When in Rome, do as the Romans.
This statement becomes very apt when doing business. Around the world, different cultures have different means and ways of doing business. The values differ and so do mannerisms. Hence, when on a business trip, it is best to understand and conform to these etiquettes. Not only will you and your business be recognized but it will also make them respect your culture.
Little manners go a long way and if you have the same in mind, we have for you some tips to understand how business is done around the world.
While it is a belief that every business meeting in India starts with people greeting one another with a hand-joined ‘Namaste’, one couldn't be more wrong. While your knowledge of our culture is appreciated, it is absolutely normal to greet with a hello and hand shake.
Indians seem to have an image of being orthodox Hindus across the world. This, however, is a generalized statement and not every person will be offended when you order a juicy steak or beef burger on your business meal. But one thing to keep in mind is that since majority of the population in India is Hindu and cows are sacred to them, it is probably best to ask before you do order one.
Also, it is all right to enter Indian houses wearing your shoes. If the host wants you to take your shoes off, which rarely happens, you will be told.
French business behavior emphasizes courtesy and a degree of formality. They are serious people, so being over friendly on your first business meeting might give them the wrong impression. When greeting a woman, a kiss on the cheek is considered all right or a handshake suffices too.
In business, the French often appear extremely direct because they are not afraid of asking probing questions. Moreover, if you cannot speak French or barely manage to speak it, an apology will be appreciated. French appreciate food, so do not be surprised when a lunch meeting is extended by an hour or two.
Gifting is another thing to bear in mind. You should either buy a high-quality gift or none at all. If sending flowers, make sure they are odd in number, but never thirteen. Some older French retain old-style prohibitions against receiving certain flowers: White lilies or chrysanthemums as they are used at funerals; red carnations as they symbolize bad will; any white flowers as they are used at weddings. Choose your flowers carefully.
Spaniards are laid back for whom time is of no consequence. Saying that will be taking it too far, but when it comes to deadlines, people of Spain take them more like guidelines. They are not mandatory for either end of the business. The Spaniards often consider them an objective that will be met if possible, but do not become overly concerned if the deadline is not achieved.
Politeness is not ignored, but you could be interuppted a number of times during a conversation. Do not take it for their lack of respect for what you’re saying, rather, it is a sigh of their interest in what you’re saying. Like the Brazilians, people of Spain will actually try to know you before forming a business relation. Sufficient time is spent on building a relationship and it's all right if there are no actual business talks during you first meeting.
A rare dress custom British people follow is that on a meeting, a man should never wear shirts with breast pockets, and if they do, it should be empty. British people are highly formal and time conscious. To be on the safe side, be a little early, but never late. The meetings could be rushed through, leaving no time for chit-chat. They respect privacy and when in England, so should you.When dining out, toasting those elder to you is not considered polite.
Eye contact is seldom maintained during conversations and if maintained, it’s not prolonged. Do not take it as a sigh of indifference, but a way of speaking. Another peculiar habit one might come across in a business meeting with a British is them tapping their nose when a meeting starts. This is not how every meeting in England starts but only when the matter discussed in the meeting is supposedly confidential; a symbol of keeping the meeting private. Do not make the rookie mistake of laughing at it.
Unlike Spain or Brazil, people in New Zealand respect their and your time, so always be early or before time. Though meeting are a serious affair, they are generally relaxed. However, honesty is appreciated and they are not big fans of hyperbole. Be direct as they will be too.
Negotiations can take time, but New Zealanders do not like to haggle over price. Money is valued but this is not a bargain culture.
Dinners are specifically for social interactions, so make sure that you do not plan business dinners. Only discuss business over lunch, that too before or after. During meals, the conversations should be kept at a minimum.
We hope we were helpful in helping you get a head start when taking your business to a global level. We also explored some unique business customs in China, Russia, Japan, Germany and Brazil. You can read about them here.