Doing business abroad depends on knowing about local culture and customs – it can make or break a business deal. Despite operating in an interconnected 'global village', an awareness of cultural nuances helps the international businessman to be respectful and not put his foot in it and destroy a business relationship. So, here's a guide to help you brush up on how to behave in meetings, how to greet people and be successful in the basics of business etiquette around the world.
Business in The United Kingdom
- Should be scheduled in advance with an agenda and clear objective (which is stated in the meeting invitation)
- A firm handshake, but don't crush the other person's hand! Be respectful of personal space – don't stand too close.
- When you finish , put your cutlery neatly on the plate. Instead of a business meal, you may be invited to a sporting event, or entertainment, like a concert.
Doing Business in China
- Very formal and no small talk. Do not interrupt – it is rude. Seating arrangements are planned with seniority in mind.
- Shake hands and make a little bow. The most senior people are greeted first. Introductions are made with full name, full title and company name.
- Lots of toasts during the meal. Do not serve yourself with a drink, but make sure the person next to you has a full glass. Burping at the table is allowed. Leave some food on your plate to show that you are full. There can be arguments about who will have the honour of paying for the meal.
United Arab Emirates Business Traditions
- Women should dress in a respectful way, i.e. covered. Men shouldn't make too much eye contact with women. First you have to establish trust, so don't expect to complete a deal in the first few meetings.
- Handshakes can continue for a long time. Do not try to get out of the handshake (even if it seems to go on for ever).
- Do not touch food with your left hand. Alcohol is forbidden. YOu should refuse an offer of coffee – tradition states that you should only accept coffee if it is already laid out.
Successful Business in Brazil
- Face-to-face socialising is preferred to phoning or video conferencing. Conversation can be about private matters such as family and personal lives. Meetings can sometimes start later than planned.
- People stand close to talk to each other and often touch the other person to show friendship. Even in business, men greet women with soft cheek kisses. Greet each person individually and make sure to say goodbye to everyone individually.
- Meals can go on for hours and hours – there's no rush! The host should be the person to move the conversation from business to more personal topics.
Questions for Comments Section
With any of the questions, give reasons to explain your answer! 1. Which country has the most different cultures and customs to where you are from? 2. What was the most surprising bit of information that you read above? 3. Which sounds like the best or worst place to do business?