Are you a competent executive, but don’t know anything about proper cultural practices, customs, and protocols in other countries? Knowing the right cultural cues and practices is very valuable to create sustainable and profitable relationships when doing international business.
Here are 12 quick tips to increase your awareness and increase your success: –
1) In the East Asian boardroom, which involves new business acquaintances, many executives will arrange the business cards of the participants by the way they sit at the table, so they can be sure to know the right name, title and place it right in the company hierarchy.
2) If you do business in East Asia, be prepared to bring lots of business cards. You will use more than in North America during conferences or similar meetings. Understand the protocol for giving, receiving, handling and storing business cards. Never write on a business card. Store in a classy place above your waist. Using a back pocket or wallet for this purpose won’t work, gentlemen.
3) For men – it’s not uncommon in the Middle East for your local male colleague or client to hold your hand while walking. This means they like and trust you. Be warned, if you think that your hands have suddenly become damp, as a result.
4) In many countries, you can meet local residents in just a few minutes, who may ask rude questions that we usually consider very personal. An example is: Are you married? How many children do you have? Why don’t you have kids? Why are not you married, yet? What is your religion? What do you think of my religion (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam)? How old are you? How much money do you make? Why isn’t your husband traveling with you? If you are American or British, know that you might be asked about politics about your country’s current foreign policy.
5) It is not only important to know how and when to give and receive gifts in business, but how to wrap and present them. In many cultures, how a gift is wrapped and presented is as important as the gift itself. In East Asia and other parts of Asia, prizes are not opened in front of the giver, to save face. You must also refrain from opening their gifts to you, in front of them.
6) Table manners and what is acceptable varies greatly depending on the region. For example, belching while eating is acceptable in some parts of the Middle East, but not in England. In Britain and France, it is common practice to use knives and forks when eating sandwiches or hamburgers. In China, you use chopsticks to serve your portion of ordinary dishes.
7) Spitting in public is accepted in Japan, but blowing your nosepublik isn’t. A Japanese finds it disgusting when they see Westerners blowing their noses and putting used tissue or handkerchiefs in pockets or handbags.
8) In South Africa, when they say, “I will see you now,” that means they will see you later.
9) In the UK, pension schemes mean pension plans in America. Putting a discussion in America means putting it off. In the UK, that means issuing topics for the current discussion.
10) When Germany whistles at a soccer match, they mock.
11) Beckoning someone with a curved index finger in Southeast Asia and Australia is rude.
12) Women, dressed in conservative clothing, with minimalist jewelry and wearing neutral colors are recommended in East Asia and the Middle East. What is considered acceptable, professional business attire in the US, is not de rigueur in the UAE, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where the knees, shoulders, and arms are always covered, and the neck of the blouse at least touches the collarbone. Dark conservative skirt suits are acceptable in some countries, not suitable in India, where colorful and flowing clothing is the norm.
Doing business abroad without or little cross-cultural training is tantamount to dealing with disasters. Some professional sources cite a 30-60% failure rate where there is no cultural preparedness. Do your homework to ensure lasting, professional and profitable international relations.