Small cultural nuances can loom large in a business setting. While it isn’t practical to cover all of the standard practices of every world culture here, the 10 guidelines below will make you a welcome guest and business partner no matter where in the world your next meeting takes you.
1. Always err on the side of formality. For example, don’t use first names in business dealings until you are given permission to do so.
2. Keep jokes to a minimum.
3. Err on the conservative/formal side in dress.
4. Follow your hosts’ lead in terms of personal space.
5. Use clear language without slang, sports analogies, or sayings that don’t make sense when translated literally.
6. Put everything in writing to avoid misunderstandings.
7. Use the phone for your initial conversations in order to build a rapport with your international contacts. (But remember to recap all verbal interactions in writing.)
8. Don’t expect immediate responses to your Saturday morning e-mails. Weekends and holidays are truly days off in most other countries.
9. If lunch is on your site visit agenda, expect to linger. Lunch in many countries is the most important meal of the day.
10. Don’t jump right into business without a period of socializing first. This is considered rude in many countries.
Source: Agnès Canonica, CMP, CMM, General Manager, North America and Latin America, MD Events, Philadelphia