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How to Practice Good International Business Etiquette

Expanding into the international market can be a great way to grow your business, but committing a cultural faux pas can bring a blow to your business deal.


  • Step 1: Exchange business cards when appropriate. Japan places a lot of importance on business cards, so if conducting business in Japan be sure to admire the card for a few seconds before putting it in your pocket.
  • TIP: When appropriate, have one side of your business card in English and the other side in the national language of the country you're doing business with.
  • Step 2: Drink alcohol only if it is appropriate, and be sure to drink in moderation.
  • FACT: In 2007, actor Richard Gere caused a national controversy in India after kissing a Bollywood actress on the cheek at an event to promote AIDS awareness in New Delhi.
  • Step 3: When you arrive at your destination, dress, talk, and act in accordance with the culture. Hire a local liaison to help you understand the etiquette of your destination.
  • Step 4: Try to minimize the effects of jet lag when traveling, as it could have a negative effect on your international business. Before traveling, get plenty of rest and set your watch to your destination's timezone. Stay hydrated on the airplane, and sleep only if it is nighttime at your destination. Arrive at least a day before your meeting to settle in, if possible.
  • Step 5: Become familiar with the body language of the country you are visiting. Body language is not an international constant, a friendly gesture in one culture could be seen as offensive in another.
  • Step 6: Learn a few basic words and phrases in the language of the country you are visiting. You'll make a good first impression if you can say "Hello, how are you?" in the native language.
  • TIP: Bring your own interpreter as theirs will not necessarily have your interest in mind.
  • Step 7: Understand gender etiquette. Different cultures have different rules on what is considered appropriate when it comes to contact between men and women.
  • Step 8: Research the business and personal etiquette of the country you are visiting. Pick up key facts about their culture online or by reading a travel book.

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