Business Etiquette

Fit in with social customs

As the foreigner in the interaction, it is up to you to adapt to the situation in which you find yourself. It is not for your local hosts to adopt your ways, although you will often notice that they are ready to meet you halfway and forgive your social errors. This is especially true when you are clearly making an effort to fit in with their ways. You ease your acceptance into another culture when you.
  • Give the right gift
  • Dress to impress (favorably!).
  • Eat, Party and be Merry

Give the right gift

Whether the giving of business gifts is acceptable depends on the home company’s policy. Some limit the value of gift that can be given or received. Know where your company stands on this issue.
Gift-giving practices vary from culture to culture. In general, people appreciate personal gifts when they have invited you into their home. But be careful what you give, as some gifts will not be acceptable. Don’t give alcohol to a Muslim, or gifts decorated with cowhide to someone from India. Chrysanthemums are funeral flowers in Italy, and there are many taboos associated with color around the world.

Gift-giving practices

People of Pacific rim countries, such as Japan, China, and Korea, are particularly fond of giving and receiving gifts. They do not regard expensive gifts as bribes.
People of Middle Eastern cultures tend to be extremely generous in their gift giving, to the point that it’s unwise to admire something too much – your host will feel obliged to present it to you!
Gift-giving is also common in Latin American countries; but is relatively uncommon in Europe, Australia, Canada, and the US.

Dress to impress (Favorably!)

In Muslim countries, particularly for women, it is important to dress modestly. In some countries, this may mean wearing veils and garments covering the whole body. Even in lenient Muslim countries, such as Indonesia, it is unwise to wear skimpy T-shirts and shorts. And, of course, you will not be allowed into any sacred places unless modestly attired.
Observe what the locals do, and you won’t go far wrong. Usually peoples have adapted their dress to suit the climate, so the batik shirt is sensible formal wear in Indonesia and Malaysia. Dressing appropriately shows respect and consideration for your hosts, so don’t neglect it.

Eat, Party and be Merry

Sharing a meal is an important method of building relationships. Do not turn down an invitation to dine with someone because you are jet-lagged or fear that you will be offered foods you would never normally eat. To refuse such an invitation is to reject both your host and his culture and will damage your chances of acceptance. You needn’t discuss business on these occasions; in fact it is often impolite to do so. The food itself is less important than social interaction – not that you would always realize that in France and Italy.
Do your homework. Learn what the local customs are on such matters as showing appreciation to your host. Find someone in your hotel or the office to guide you when you’re unsure of the exact etiquette.

Foods you would never normally eat

In some countries you will be faced with food that you would never normally eat – sheep’s eyeballs, sea slug, or chicken’s feet. Remember that your host is honoring you by serving you local delicacies, and you will insult him if you refuse to try these dishes. Just grit your teeth and swallow.

Showing appreciation to your host

You may have to reciprocate. Match the quality and style of your entertaining to your host’s – you don’t want either to embarrass him by being more lavish, or insult him by taking him somewhere too modest.