Business etiquette around the globe

Photo courtesy of morguefile user beglib

Photo courtesy of morguefile user beglib

Working abroad is mind-opening and a wonderful way to experience different cultures. But it’s important to learn some general rules about doing business appropriately in different countries – otherwise you could be seen as disrespectful.

Here are four international business etiquette tips:

I’ve spent most of my working life in London, where it’s perfectly normal to greet clients with a double kiss cheek. At times it felt a bit intimate and slightly awkward (unless it was a client who I considered a friend), but it’s considered normal in many European countries. I have enjoyed not having to do this during my time working in Chicago, where a comfortable handshake is all that is required.

If you have the opportunity to work in a Scandinavian country, do it. They have one of the best work-life balances in the world. I had the pleasure of working with one of Sweden’s tourist boards in a previous role and every day at 11 am they would stop for ‘fika’ which is the joyful practice of having a coffee, sweet pastry and a chat with your peers. The Swedish also often take long summer breaks away from the office because of the dark winters, so be prepared if you have a Swedish client.

I’ve never done business in China but I’ve explored this fascinating country on vacation, where I picked-up some food etiquette tips. For example, if you’re dining with your business peers in China, it’s considered rude to not slurp your noodles at meal times because slurping is seen as a sign of satisfaction. So, slurp away. Also, chopsticks should not be left vertically stuck into a bowl of rice because it resembles the ritual of incense-burning that symbolizes ‘feeding’ the dead and death in general.


If you’re giving a gift to a business peer, be sure to put a lot of effort and thought into the wrapping paper. How it is presented is often more important than what is inside. And in a bar or restaurant, never pour your own drink – always allow someone else to pour it for you.

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