Our jobs can see us travel around the world to meet with clients and colleagues, from the USA and Japan to places in Europe – business can take us anywhere. As such, Irma Hunkeler from digital marketing agency, Re:signal, shares a selection of etiquette tips travellers need to know.
When you are on a business trip abroad, you need to be aware that you are representing your company and its values at all times. Each country has its own cultural and traditional norms that may seem quite startling to you, so it’s hugely important to have an understanding of how to conduct yourself professionally before you reach your destination. Here are some of the best etiquette hacks for business travellers:
Introducing yourself to a new person in the business world differs from country-to-country, although in the West, it’s usually customary to shake hands, smile and exchange eye contact, regardless of gender. Upon entering a room in Germany, you should remember to shake the hands of everyone there, including any children. In the UAE, men often greet each other with a kiss or a nose rub, but those of the opposite sex shouldn’t kiss or embrace in public. In Turkey, when you first meet someone, don’t be taken aback or recoil if the person is encroaching in your personal space, as the Turkish tend to show their friendliness by standing very close to you during a conversation.
Boardrooms reveal a lot about the differences in etiquette and approaches to business around the world. In countries like Spain and Brazil, you shouldn’t be surprised if you get interrupted while you speak, as this generally means that the other person is interested in what you have to say. If you ever head to a meeting in Japan, always remember to bring a small gift as a token of your appreciation, and give it to the most senior official there. Many countries prefer to get down to business straight away, such as Germany and Australia, while there are some that require you to engage in small talk beforehand, like Turkey, Egypt and the UAE.
Business meetings can often extend into meal-time, which is when the correct dining etiquette needs to be upheld. In places like Germany, Holland and Greece, it’s considered good manners to finish everything on your plate, while in Italy and Argentina, it’s viewed more positively if you leave some food left at the end.
Slurping your noodles or soup would be regarded as very rude in most cultures, but in Japan, the louder you slurp, the more appreciation you show to the chef! The worst faux-pas you can make in a Japanese restaurant, though, is to cross your chopsticks as it is widely believed to bring bad luck. Burping after a meal in China is permissible as it indicates that you have thoroughly enjoyed your meal. In many parts of Africa, the Middle East and India, it is frowned upon to eat with your left hand as it is considered dirty, and in most of these countries, it’s expected of you to eat without utensils.
No matter where your business takes you, demonstrating exemplary etiquette with every person you encounter will ensure that not only you come across in a good light, but your company will too.