Business is always business, but all the customs and practices surrounding it can be quite hard to follow. Not knowing the protocol and the rules of the host country can not only be embarrassing, it can harm your company’s reputation. I guess you don’t want to end up terrifying someone by trying to enforce a handshake or a hug. In business, it is not good to get off on the wrong foot, as you might never get another chance.
Thanks, but no thanks
A domestic business trip is often a walk in the park compared to a foreign one. You would be surprised how drastic the differences in negotiating styles and gift-giving customs can vary around the world. In some countries a nod means no, and a simple “okay” may earn you a reputation of a pervert in Brazil.
Showing up in a brand new suit and uttering a few phrases in native language may open many doors, but not all of them. A minor misunderstanding can lead to a scandal, and cost you a lot of time, money, and energy. It means you will do yourself and your company a favor if you research a bit.
Think of yourself as a business ambassador. You must know how to get where you want, be there on time, introduce yourself in the best way, and show respect. Don’t judge someone based upon his knowledge of the English language. All he can say may be “Hello”, but he could still be one of the richest persons in the country.
Plan everything ahead, as you are not going on a wild vacation. Keep your priorities straight, and come up with the appropriate itinerary in advance. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leave some time for rest and relaxation, in fact, please do.
You are not doing anybody a favor by showing up at a meeting worn out. Some free time to soak up the atmosphere can’t hurt, while a crowded agenda is not the best when you have to rush from a meeting to meeting through the urban jungle.
Schedule those meetings in advance, but both sides should remain flexible in case of unexpected events. You can also rely on travel agents if you want to be on a safe side, or seek out the foreign office or embassy. Ask for help once there and you will get it. Sometimes a coffee with an unassuming local guy can provide all the information about the gestures and body language you need.
Know the facts and figures. Exchange rates, time difference, weather conditions, dress code, national holidays, proper documentation, it can all make your life easier when wandering the unknown territory.
Why is this man offering me his hand?
The local customs are crucial. Your friendly attitude can be interpreted as “too friendly”, and your gift as a death threat. You don’t have to read the whole national history on the plane however. Knowing the basics will suffice, and a simple travel guide comes in handy.
General protocol and etiquette is something to keep an eye on. If you don’t know how to greet someone, how in the world are you supposed to do business? Keep in mind that you can take advantage of the mobile applications like Culture Guide to stay on the same page as people around you.
Promotional products from Cubic Promote are always a safe choice, as no misunderstanding can stem from there. Well, just don’t give it with a one hand if you are in Japan, because that is not the proper way to offer a gift. You can also prepare a business card in the native language, for it’s a nice token of appreciation.
Different styles of doing business around the globe prescribe caution when embarking on a foreign business trip. Do your homework, as you don’t want to insult the people you are trying to do business with. If you hug someone who is not comfortable even with the handshake, it could all end in laughter. But, the trouble is, you never know how the other person will react.
So it comes down to two basic rules. With the well-planned itinerary you can make the most of your time abroad, and fulfill your goals. With the working knowledge of the business culture, you can make it all an even more thrilling and lucrative experience.