to an old Japanese saying, "the protruding nail gets hammered down." If you've
ever committed a major faux pas in an international business meeting, you'll
appreciate this statement! In today's increasingly global business environment,
it pays to be aware of the international rules of etiquette. When you enter
into a relationship with a foreign company you conduct extensive research around
foreign operating standards, economic conditions, political environment, etc.
But it's easy to overlook the traditions, customs and etiquette of the host
nation. Of course it's important to focus on business aspects, but it's just
as important to know when to hand out business cards, when to accept a gift,
and what to order at dinner. So the next time your business takes you onto foreign
soil, check out some of the following resources beforehand. They're guaranteed
to save you from some embarrassing moments, and they just might help you close
Habits from Home
One of the trickiest things about working with foreign counterparts is the risk
that small, everyday gestures could be wildly misinterpreted. For example, nodding
your head up and down in North America signifies your agreement with a person.
But in Bulgaria, the same action would tell the person you're meeting with that
you're disagreeing with them! Physical gestures play an important role when
meeting in a foreign country. Visit the Web of Culture to find out about the
appropriate (and inappropriate) gestures of the nation you're visiting.
to wear, which title to use, how to negotiate and whether or not to bring a
gift are just some of the quandaries business travelers face. For example, Thailand,
it's customary to exchange gifts during your second business meeting. In China,
however, gift giving is considered a form of bribery and is actually illegal!
In North America, it's common to call business colleagues by their
first names, but this would be inappropriate in Japan. Japanese acquaintances
should always be addressed by their title or by their last name with the prefix
san. However, the prefix san should not be used for a child, spouse or an absent
Visiting a foreign culture can be bewildering for even the most
intrepid business traveler. A great resource that covers all of the essentials
of conducting business globally is www.executiveplanet.com.
Simply select your destination country and you'll receive an overview of cultural
do's and taboos, appropriate corporate etiquette and handy hints on conducting
business in specific areas of the world.
And don't think you can ignore foreign etiquette if you're meeting over the
Internet! Virtual meetings still need to reflect the customs and traditions
of the individuals you're meeting with so many of the same rules apply. Virtual
meetings also have the added difficulty of not physically being with the people
you're meeting. A misinterpreted sentence could lead to a major misunderstanding
with no chance for rebuttal. To learn more about the proper "netiquette" you
should follow when having virtual meetings, visit bspage.com/1netiq/Netiq.html.
The safest practice when working abroad is to do your best to "act local". By
following this mantra you can be confident that your overseas meetings will
be successful and yours hosts will appreciate your cultural sensitivity and