When you start to do business with different countries, you can easily notice that some countries have unique business etiquette. Typical example that I remember immediately is formal and highly ceremonious exchange of business cards in Japanese culture. When receiving a card, a Japanese person takes it with both hands, reads it over carefully with keeping eye contact with you. The business card exchange is a way of expressing the importance one places on an encounter. There are many different examples like this in cultural behaviours in doing business internationally. Globalization may decrease differences in business etiquette of cultures, but it may not eliminate totally. I believe lack of familiarity with a country's cultural business etiquette remains an important issue. So I would like to share quick useful tips for some countries with you.
1- In France it is vital to ensure that you make appointments for both business and social occasions. It is not acceptable in France to ‘drop in’ on someone unannounced and such conduct will be taken as an act of rudeness, whatever the occasion. But this can be different in South France and North France. South France is more casual on punctuality.
2- Fashion and appearance are much more important in France than in most other countries in the world. The concept of ‘Casual Friday’ is not widely known in the French workplace. So don’t automatically turn up to work in your nice weekend sweater and sneakers.
3- The French business lunch is an experience in itself. Be ready for a style of dining that is formal and long. A very important rule in French dining etiquette is to keep your hands resting on the table, never on your lap.
1- Avoid saying 'no' directly. Instead, indicate disagreement or reluctance by inhaling air through closed teeth, tipping your head backwards and/or saying 'maybe.'
2- A 'yes' answer is often an acknowledgement of something being discussed or conveyed, and does not necessarily mean agreement.
3- Don't write anything with red ink as it's considered bad luck.
4- Collectivity and teamwork are valued in Korean business transactions.
1- Bowing which is a standard Japanese greeting is common when businesspeople meet each other. When bowing you should always bow deepest to the most senior man. Japanese business culture values its elders for the wisdom and experience they provide to the company.
2- You should stand at your seat and wait for the top level person to tell you to be seated. Then, when the meeting is finished, wait until he has stood up before standing up yourself.
3- Keep your hands out of your pockets while speaking to someone.
4- Avoid pointing at people with a finger to make a point. Pointing, whether with fingers or chopsticks, is considered especially rude in Japan.
1- First names should normally be used, but titles are important. When meeting and greeting expect a firm handshake, often for a long time, combined with strong eye contact.
2- There is a relationship based business. The individual they deal with is more important than the company.
3- Communication is often informal and does not rely on strict rules of protocol. Anyone who feels they have something to say will generally add their opinion.
4- Good conversation topics include football, family, children and music. Bad conversation topics include politics, poverty, religion and the rainforest.
1- When you present your own card or receive someone else's, hold the card with both hands. Grabbing a card with one hand and putting in a pocket without examining it will give the impression that you are not taking the meeting seriously.
2- The seating is typically arranged by rank. The host should escort the senior-most guest to his or her seat as well as any VIP guests.
3- During any conversation, the Chinese will often nod their heads or make affirmative utterances. These are signals that they are listening to what is being said and understand what is being said. These are not agreements to what is being said.
1- Always be punctual when doing business in Russia. However do not take offense if your Russian counterpart is not.
2- Russians will greet strangers with a firm, almost bone-crushing handshake (when men shake hands with women, the handshake is less firm) while maintaining direct eye contact. Until invited to do so, don’t use first names, as it is important to respect authority and formality.
3- There is an old Russian proverb: “They meet you depending on how you’re dressed and they say good-bye depending on how wise you seem.” Russian people generally pay a lot of attention to their clothing.
These are some of typical behaviours based on observations and experiences, but I think we should not generalize them too much for countries, sometimes we see big differences in cultural norms within different profiles in countries like South-North or new-old generations. I will continue to add tips for other countries in my further posts.