Look to film stars, soccer players, and musicians for the country’s heroes. Generally, though, he French are not as focussed on celebrities as is the North American culture and they often scorn the extent to which we revere our local heroes.

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Cultural Information - Shared Historical Events with Canada

Question:

Are there shared historical events between this country and Canada that could affect work or social relations?

Local Perspective:

As you know, in the past part of Canada was a French colony. Depending on your personal opinion, you defend the position of the English or the French or even that of sovereignists. However, French people are rather neutral about this subject. Nevertheless, both countries have tried to maintain and develop their friendship. Most recently, France publicly recognized the participation of Canadian soldiers who died on the Normandy beaches for the liberation of France in 1945 by opening a museum in their honour.

Canadian Perspective:

France originally colonized Canada and there were many wars and battles for almost a century between the British and French for the Canadian territory. The Province of Quebec and many of the Maritime provinces still demonstrate a strong French tie – in language as well as culture. This creates a feeling among the French of being connected to Canadians in a special way. The French also have two islands (St. Pierre and Miquelon) very close to Canada’s main land and in recent years there has been some contention in the Maritimes over use of waters around the Grand Banks by foreign fishers.

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Cultural Information - Stereotypes

Question:

What stereotypes do Canadians have about the local culture that might be harmful to effective relations?

Local Perspective:

We say that Canadians are welcoming. There are no particular stereotypes that could negatively affect relations and it is often said that Canadians are honest people, which can sometimes be interpreted as being naive.

Canadian Perspective:

Canadians tend to view the French as cold and arrogant. This is not necessarily true. It generally takes more time to get to know and be accepted by the French; however, once you are over this initial barrier, they are very warm and caring people.

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Cultural Information - About the Cultural Interpreters

Local Interpreter:

Your Cultural Interpreter was born in France and is the youngest of two children. He grew up in a town on the outskirts of Paris. After graduating from the Saint-Germain-en-Laye business school, his studies took him to Quebec in January 2003 where he is currently doing a Masters in Project Management at the Université du Québec en Outaouais in conjunction with the Mans l'Institut Universitaire de Mécaniques avancées in France. As part of this program, he is currently living in Hull and working at an intercultural training and management company.

Canadian Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born in Toronto, the youngest of 3 children. She was raised in this city. She studied Biology and Psychology in Kingston at Queen's University. Her studies sent her abroad for the first time in 1997 where she studied Biology at the Université de Joseph Fourier in Grenoble, France where your cultural interpreter to France, where she lived for 1 year. This experience included travel throughout western and Eastern Europe. After finishing her Bachelor of Science, she moved to Costa Rica and worked there for 8 months on a variety of development projects. She later continued her studies in international development and business and worked in Chile for 6 months. Your cultural interpreter is currently living in Canada, in Toronto for the last 2 years. She works as a Program Manager with an environmentally focussed non-profit organisation.

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Disclaimer

Country Insights - Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.

You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.

The content of Country Insights in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.