France's snail culture seizes businesses ?


Veteran member
Reaction score
Ethnic group
I have often had to deal with French companies, and I have to say that French people at work have all it takes to drive me crazy. After years of exploring our blue planet, and being used to life in English-speaking countries, Germany or Japan, France just seem like the apex of business inefficiency in the developed world (and I am not even talking about strikes !).

The post office is notoriously one of the slowest in Europe, and it has happened to me a few times that the mail I sent didn't arrived at all (they even lost an important registered mail once !)

I also don't understand why so many major French banks, insurance companies or law firms still insist on getting all work done by snail mail rather than emial (maybe it's part of the local culture, the ingested escargots getting their revenge on their brains).

I have had to deal with many French people who weren't able to open a scanned document attached to an email, and asked me to fax it instead. I hate faxes as the quality of impression is often bad (esp. on international calls), and they don't work when the receiver's fax machine is busy or turned off. Once in Paris (in 2006) I was asked by a company if I was "equipped to receive emails", as if it was such a new technology that it was needed to ask.

Even when you have met someone in person, and been in touched with them by email several times, when you ask them to make a transfer, or open/close a new account, they still ask you to send the request by the post (oh, non, please not the French Post !) - and what is more by expensive registered mail, so as to actually make you waste more time by going all the way to the post office, queue, and finally send the stuff.

Then, one week, sometimes two or three pass, and you still have no news of your request. You contact them again by phone or email, then, if the mail has luckily arrived, they will tell you that they haven't had time to process it yet, but it will be done the next day. Whenever they say that, be sure that you will have to wait quite a few more days, if they don't just forget again. Grr...

I had the misfortune to assume (twice) that my request had been processed, only to find out a few months later that it hadn't.

The construction industry

The construction industry in France (and French-speaking Belgium as well) has a well-deserved reputation for delays, even among French speakers. If a company tells you they can do the job in 3 months, be sure to count 6 months to 1 year. This has been caricaturised in the French film 'Asterix & Cleopatra'.

I have also seen a French TV programme about foreigners (Brits, Americans, Germans...) who wanted to buy a holiday house in France and rennovate it. The programme explained how surprised they were at how slow things were done in France. The worst of all is the one to one-and-a-half month summer holiday in the construction business, during which time absolutely nothing can be done, even by yourself, as all suppliers and shops are closed too.

Add to that the French system of notaries (which also exist in Belgium, Germany and a few other continental European countries). Once you have found a house and have agreed on the selling price with the owner, you first sign a "compromise of sale" (compromis de vente), then submit the dossier to a notary, who checks that the house does really belong to the seller, has no mortgage, is in order with the law regarding lead, asbestos, termites, that bathrooms have at least one toilet and shower or bath, that the ceiling in each room is at least 2.2m in height, and a series of other legal obligations.

As notaries are busy, and as French culture takes a sort of pride in procrastination, this process generally takes between 3 and 4 months. Only after that can you sign the final documents that will entitle you to move into the house or start rennovations. In comparison, in many English-speaking countries the same process takes less than a month, maybe even just a week.

There is something paradoxal in this; France is the country with the highest productivity (GDP per capita per hour) in the world. Maybe it is because of the country's specialisation in luxury products that sell for much higher price than regular products requiring the same amount of time to manufacture. French people can be very accommodating... if you are a millionaire staying at a luxury hotel, dining in top-class restaurants, and shopping in designers' boutiques. But for most of us, foreigner or French alike, customers are far from being kings in France...

Be well advised before doing business in France - even if you speak French fluently !
D'avance, je m'excuse d'écrire en Français, mais ce que je viens de lire m'exaspère au plus haut point...

Tu tires tout un tas de conclusions définitives sans jamais chercher à comprendre le "pourquoi du comment"...

Tu nous parles de la lenteur de la poste, mais en 30 ans de vie en France, je n'ai jamais eu aucuns problèmes avec elle, aucuns retard de courrier, aucunes lettres remises à une mauvaise adresse. Lorsque je poste une lettre, je suis sûr qu'elle arrivera à destination dans les 24 heures qui suivent. Tu as eu une mauvaise expérience, mais ce n'est pas une raison pour en faire une généralité...

Ensuite tu nous dis que tu ne comprends pas pourquoi nous sommes aussi bien classé en matière de "production de richesse", mais t'es-tu au moins intéressé aux secteurs d'activités qui font vivre la France?
Le Bâtiment (industriel, particulier ou génie civil...), l'Agriculture, le Tourisme, l'Automobile, l'Aéraunotisme, le Nautisme, la restauration, le Divertissment sont les groupes de métiers qui nous font avancer, et au lieu de t'intéresser à ceux-ci, tu mets en avant et tu caricatures des fonctions très peu représentatives de notre société...

J'ai toujours lu avec beaucoup d'intérêts tes interventions sur ce forum, mais là je suis dégoûté de voir comment tu t'es abaissé à caricaturer toute une société en ne prenant que quelques exemples foireux, et sans chercher à savoir si le français moyen se bougeait le cul au boulot...

Yes we have 5 weeks of vacations and 40 days of holidays every years, like a lot of European countries...

If you don't oppressed a worker, he will work better...
Last edited:
I think this is good...The modern society always asks us to be connected, quick, always at work, never having a break...Just calm down and relax a bit, it's not said that more efficiency = better quality life. I like French style.
Well, I read Maciamo's article.. Written in 2007.

Things may have changed now.

I understand why speaking fluently French isn't always an advance.
France is a proud country, that invented the revolution.
But it still has a lot of courtesy. Be nice, and you will be accepted better.

A lot of Dutchmen don't understand French very well, and behave like morons when they are in France.
They come home, and tell the French are a stubborn people.

It's the other way around, I have seen it so many times.

For instance, if you meet people in the morning you have to remember who you meet.
Say "bonjour" only once. If you say it a couple of times anywhere you come,
the French notice you forgot about them.

I am Dutch, and I always saw French people having respect for me talking French with some slowness.

On the other hand, in Belgium and The Netherlands, many companies have way to many managers.
With an arrogant behavior. You don't open a paper door with that in France.

That's why they like the "hot air bubble" behavior of the English and the Americans more..
But you won't get any potatoes out of the soil with it.

This thread has been viewed 21864 times.