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International Business Etiquette Tips
Your Business Will Appreciate

It pays to be familiar with some key international business etiquette tips when doing business abroad. The purpose of all business trips is to benefit your business. Modern business world is getting increasingly global and requires business people to travel all over the world and communicate with customers and colleagues of different cultures.

Glass of water, coffee cup and papers on a business meeting table

Being familiar with local business etiquette
can improve your international business success

Each culture has its own etiquette rules, many of them unwritten. Business dinner etiquette, dress etiquette, gift giving etiquette, and so on varies greatly between countries and different cultures.

Knowing how to behave in variety of business situations will help build productive business relationships. Good business relationships result in better business outcome.

Anyone working on the international stage needs to understand and appreciate the importance of international business etiquette.

Become Familiar With The Local Customs

You might remember the HSBC advertising campaign “The world's local bank”... where they emphasize the importance of knowing the local customs as the same object or gesture can have very different meaning in different countries or cultures. The message is clear - never underestimate the importance of local knowledge.

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If you are travelling internationally on business, you should always familiarize yourself beforehand with the local customs of your destination.

It cannot only save you from embarrassment, your foreign business partners are likely to appreciate your effort resulting in more productive business relationships.

There are many ways for you to find out about the local customs. The internet is of course a great source of international business etiquette information but if you have local colleagues or business partners, you could seek their advice. The local people always have the best local knowledge.

Business Dress Etiquette

Where business dress etiquette is concerned, the keyword is always conservative. When travelling on business you should always dress conservatively, no matter which country you are doing business in. However, you will need to take extra measures if travelling to some countries / cultures.

Always make sure your clothes are clean and wrinkle free and pay close attention to personal hygiene and grooming.

Tie on shirt

Conservative Attire Is Best
When Travelling On Business

For business men, conservative business suit is acceptable in most, if not all, cultures. Darker colors are popular choice and you should wear a formal tie (i.e. “fun” ties should be avoided on business trips).

The dress etiquette for business women is somewhat more complex. They should always opt for conventional and modest business attire. Good grooming (hair and makeup) is important part of the overall look, but excessive use of makeup should be avoided.

In the more conservative countries, long sleeves and long skirts are usually expected. Loose fitted clothes with bare or minimal makeup could even be required.

Always seek local advice about the dress etiquette if you are in any doubt about what is appropriate and what is not. Also, check in advance the dress code for any specific events you will be attending, i.e. conferences, formal business dinners, etc.

Business Meeting Etiquette

How to conduct business varies greatly between countries and cultures. It is important to seek local advice if in any doubt what expected of you during your business meetings. It is important to follow the right international business etiquette to avoid unintentionally offending anyone.

Among the international business etiquette issues you should know how to address are:

First impressions do last so how you greet and address the people you are doing business with is important. Should you address them by their first name or not, who to address first, should you shake hands or not, and so on.

In many countries, there are business meeting etiquette rules for when and how to exchange business cards. In some countries, you simply pass the business card over the table and forget all about it, while in other countries it is good etiquette to examine the card and make a positive comment about it.

While in the Arab world, you should never give or accept a business card with your left hand, and so on. The best international business etiquette tip is therefore to be respectful every time you exchange business cards.

Know which topics of conversation are welcome and stay away from any unwelcome topics (religion and politics are topics that can be sensitive and are usually best avoided).

You should not only take care of what you say, you must also take care of how you say it. For example, some cultures talk more loudly then others, while some speak more directly then others. Some cultures tolerate interrupting others while speaking while other cultures would consider such behavior as rude and offensive.

How much personal space and physical contact is allowed varies greatly between cultures. Always respect the personal space of the people you meet and pay attention to how close you stand to people when talking to them. Also, limit physical contact to avoid accidently offending anyone.

Turn your cell phone off during business meetings. If you really need to make or receive a call, inform the people you are meeting with in advance and make the phone call as quick and discreet as possible.

Top International Business Etiquette Tips

When addressing someone in business, formality is always the safest bet. It is best to use surnames and titles until invited to do differently.

Dinner Etiquette
And How To Avoid The Entertaining Pitfalls

Social interaction plays an important role in any business relationship, which means that business dinners and entertainment are inevitable part of most business trips.

Good table manners are important aspect of all international business etiquette. What is considered good table manners however vary greatly between countries. Speaking with your mouth full is acceptable in some cultures, while considered extremely rude in others.

Business dinner with sushi

Acceptable Table Manners
Can Vary Between Countries

Arriving on time is usually considered polite but in some cultures, you can be considered greedy or too keen if you arrive early. Seek local advice beforehand if you can, or try to take cues from your hosts.

Business dinners and entertainment should be enjoyable but it is important never to “lose face”. Wherever you are in the world, be careful never to overdo it or behave out of order.

It is especially important to show restrain when drinking is involved as alcohol can seriously affect your judgment. Avoid making any kind of obscene gestures and always be respectful when interacting with the opposite sex.

Always behave respectfully towards your business counterparts, including your colleagues. Travelling with someone on business means that you get to know each other differently than if only working in the same office.

The mood is usually less formal and you might share thoughts and feelings of more personal nature than you normally would. It is however important that you respect the boundaries and keep your informal conversations between yourselves.

Business Gift Giving Etiquette

Again, the international business etiquette differs when it comes to giving and receiving business gifts. Gift giving etiquette includes what to give, when to give it, how to give it, how to receive gift, should you open the gift in front of the giver, and so on.

The first important rule is to make sure your gift is appropriate - you should always seek local advice if unsure about the gift you are planning to give. However, it is not only what you give, it is also important that your gift is in proportion with local customs, i.e. not too extravagant nor too small.

Top International Business Etiquette Tips

Giving gifts and sending follow up thank you note to the individual or organization that looked after you on your business trip is not only polite... it is a simple gesture that is likely to be remembered favorably for a long time and help you to strengthen your business relationship.

Importance Of International Business Etiquette

Anyone working on the international stage needs to appreciate the importance of international business etiquette.

We at Top Travel Tips recommend researching in advance the customs and etiquette of the country you are doing business in - your business will definitely benefit from it. Your business counterparts are likely to view your efforts favorably, resulting in more productive business relationship.

Ps. if you are flying on business class, then you might want to have a look at our Business Class Etiquette Tips.