Creating a guide for a business traveler is not an easy thing, especially if it’s international travel we’re talking about. Sure, flight etiquette and tips to fight boredom are always the same, but everything else differs from country to country. There are different rules of urban commute, different dinner etiquette (which is particularly important in the business world) and different rules of negotiation. Therefore, the only guides you would ever be able to apply are those that are country-specific.
Still, for those who are frequent travelers to more than one country, this might get a bit tricky, seeing as how it isn’t that hard to mix up tips that go for countries belonging to a seemingly similar culture. This is why it might be quite useful to have all of this in one place or, at least, spread across several articles. With this in mind, here’s a guide that covers five major commercial hubs of the world that might just make life easier for many business travelers out there.
In the western world, being too reserved in a meeting may be interpreted as a bad thing, while in Japan, it is considered a thing of basic etiquette. During a Japanese business dinner, you do not talk about your personal life, not even during those long moments of awkward silence. Secondly, keep in mind that in Japan, punctuality is crucial and no matter how good your excuse is, it won’t do you much good (especially during the first meeting).
One of the most important things you need to know is the fact that exchanging business cards is almost a ritual in Japan. The person of a higher rank is supposed to be the first one to present a business card. Moreover, both parties should use both of their hands when giving and receiving cards. Most importantly, you need to keep the card on display for the entire duration of the meeting and examine it closely (or at least pretend to do so) before you tuck it away in your wallet.
As for China, you would be surprised just how different a country so close to Japan can be. Flight delays are simply a part of life in China, which means that those with a bit less flexible schedule might not be able to make it. Speaking of flexibility, this needs to apply to your business ethics as well, which is not something that a lot of foreign business partners are used to. Because of this, trust always comes before friendship, so don’t be surprised if you fail to bond over the course of a single dinner. Finally, remember that China is the breeding ground for some of the most notorious hackers out there, so make sure to be extra careful with your devices.
Moving a bit closer to the western hemisphere, Australia has its own set of rules of conduct that you would be wise to abide by. First of all, Australian business etiquette is, more or less, similar to what you’ve seen in the States, which means some degree of small talk about personal matters is a great ice-breaker at the very beginning.
Apart from this, making a great first impression is important and while you want to stay humble in your interactions, your appearance needs to talk about grandeur. Your non-verbal communication needs to be sophisticated and your appearance flawless. In fact, upon your arrival at the airport, it might even be a good idea to hire a Sydney Airport chauffeur, especially if you’re heading to the meeting straight away. This alone can send a powerful message about your business status.
Even though most rules apply universally to the Western culture group, you need to realize that there are still numerous variations you should keep in mind, and France is a prime example of that. Addressing people with “Monsieur” or “Madame” is something you should do even when speaking English. When introducing yourself, you should always use both your first and last name. Unlike in the English speaking world where firm handshakes are indicators of authority, a brisk, light handshake is customary even between males, and a business attire is mandatory, regardless of the day of the week. Lastly, it always helps to have one side of your business card in French.
Back to Asia, India may be a sub-continent, but make no mistake, when it comes to culture, customs and etiquette, it’s a world of its own. Mosquitoes are a huge issue so make sure to get vaccinated prior to booking your flight. Moreover, the purity of the water is a legitimate concern, even in reliable-looking hotels, which is why you should probably stick to mineral water. This is especially important, seeing as how it is a hot country and you need to stay well-hydrated throughout the day. Lastly, make sure to pronounce your partner’s name appropriately even if it means asking them to repeat it several times.
As you can see, sometimes, these differences are subtle and intuitive, but at times, they can go to extremes. While these five destinations cover some of the major business hubs, there are still many other vital regions to cover. That, nevertheless, is a story for another time.
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