- Doing business in other countries provides not only commercial proposals, foreign language proficiency, professional communication skills, but also international business etiquette. Every country has its own business guidelines. If you want to establish a long-term relationship with a potential customer from another country, you should know some basics of cultural differences. We have prepared a little cheat sheet about some countries for you. Thanks for contribution to our Senior Business Development Manager Ilya Chechenev.
In comparison with the British, Americans are informal and friendly. They are easy-going, always smiling and ready to help. When you do business with Americans, don’t forget that time is money. Be direct and go straight to the business after a small talk. In the USA, business cards are not so important as in other countries. It is only the way to exchange contact information. Americans greet with a handshake. It is important to have an eye contact with your colleague. Use your job title and the last name when you introduce yourself or your American colleague. After some time, it will be appropriate to use only first name. Dress code can be formal and casual, depending on company policy. It is rude to interrupt someone during the meeting, but it is desirable to participate and speak up. Contrary to friendly atmosphere, don’t forget about meeting agenda and meeting follow-ups. It is okay to express your opinion or disagreement. The result is a focus of businesses in the USA.
One of the main features of business etiquette in Britain is formality. Be punctual, if late, you should call and warn about it. Call people by their title and last name when you initiate business conversation or during business meetings. Small tбля можalks in GB and USA are totally different. Avoid asking the personal questions, be friendly, polite and talk about something abstractive (weather, for example). Go easy on small talks, during business meeting go straight to business, talk in complete sentences. Business cards should be exchanged at the end of the meetings. Note, that American English and British English have differences in business correspondence.
When you are preparing for a business meeting with Japanese C-Level or Corporate Company you should forget about casual style and get ready to wear a suit (even when you talk via Skype video). But if you visit development office your style can be less formal. Usually, the main rule of the first meeting is to listen more, than ask. You will be directed to the seat by the leader of the meeting, because it indicated the status of the participants. Only when the leader of the meeting (at the end of the negotiations) will stand up you can do the same. Don’t forget to buy a small gift to your host. It is considered bad manners to open a gift in public – remember about it when you will receive something. Colleagues with equal titles should bend at equal angles during the bow. If the titles are different, person with the lowest title should bend lower. In case of ignoring Japanese business etiquette, you can lose your business contacts and gain a reputation of a dabble.
Be prepared that Indians can be rarely on time, but it is expected that you are always punctual. Schedule all the appointments in advance (3-4 months) if it is possible. Be open-minded and friendly, small talks are accepted. When equal participants of the meeting disagree about something, they should avoid discussing it, because it is regarded aggressive. But superior participant of the meeting can share their disagreement. In India business language is English. What is important in India is hierarchy, so keep in mind, that you need the highest person in the business that you can reach. Remember, that Indians don’t say “No” directly, so you must record all the arrangements. Also, business in India is male- centric, so it is will be easier to establish business contacts for male representative of your company.
South Africans are often don’t want to deal with those people they haven’t met. It is important to have some introduction in advance from mutual contact. It will help to establish business relationship. During the first business meeting, be prepared to talk about yourself and be a good listener, because it is essential for South Africans to trust you as a person first. After conversation you can move on to matters. You should wear suit and tie. No casual or informal style. Be polite and never raise your voice during the meeting. Small gift is a sign of good manner. Don’t forget about body language – it is rude to point your index finger at people, and the ‘V’ for victory sign is considered bawdy. When you have a conversation with anyone don’t keep your hands in the pockets.
Punctuality and diligence are main features of German business etiquette. Be prepared to show up slightly early for meeting, but never late. Small gifts, such as bottle of wine or expensive equipment will be approved. Shake hands with German colleagues before and after the meeting. Don’t forget about the formal drees code. When German colleague will remove jacket or tie it is a signal that you can do the same thing. If you are invited to the colleagues’ house, you should bring flowers or sweets as a gift. Germans like to receive agenda in advance, but sometimes they won’t follow the reached agreements.
Finns as Germans like punctuality. They follow their schedules and are aimed to be productive. Business meetings will start and end at agreed time. No surprises, they have their own timetable. Finns are not very talkative people, they don’t ask many questions – so be prepared with detailed presentation or proposal. Usually, Finns make decisions not very quickly, they need time to think and analyze. They are not ready to hang out for better terms. Like the British, Finns prefer to talk about the weather during the small talk. Bring a small and not expensive gift to your colleagues’ home. Flowers, chocolate or wine. But remember that white and yellow flowers are common for funerals and expensive gifts can be regarded as a bribe. However, it is not accepted to exchange gifts in business meetings.