Business culture around the world varies widely in its mannerisms. While most unique business culture is becoming more homogenous and similar to Western-style business etiquette, there are still many areas where it is considered strange and outside of custom to shake hands or even make direct eye contact.
It can be daunting during travel if one is not aware of local customs, and can even force friendly business relationships to go south if not handled with knowledge and understanding. Business and related articles from websites of the country or region in question can help. On a smaller scale, let’s explore a quick round-up of some business etiquette tips from around the world.
When traveling on business in Asia, it is best to be “businesslike” and stoic. Keep your emotions under the hood, and generally be very polite. A lot of Asian businessmen are likely to speak English, as there is more foreign business and foreign government representation in East Asia than ever. Asian and especially Confucian (found primarily in China) culture promotes collective harmony.
This means that when people act individually to set themselves apart, it is generally regarded as disturbing the peace. Much like everywhere else in the world, relationships are highly important to business and familiar acquaintance with business partners should be striven for. Keep in mind that looking a person in the eye when shaking his or her hand can be considered confrontational. Keep the handshake short and respectful.
Upon meeting Northern Europeans for the first time, look them straight in the eye and shake their hand firmly. They may introduce themselves with only their last names, and this is not to be intended as disrespectful; it simply means that they do not share their first name until they know you better. Keep all business proceedings short and to the point. Try not to talk about inconsequential things or personal issues. When riding the elevator, don’t try to start conversation, as some Northern Europeans see this as an infringement of personal space.
In contrast to Northern Europeans, Southern Europeans are more likely to start up personal conversation and spend a long time talking about items unrelated to the current business discussion. Try to deal with this gracefully, even if it comes off as a bit annoying to you. In addition, do not expect all business proceedings to occur on time. Southern Europeans are generally not as early to meetings as Northern Europeans and Asians.
Of all the areas included in this article, Eastern Europe are the most likely to have business people that do not speak English due to a lack of foreign government representation in many areas. Prepare accordingly and try to get at least two translators to go with you throughout the day. Like Southern Europeans, Eastern Europeans are not always on time to all meetings, so keep this in mind and be patient in your new surroundings.
Japanese Steelworks Reception Hall image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons