Doing Business in Other Cultures

Business in other cultures: Doing business in another country requires more than just a knowledge of the language or a good interpreter. Communication on an international level requires knowledge of basic business etiquette in the country where you are doing business. So before you pick up your international phones and call your business associate across the ocean, make sure you know the proper way to communicate.


Business etiquette in Britain is quite formal. Because of the reserved nature of most Britons, small talk is generally frowned upon. When doing business, be friendly, but get to the point of your conversation. Call people by their title and last name, not first name, when initiating business conversation. Try to talk in complete sentences, as the American tendency to talk in run-ons and fragments annoys most British listeners. Initiate conversation with a question. When negotiations are in order, it is best to send a senior representative of the company, not a young employee. Business cards are exchanged at the end of a meeting, so be prepared. Always be punctual to appointments, and if you must be late, call. It is always best to rent a Europe phone when traveling to Britain on business so you can make a call if needed.


Be prepared to dress up when doing business in Japan, as Japanese business etiquette does not accept the causal American business attire. Always wait to be directed to your seat for a meeting, as the seating indicates the status of the meeting’s participants and will be determined beforehand. Always wait for the leader of the meeting to tell you to sit, and remain seated until the leader stands at the end of the meeting. Always give a small gift to your host, and if you receive a gift, do not open it in public. Ignoring proper business etiquette in Japan could jeopardize your business in the country, so learn them well.


While Spanish business etiquette may conjure up images of kisses on the cheek, it is slightly more formal today. Greetings typically occur with a traditional handshake, followed by a local greeting. The people are outgoing, so business deals almost always happen in a face-to-face environment. Early meetings are focused on building a relationship, so it may take a few meetings for the actual business deal to happen. All agreements will be made orally first, followed by a written document. Punctuality is not as important in the Spanish culture, so do not be upset of your host is quite late. Interruptions are common and accepted during business conversations.


In Chinese business culture, it is considered impolite to respond with a negative reply. If the answer is “no,” say “maybe” instead. When your Chinese associates do the same, remember that they are responding in the negative. Small talk is important, specifically as it relates to travel and China. Use black and white for printed materials in order to avoid the special meanings behind colors in the Chinese culture. Remember that belief in Communism will guide all negotiations. The Chinese believe strongly in the principle of “saving face,” so do not do anything to embarrass your host. Do bring plenty of business cards, with one side printed in Chinese, as these will be freely distributed. Make sure your card has your title and the distinctions of your business, and print it in gold ink, as Chinese culture values this as the color of prosperity and success.


In Indian business culture, visitors are expected to be punctual, but the Indians are rarely on time for appointments. Appointments should be made a few months in advance if possible. Small talk is accepted and enjoyed, and the people tend to be open and friendly. Open disagreement between equals is considered aggressive, but those who are superior can openly share their disagreement. You must be able to exchange business cards in both business and social settings. English is the language of business. Hierarchy is important in this country, so try to talk to the highest person in the business that you can reach. Be prepared to rise and greet the leader of a business. The Indian people tend to respond better to male business professionals than women, so females doing business in the country will need to go the extra mile to gain attention, because the Indian business culture is still very male-centric.


When doing business in Italy, keep in mind that individualism and family are both highly valued. The Italian people like to do business with someone they already know. An introduction followed by a written letter prior to a business meeting is essential. Business meetings should not be held in August, when many people are on holiday. Dress well, including cuff links, jewelry, and watches when acceptable. Be considerate, start and end conversations with a handshake, and stand close to the person you are talking to. Do not try to create a sense of urgency in your presentation, but use small talk and eye contact to convey honesty and sincerity.  Last minute changes to deals are common, but you are expected to stay firm in your original offer. Be prepared for the deliberation to take some time after the meeting is over, as long as a couple of months or more. Patience is valued when doing business in Italy.


Arrive just slightly early for business meetings, but never late, when conducting business in Germany. Handshakes are expected at the beginning and end of a meeting. Watch your German colleague for a signal as to whether or not it is appropriate to remove your jacket or tie, because formal dress is observed. Always use a formal academic degree when addressing a German if it is applies. Bring a gift, such as flowers, for the hostess if invited to your associate’s home. Be prepared with wine or quality office equipment when headed to a business meeting, because gifts are expected. Women should not wear perfume or lipstick in order to blend in with German culture.


Brazilian culturehighly emphasizes both family and personal relationships, so take some time to build your business contacts. You will get much further with someone you already know than a stranger when conducting business in Brazil. Time is not emphasized, so do not rush through things or make your hosts feel as though you are in a hurry. Even though the culture is informal, dress is not, so dress to impress. Handshakes are the common form of greeting, followed by the phrase muito prazer, which means “my pleasure.” Make eye contact when communicating, and always eat what is offered to you. Never bring up sensitive topics, such as deforestation, and never criticize your colleagues in public, as the personal pride of your business associate must be protected if you are going to have a successful meeting.

2 thoughts on “Doing Business in Other Cultures

  1. Robert Ret

    While traveling with an interpreter and a colleague in Japan, both of whom were women, I would open doors for them as we started calling on clients. They politely asked me to stop doing that, and to let them open doors for me. In their culture, a business man opening a door for women would mean he was a lower-level associate, and I was supposed to be the “executive” from corporate headquarters honoring them with a visit. I was surprised at how challenging it was for me to remember that. But this was their culture – not better or worse, just different.
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  2. Mr Sun

    This is just absolute bullshit and ridiculous. Please find some body who is from that nation to explaing their business culture or else people reading off your article will definately lose their business if they follow!

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