Value Added Tax
➤ France's VAT is called TVA. It is 19.6 percent, and it applies to all trade show materials and services provided in France.
➤ U.S. companies should file for VAT refunds. A reputable VAT reclamation company will know the regulations and documentation required.
➤ 220 volts
➤ Show organizers typically take care of aisle cleaning during I&D at no additional extra charge.
➤ Fees for trash and building-materials removal will be set by the show contractor.
➤ Disposal of build-and-burn exhibits generally runs $300 per cubic meter (which is approximately 35.3 cubic feet) depending on the show.
➤ Cellphone rental is expensive, so use a disposable phone preloaded with talk time.
➤ Have a local supplier purchase SIM cards for you.
➤ Music rights can be obtained from www.sacem.fr
➤ To play music in a booth or feature live music, DJs, or other in-booth performances, exhibitors must receive approval from show management, which will set a limit on the decibel level.
➤ Smoking is illegal inside public spaces.
➤ Beginning in February 2008, it became illegal to smoke in bars, night clubs, and restaurants.
Greetings and Culture
➤ The common greeting in French is "Bon jour," which should be followed by "madame" or "monsier." Use "madame" for all women except young girls, who are called "mademoiselle."
➤ Greetings are always followed by a handshake. A more familiar greeting might include a kiss on both cheeks, which is given regardless of the sex of either person. Whether a handshake or kiss, the action is repeated upon parting.
➤ In-booth hospitality is common in Paris, especially if you intend to conduct meetings in your exhibit. Even most small booths offer some refreshments for visitors.
Coffee, juice, bottled water, and sodas are common beverages, as are beer and wine. Whiskey and vodka are often served in larger exhibits.
➤ The amount of food served in exhibits also tends to increase with the size of an exhibit, with smaller exhibits offering packaged snacks such as chips, peanuts, or pretzels. Larger exhibits will offer breakfast pastries, cakes or pies, sandwiches, appetizers, and other catered foods. It is against the law to bring fresh foods or to prepare foods yourself (other than for your own consumption) in the exhibit hall.
➤ Many exhibitors will serve alcohol, and there are no special permits needed.
➤ While English is the lingua franca of business, having personnel who can speak or translate into French and German is helpful. French people who speak English usually have studied the British version, so expect some small language barriers even if attendees speak English fluently.
➤ Translating graphics into French is a good idea, and having promotional literature in English, French, and German is advisable.
➤ English-only business cards are acceptable.
➤ While casual attire might be appropriate in certain industries, business people generally dress conservatively. Men and women should invest in business clothing that is well-made and reflects Paris' status as the fashion capital of the modern world.
➤ Business attitudes in France tend to be conservative, so tattoos and body piercings should be covered, and jewelry should be worn conservatively. Generally, whatever is acceptable in your industry in the United States is acceptable in Paris.
Installation and Dismantle
➤ There are no labor unions for I&D in Paris. Exhibitors are allowed to carry in and erect their own booths if they wish. Be advised that there are also no I&D companies as in the United States. Most exhibition stand I&D is carried out by the exhibit builder.
➤ A good local exhibit house will arrange I&D labor in advance, as local show labor can be hit and miss. Walk-up labor will need to be provided with tools, ladders, and other materials U.S. companies expect I&D labor to carry at domestic shows.
➤ Any additional labor needed should be arranged through the show contractor prior to the show. Generally, laborers will not speak English, so request a supervisor who speaks English if you are not fluent in French.
➤ Labor rates are generally charged per hour for eight hours, and rates go up for overtime hours, weekends, and holidays.
➤ Electrical connections are generally provided by the venue. It is up to your exhibit builder to connect your electrical devices to the corresponding venue outlets. Make sure you bring any necessary electrical adapters.
General Facts and Tips
➤ Business in France - and Europe in general - is built upon relationships. It is important to listen to attendees and spend time with them at a show, so avoid rushing prospects in and out of your booth.
➤ Public transportation is very accessible in Paris, but keep watch on the frequent strikes that affect rail or bus service, and have a back-up plan just in case.
➤ Regulatory hurdles, such as fire inspections and material usage, can be frustrating in Paris. Make sure to submit booth plans in a timely manner as prescribed by show management in your exhibitor guide.
➤ Carrefour is the French version of Wal-Mart, and can be a source of last-minute necessities such as printer paper, pre-packaged snacks for the booth, bottled water, etc.
➤ Both main convention centers, Paris-Nord/Villepinte and Le Bourget, are outside the city near the airport. If you are staying in central Paris, allow approximately half an hour of travel time each way.
➤ The Palais de Congres has low ceilings and cannot accommodate booths much higher than 10 feet.
➤ Submit dimensional drawings of your exhibits to show management for approval. Structures higher than 13 feet need to be approved by the independent safety organization that is hired by show management.
➤ Most venues require a "certificate of conformity for the electrical installation" that places responsibility for proper electrical hook-ups directly with the exhibit house or client.
➤ France has strict rules regarding the use of certain materials, particularly plain wood, glass, and Plexiglas. Check with an exhibit house that has experience in France and is familiar with the regulations.
➤ Fire marshals in France have final responsibility for all venues. Follow their instructions to avoid fines.