Business Etiquette

Deal with diverse negotiating styles

The key to negotiating successfully across cultures is preparation. In addition to your usual preparations, find out about the cultural factors that may affect your negotiation. To do this.
  • Accommodate emotional expression
  • Get in tune with the locals

Accommodate emotional expression

One of the dimensions on which cultures vary is the degree to which they express emotion. In highly expressive cultures, such as the Southern and Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Latin American, it is common for people to show emotion in a business setting. Indeed, to do so demonstrates sincerity and enthusiasm for the subject under discussion. What seems like a full-scale emotional outburst to us is, to them, merely part of the process of negotiation.
In contrast, people in some Northern European and Oriental cultures see those who show emotion, particularly in a business setting, as weak and impulsive. The emotional expressiveness of other cultures embarrasses these people, as it represents loss of face.

Get in tune with the locals

When you travel to negotiate with people from other cultures, examine the belief systems that influence their behavior. Understanding these will help you interact successfully with them.
You can’t know all the unwritten rules when you do business abroad, so make sure you recruit local specialists to help you with legal, fiscal, and insurance matters.
Failing to seek expert advice on such matters as local views of contracts and taxes can lead to disaster.


In the Arab world, your word is binding – perhaps even more than the written contracts of the Western world. To insist on a written contract is a slur on a Muslim’s honor. But how many Americans would do business without some form of written contract?
When a contract is signed, Americans think that negotiations are over and that there will be no further changes. Greeks, however, see the contract as a stage in the negotiation process, and would not expect negotiations to stop till the work is completed. While Anglo-Saxons and Germans see a written contract as binding, Japanese see the contract as a statement of intent that they will try to stick to, but will not feel bound by if external conditions change. These attitudes fit well with the underlying religious belief systems that predominate in the respective cultures


In English tax matters, you stick to the letter of the law. You are expected to declare all income honestly, neither overstating nor understating income or expenditure. In France you are expected to understate your tax liability and the authorities will assess you on the presumption that you have understated. If you declare your liability exactly, they will assume that you are understating, as is the usual practice, and overtax you