International Business Etiquette Rules for Entrepreneurs

Some tips to remembers when you're on your next international business trip.

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By Ritu Kochar • Feb 8, 2016


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To succeed in the world of business, it becomes mandatory to understand the business of the world. While you might be a champion in business in your home country, there are a few things one must remember when taking your business international. A few etiquettes can take you a long way but a slight misreading of actions can cost your business a fortune too.

So, to make sure you don't make a mistake when you go international, we have for you a list of business customs around the world that will help you make the perfect impression.


Firstly, if you're visiting a prospective affiliate or anyone for that matter, bringing a gift is not only appreciable but also mandatory. Moreover, the gift you offer will be refused a couple of times before it is actually accepted. Showing eagerness for a present is considered a bad manner.

Shaking hands is the acceptable way of greeting. A hug or kiss, quite common practice in Western World, might be taken as offense. Also, once the meeting has ended, you are expected to allow your affiliates to leave first.


Patience is an extremely important virtue among Russians; punctuality is not. While you might be expected to be on time, your counterpart might arrive (fashionably) late. This, however, is compensated by their patience. A meeting could last for hours and one must be prepared to sit till the end, as there is no such thing as leaving fashionably early.

Alcohol is very much a part of these meeting (to everyone's delight) and denying taking a drink could be taken as offence. So is talking with your hands in pocket.


Japanese take business cards very seriously. On you first meeting with your Japanese counterpart, remember to bring loads of business cards, printed both in English and Japanese. These business card represent your business, therefore any form of disrespect to them, is disrespect to the business. DO NOT fold, tear, play or write on the card.

Another very important thing is how you greet them. Not every person will be comfortable with a handshake on the first meeting. To play it safe, learn the Japanese bow. If the handshake is initiated from the other end, only then should you go for it.

Hierarchy is an important part of Japanese culture and the same is followed when seated. Generally, the eldest person will lead the meeting, so follow their lead. Do not sit until directed or when everyone else is standing. It's rude and might lead to them forming the wrong impression about your organization.


Germans are not known for their humour and pulling the same in the interview might go unappreciated. Joking in a business meeting is less likely to be taken as funny, but more offensive. It is a measure of seriousness you have for your business. Expect pure bluntness and no personal questions. Business for them is business and should stay that way.

When starting a meeting, go for a small nod with that handshake. Germans are highly strict when it comes to entering the room, so allow the eldest person to enter first, followed by the rest of men and then women, if their age and status are roughly equivalent.

At the end of a meeting, some Germans signal their approval by rapping their knuckles on the tabletop.


Do not be all crept out when a Brazilian stands very close to you during a conversation. Intimacy is appreciated in the business culture and backslapping or hugging on the first meeting is quite normal. Quite the opposite of Germans, Brazilians need to know whom they're doing business with, so be prepared for some intimate questions about you. They will be more interested in you to build relations, not just business. Time is never a question at hand and meeting could go longer than expected.

The most important thing is eating manners. It is considered highly inappropriate if you eat with your hands. Even pizza or burger should be eaten with the use of spoon or napkin. Also, control your sneezes (however impossible it sounds) and so is blowing your nose, which could really make anyone furious when done in any part of the world.

In the next article, we will look into some other countries to edify our readers on some unspoken business etiquette rules to follow around the world. Meanwhile, if you know of some similar mannerisms we have missed out on, share them on our official Facebook Page Entrepreneur India.

Ritu Kochar

Former Staff, Entrepreneur India

Ritu used to work as a Feature writer for Entrepreneur India.

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