Marketing your products and services to an international audience can be a great opportunity to grow your company and reach new customers. However, reaching and convincing an international audience entails understanding regional cultures, languages and behaviors. And on this aspect, Europeans definitely have room for improvement. They have a very stereotyped vision of one another, and surprisingly, a very limited knowledge of each other’s culture.
Based on the study by Olivier Clodong and Jose Manuel Lamarque in their book « Pourquoi les français sont les moins fréquentables de la planète » (ie Why the French are the most disreputable people on earth?), here is a pretty entertaining list of what French people think of their 6 most important business partners in Europe (ranking based on 2013 export figures)… and back.
How the French see them: rigorous, hard – workers, serious, disciplined, organized, legalist, formalist
How they see the French: conceited, offhand, frivolous
How the French see them: friendly, francophile, divided, pro-European, warm, French-fry eaters
How they see the French: messy, inefficient, self-satisfied
How the French see them: glib talkers, pleasure seekers, friendly, family-oriented, bon vivant, womanizers, smooth-talkers, machos, lady killers
How they see the French: snobs, arrogant
How the French see them: insular, conceited, monarchist, anti – European, snob, independent, conservative, pragmatic
How they see the French: chauvinistic, intransigent, cared for by the state, no sense of humor
How the French see them: revellers, warm, traditional, modern, regionalist, noisy, religious, bon vivant
How they see the French: cold, distant, impolite, conceited
How the French see them: ecologists, laxist, open, progressive, libertarian, tall
How they see the French: restless, talkative, not serious
As a French national, I must say the image Europeans have of my countrymen is quite unappealing. I admit some of these clichés may have a base, yet, there is room for hope : at least the survey didn’t come up with “French people stink”, “French people are lazy”… or worse, “French women don’t shave !” All in all, France remains the world’s most visited country and is the fifth largest economy in the world by GDP, attracting numerous foreign investor. So this has to be the proof that foreign professionals are curious enough to go past these cliches and make their own opinions.
Being curious and adventurous is a big step in understanding your foreign clients : go visit the country, taste local specialties, speak with clients and distributors… Show your interest and you’ll get their attention. And don’t hesitate to get help and advice from professionals locally (distributors, communication agency), that will help you steer your strategy on this new market.