How to Avoid Offending International Business Partners

Heading overseas for a business trip? Unless you travel as much as Shahram Shirkhani, you may not yet be well-versed in international business. Follow these tips to avoid offensive behavior.
1. Don’t be surprised if you get a peck on the cheek while on business in France. It’s common for a man to greet a woman that way, even during a professional meeting. However, in India and China, that type of contact isn’t acceptable.
2. Shaking hands with a business associate in Germany? If they nod while shaking their head, nod in return. The subtle gesture is considered good form.
3. In Australia, punctuality is critical. There may be beaches there, but there’s no such thing as island time! Save that for your business trip to Costa Rica, where nothing seems to run on schedule. It’s also acceptable to be a bit late in Brazil. In New Zealand, it’s best to be a little early for business meetings.
4. In Japan, don’t use the word “no.” The same goes for business in India. Instead of “no,” say something like, “We’ll see.” Also, in Japan, people say “yes” to acknowledge what you’re saying, but not necessarily because they agree with you.
5. In the UK, men should avoid wearing shirts with pockets to business gatherings. If pockets are unavoidable, they should at least be empty.
6. No matter what you’re eating in Brazil, even if it’s a slice of pizza or a sandwich, eat with utensils or at least a napkin. No matter what, don’t eat with your hands.
7. When entering a residence in India, leave your shoes outside. Make sure to put on clean socks beforehand!
8. If you’re presenting or receiving a gift in China, use both hands.
9. During business meetings in Germany, humor is never appreciated. Stick to serious talk and leave your jokes for your pals.
10. Ordering dinner in India? Never order beef at a business gathering. When in doubt, order what the other guy’s having.
11. In Brazil, don’t be put off if someone seems to be entering your personal space. It’s common for people to stand close to each other during conversations. Also, expect some physical contact. This may make you uncomfortable, but it’s not odd for the culture.
12. Traveling to a business dinner in Australia? Single male passengers should sit in the front seat of a taxi. During that dinner, if you’re going to pay for a round of drinks, don’t pick up the tab out of turn.
13. At the end of a meeting in China, let your affiliates leave first. To say “goodbye,” shaking hands is fine, but other types of physical contact are not considered normal or appropriate.
14. Don’t speak French, despite being in France on a business trip? Odds are they speak English, but you should still apologize for your lack of fluency in their language.
Committing a faux pas when traveling for business isn’t just embarrassing; it could also mean big problems for your company. When in doubt, refer to a business etiquette book for the country you’ll be visiting.

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