Monday, June 8, 2009

"Dear Louise"

I recently sent many e-mails to companies to request information I needed for my business. I sent them to French and American companies and they started with "Dear Sir, Madam,(...)" because I didn't have a specific contact to send my e-mails to.

The responses I received started like this:

French companies : "Chère Madame" or "Chère Mademoiselle", which is "Dear Madam" or "Dear Miss".

American companies : "Dear Louise".

Interesting to see that Americans don't hesitate to use first names even the first time they meet or write back to someone. French people are always afraid to be too friendly, that's why we have "tu" and "vous" to be sure not to be disrespectful to a stranger. For what ? Courtesy, diplomacy. In English, it's "you", you the individual, the business partner, the friend, the stranger, the competitor, the brother. I like that.

Here is a text I found on the internet which enlightens and confirms this idea.
It's written by Kathleen Jennings, Editor of The Tax Intelligence Report and President of :

"(...) French companies are typically run from the top down as they tend to have more formal boss-subordinate relationships. In contrast, the American workplace tends to be much less formal and business relationships tend to be more collaborative and less autocratic in nature. Often, the American boss-subordinate relationships can be considered somewhat casual as compared to the French. However, times are changing; the French understand more and more that in order to be recognized as a boss, you need to add value and not only have the title.

One of the more important aspects of the French and American styles that should not be overlooked is that the French business approach emphasizes courtesy in their business relationships. You can expect the French to be very polite in their interactions with you as this is a very important underlying cultural value. In contrast, American business attitudes tend to be much less formal in their conversations and interactions with each other! It is important to understand that one approach is not to be considered better than the other but merely to understand that there are cultural differences between the two that you will need to grasp in order for you to be successful in these two distinctively different types of business environments."

It's all said.

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