You could almost bank on the fact that every day ground-breaking business deals are taking place across the globe. From small transactions to global acquisitions, money, and in business at the centre, makes the world go around.
The thing is, when these deals take place, there is a significant amount of courtesy and etiquette involved. However, in almost every country across the globe, they will have their own niche. In this article, we take a look at the various different factors worldwide.
If you choose to offer up a gift at a business meeting, ensure you know what you’re doing, otherwise a nice gesture could go completely wrong. Gift-giving is a popular business practice in Asia but be careful in other areas of the world, like here in the UK, as it can be misinterpreted as a bribe.
In China, if you decide to bring a gift from home, chances are you’ll be particularly popular. For example, Western skincare products are heavily taxed in China, so would be an appreciated gift. But something important to bear in mind is that “saving face” is also important in Eastern cultures. If your gift is very expensive, this could embarrass your Chinese business partner, so try to give a gift that could be easily reciprocated to you. In the same way, in Japan, the gift might be left to be opened later in private to avoid embarrassing you if they don’t like it. So, don’t be offended if they aren’t overcome with excitement and rip it open immediately.
Using both hands and being stood up when presenting gift is important, otherwise it is deemed disrespectful. If exchanging business cards, Read the business card with interest and place it facedown next to you on a table if you can.
If you’re dealing with Italian clients or business representatives, you may get used to a lack of punctuality. If you have a new Italian business partner and they’re slightly delayed, don’t take this as a dig or doubt their competence, expect flexibility in your deadlines. It’s just not considered a priority in that country — the same goes for Indian businesspeople. Punctuality is considered lightly in comparison to the west.
In Germany, organisation is high up on the agenda — probably because of their fantastic German mechanics, that are present in the Audi A8. Germans tend to be early and organised due to their hardworking ethic. Try not to turn up late to your meeting because this devalues their time and makes it look like you shouldn’t be taken seriously. Meetings often start on the hour so it’s probably best to arrive a few minutes earlier.
If it’s a business lunch or dinner you’re going to be attending, be sure to touch up on your etiquette in advance, and beware of different expectations depending on nationality. If you’re in India, it’s best to avoid eating beef in all circumstances — cows are considered sacred animals, so ordering a big juicy steak won’t go down well and can be a huge sign of disrespect. Indians don’t eat with cutlery, so get used to eating with your fingers — don’t shovel food in with the palms of your hands but eat neatly using the tips of your fingers. Always use your right hand, even if you’re left-handed, as the left hand is considered unclean.
In the UK, slurping is often considered rude at the dinner table — in China and Japan however it is seen as a mark of respect to the chef, declaring that you’re enjoying your meal. Be free and go ahead and drink from the bowl too, because you probably won’t have a spoon. It is considered polite to leave leftovers too, it shows that you’ve been given enough food and are satisfied.
You’ve heard of ‘going Dutch’, well, in France there is no such thing— you either pay for the meal in full or accept that someone else is covering the costs. Splitting the bill in France is considered the ultimate sign of unsophistication.
The best advice we can offer is to touch upon these handy tips but, similarly, thoroughly research the country you’re going to be visiting. Don’t let yourself end up looking like a ‘citron’ in France or ‘limone’ in Italy.