Business Etiquette Around The World

Each country has its own variety of cultures and traditions, and this is no different when it comes to business. What may be considered normal in one country could be classed as rude or offensive somewhere else and your behaviour could make or break a deal. Do your homework before attending any international meetings so you can make the best possible impression.

Japan

Japan is very conservative and this is reflected in their approach to meetings. To make the best impression dress smartly, preferably in a dark colour. Ladies should try to tone down their makeup and avoid high heels such as stilettos. After you have made a great first impression, remember to offer out your business cards and do so with both hands. For that extra special touch, translate the reverse of your business card in to Japanese.

It is highly likely that there will be a pre-determined seating plan, so wait until you are directed to a seat and ensure that you do not sit down before your hosts. It is also customary to offer gifts to your hosts; perhaps something symbolic of your home town or something non-offensive such as a pen. You should have the gift professionally wrapped, and if your guests return the favour, ensure you don’t open it until you have left the meeting.

Finally, you may be invited out to socialise after the meeting. You should of course accept. Your hosts will cover the costs, but you should offer to pay anyway. They will probably insist you drink alcohol, and they will not want to discuss business, so be prepared to engage in a little small talk.

China

In China it is extremely important to build relationships in order to do business. In other cultures a professional relationship is the result of a business deal, whereas in China a relationship is pretty much a pre-requisite. As such, you will need to be patient as it will take time for the relationship, and ensuing trust to blossom. You should also be mindful that any agreement needs to be mutually beneficial, and if the product you are selling saves the customer money, be sure to include details of that.

Before a meeting you should prepare a list of topics you wish to discuss, you should also make the effort to get your business card, and any other documentation translated in to the correct form of Chinese. When attending meetings in China you should dress sensibly, be modest and polite at all times, and try to avoid being embarrassed at all costs. If your negotiations aren’t going to plan, remain calm and try not to let your emotions to get the better of you.

Germany

The German market is saturated and as a result it is highly competitive. Companies from other countries have the immediate disadvantage that local companies tend to be favoured, so you need to work that little bit harder to impress. Even though English is widely spoken in Germany, it is wise to have documentation translated and to have an interpreter to hand. Your company should send the highest manager that it can, it needs to be a person with decision making power who has the authority to negotiate on behalf of the company.

You will find that a meeting in Germany is very formal, ensure you are prompt and shake everyone’s hand. You will also find that Germans can be very direct, and you should be too. Your presentation or negotiations need to be clear, concise and to the point. There is a very clear work/personal life divide in Germany, so a meeting is not the time for small talk. It may however, be appropriate after you have concluded business or with a few drinks later on in the evening.

If you are looking for more information about the challenges we face when dealing with other countries and cultures, this website https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/exporting-country-guides  is great place to start.

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