Bonjour mes amis ! Have you guys been keeping up with my Instagram? I just love being able to share my adventures with you in writing and in photos! I also love Valentine’s Day. Love is the glue that binds us all, and what better place to experience love than in Paris!
My best friend Bee was in Paris for work during Valentine’s Day, so I decided to meet her there. Hopping over from Italy was a pretty short commute! Now, I’ve been to Paris many times before, but it was Bee’s first time. Let’s just say it quickly turned into quite the adventure and Bee learned many important lessons…
Lesson 1: In Business, Never Leave Communication to Chance
Bee works for an international energy conglomerate. She was scheduled to meet with a Parisian company to discuss a potential merger on February 13th, so she extended her trip to include Valentine’s Day. She was so excited to go to Paris for Valentine’s Day that she completely forgot that the meeting would be in French! “You’ll help me, won’t you?” she asked, remembering that I am qualified to translate into French and English. I smiled, “You’re lucky I’m here this time Bee, but next time you have to remember to hire a professional interpreter!”
Lesson 2: Talk to Locals, Don’t Just Do as the Tourists Do
“Okay, I set up our first merger meeting. I thought we could keep it more casual and get to know each other over a lunch first. Build some trust. Then we can get into the heavier negotiations,” said Bee. “Great thinking!” I chirped. “Where did you book lunch? I can’t wait!”
Bee smiled, “The Left Bank of course! It’s in my guide book!” As a seasoned tourist, I knew that the Left Bank was now as crowded, overpriced, and chaotic as Times Square. “Cancel that reservation. Let’s ask a real Parisian for restaurant advice. Then, when we tell this company where we are going for lunch, they will be excited that you took the time to find a nice place that real Parisians enjoy. Not a place that’s become stressful and aimed at tourists.” Bee agreed. Together we asked around and found a nice trendy place on the water on Canal St. Martin!
Lesson 3: Don’t Over Do It
“We have three hours until the business lunch. Should we get some French outfits?!” asked Bee. “What is a French outfit?” I asked. “You know,” she smiled, “let’s shop for some French clothes! I’ve always wanted to go to the Champs-Elysées.” I smiled. “For lunch, let’s do as the Parisians do and wear quality professional attire. This isn’t Paris Fashion Week. Besides, Champs-Elysées is all giant chain stores now. If you really want a Parisian shopping experience let’s support local business and check out areas like North Marais, Les Halles, or the stores in Paris's covered passages.” Bee laughed, “Ok fine, I’ll save my chic Parisian fashion finds for after work.”
Lesson 4: Prepare and Research Local Business Etiquette
At lunch, everyone shook hands and sat down ready to talk business. As Bee began to speak, one of the French business people interrupted with a few direct questions. Bee looked at me surprised. In her culture, this would have been very rude. I nodded and once they were done speaking, translated everything into English so she could answer. Then I added with a smile, “Remember, interrupting conversations or asking lots of questions is normal here! No need to take offense.” Bee nodded and told me her response, which I translated promptly into French for the table.
Once the lunch wrapped up, everyone said their goodbyes and politely parted ways. “They didn’t say much about how they felt. I’m not sure if they liked the ideas I presented,” said Bee sadly. “Don’t worry Bee. In France, things go a bit slower. They will likely discuss everything you told them and then come back with their opinion tomorrow. It’s a culture that doesn’t respond well to aggressive selling. It was good you took your time and were polite about your ideas for the merger.” Bee smiled, “I should have done more research!” “Yes, and you should have booked an interpreter! Don’t forget next time!” I laughed.
Lesson 5: The Eiffel Tower is Great for Picnics
Once Bee’s negotiations were wrapped up, we decided to celebrate her success and our friendship with a late afternoon Valentine’s picnic at the Eiffel Tower. Due to its popularity and the increased security measures, the lines to go to the top of Eiffel Tower were too long. We realized the view and the ambiance were just as amazing from the lawn below. “Isn’t it crazy they were planning on taking the Eiffel Tower down after it was built for the World Fair?” asked Bee. “I’m glad you did some research before you came here!” I laughed. “Yes, but I promise to hire an in-person interpreter for the next round of negotiations!”
Until next time fellow travelers, let’s see what adventures and lessons we can come across in March!