quick international business etiquette tips
One of the most important aspects of being successful in international business ventures is learning and understanding the cultural context, traditions, customs and expectations of your counterparties. We will look in-depth at many intercultural business issues in the time ahead. But for a starter, here are a few quick international business etiquette tidbits to consider.
Japan - When planning to visit for business, bring some small token gifts - always wrapped - and present them with a little bit of personal ceremony. The nature or price of the gift is irrelevant. It is the pleasure of giving and receiving the gift which is important and is greeted with delight. Do not expect your gift to be opened in front of you. It will be saved and opened with relish in private.
Latin America - Especially for ladies, make sure your grooming is well-tended to. Nails done, hair coiffed, makeup on, crisp clothing, polished shoes, etc. It is a sign of respect that you are presenting when you present yourself with polish.
Italy - If you are given an offer of employment, either accept it or reject it. It is considered "vulgar" to try to negotiate a better deal for yourself when provided with an offer.
Asia, especially, but this is a good idea everywhere - Treat business cards with respect. Accept them with both hands, study it for a moment and keep it visible to you if presented prior to your meeting. Do Not stuff it into your pocket, fold it, write on it, or as we heard of one person doing, use the corner to clean your finger nails during a meeting.
Spain & Denmark - Adjust your private space zone when talking business with Spaniards, who like to stand very close. Do not step away to increase your private space or it may be seen as a sign of disrespet. This is the opposite of the Danish people, who prefer more space. Americans generally consider 18-inches between individuals a comfortable zone. Others feel differently.
Germany - Germans generally prefer more formality in their business dealings. Personal relationships are not required for successful business transactions. They opt for and appreciate direct communication, punctuality, written agendas for meetings (that are followed!) and conservative dress in busines meetings.
France - Like Germans, French may also be direct in business communications, asking incisive and astute questions that may verge on blunt. However, trust and respect based on relationship is important in creating business alliances. Meetings are often used to discuss issues, areas of concern, topical matters and so forth - not to make a decision on the spur of the moment.
India - Punctuality is not as highly prized in India business dealings as in many other countries. You could find yourself waiting some time even for a scheduled appointment. Be flexible and allow for margins of time with regard to your business metings. Also, be prepared for a lot of interruptions, which allow for Indians to "multi-task" during the meeting. We were in one meeting where our Indian counterparty took no less than 5 phone calls on his cell phone during a one-hour meeting. It is not a sign of disrespect, it is just a cultural difference.
Dubai - When shaking hands, use your right hand, as the left is considered unclean, and expect the handshake to be much gentler than in West. If you are a woman, you will need to extend your hand first, as it is considered inappropriate for a man to offer to shake your hand first. Refrain from multi-tasking and sit up straight in your meetings (e.g., checking your email or smartphone). Meetings generally start with a little chitchat before getting to the business matters to be discussed.
Western Europe - many people in these countries take vacation in late July and August, so it is best not to schedule meetings there during this time.
Also, for all your business dealings, it is a wonderful sign of respect, appreciation, and trust-building when you learn to speak the language of your counterparty. It may not be possible for you to become fluent in the languages of all the countries in which you plan to do business, but it is important, at a minimum, to provide some words of greeting and introduction to your counterparties. We will help you here in future issues with some of those phrases and greetings to get you started.