If you have a career where you get to experience international travel, you’re extremely lucky. Finding a job that combines experiencing other countries and cultures with what you do is the dream for a lot of us.
It’s undeniable though that there are certain rules of etiquette present when you operate globally. Many companies aren’t so good about preparing their employees for cultural differences and may have no formal programme to help you navigate global business travel. You’ll find that what is expected in Paris may be very different from how things are done in Singapore. You’ll need to hunt down specific tips for the country you’ll be working in – along with a huge checklist of necessities such as making sure you have medical flight insurance to cover any costly unforeseen circumstances like illness or injury, and understanding data security issues you may face working abroad.
Pay Attention to Introductions
You may think of introductions as the less important preamble to the main agenda, but in fact, many cultures value personal relationships, face to face meetings and integrity above all else, so if you aren’t sufficiently engaged in the introduction, you run the risk of causing great offence and worse, coming across as untrustworthy. Take the time to do a little research on who you will be meeting, their title and role within the organisation before hand. When meeting, make good eye contact and show active listening signals during the introduction. These little signs can show that you are paying attention and respect towards the people you’re meeting.
Take Your Time With Business Cards
In North America and Europe, business cards are exchanged casually, often at the conclusion of a meeting, and are of no great importance. But this would be entirely the wrong approach to take in most Asian countries. In China and Japan for example, business cards are considered to be a representation of the person themselves. Receive the card with both hands and spend a few minutes looking at the details carefully. Never put it straight in your pocket as this is considered disrespectful. Read it while standing in front of the person and show that you are looking at the name and title. It’s a little thing, but getting it wrong can cause a lot of embarrassment for you and your hosts.
Bring A Small Gift To Your Meeting
A lot of cultures give small gifts during business meetings as a way of showing courtesy, so don’t turn up empty handed. This practise is again more common in Asian cultures, but is also done in the Middle East. To avoid falling foul of FCPA laws, your gift shouldn’t be anything too valuable, and keep it business appropriate too. A great idea is some small food items produced locally in your region, or it could be a business card holder or something similar. Make sure the gift shows consideration, even though it should only be a small token. Take into account who you are meeting as well – steer clear of alcohol in Muslim countries for instance.