Women In Business

Guide to business etiquette in different countries: Infographic


Business etiquette matters. You know this already. You’re confident in attending business appointments (especially when meeting people for the first time) and you know how to make the right impression. Your handshake is just the right length and strength, you’re always on time to your meetings and you always make sure to look the people your meeting in the eye.

But what happens when you have to start travelling abroad for work? Business etiquette can vary quite significantly from country to country.

Learn French gestures

If you’re a little late for your meeting in France (as long as you’ve made an appointment) it won’t be seen as a problem whereas even being a few minutes late in Germany is likely to cause offence. French gestures can be quite different to what we’re used to in the UK. If a French person were to form a circle with their thumb and finger they aren’t saying ‘OK’. This gesture means ‘nothing’, ‘worthless’ or ‘zero’.

Avoid afternoon meetings in Spain

In Spain, try to arrange meetings around mid-morning to avoid any issues with siesta breaks and talk about yourself and your company lots as Spaniards like to know who they’re doing business with.

Expect constructive conflict in Italy

Italians may express disagreement with you in a meeting. Don’t worry this is perfectly normal. Constructive conflict is very common in business negotiations in Italy. Also, never offer a gift before receiving one yourself. And you shouldn’t give a gift that advertises your company, it’s considered rude.

Middle Easterners expect you to be on time

In the United Arab Emirates, you should be on time for your appointment, but don’t always expect your hosts to follow suit. Middle Easterners are quite relaxed when it comes to business meetings, so may arrive late, but they will expect Westerners to be on time.

Watch your hands in Switzerland

Be careful with hand gestures in Switzerland. In some countries, it’s more common to emphasise certain points using your hands, but not so much in Switzerland. If you see people looking at your hands while your presenting, you’re using them too much.

The Dutch take personal space seriously

Personal space is very important to the Dutch. It’s generally not a good idea to talk to anyone only millimetres from their face, but in the Netherlands pay extra care and make sure you’re giving everyone enough room to breathe.

Show off your experience to Austrians

Experience is important in Austria. If you have an impressive education and/or your company has been in business for a long time, let them know. If you’re looking to do business with Austrians, this may tip the balance in your favour.

No video calls in Cyprus

Face-to-face meetings are still very much the norm in Cyprus. Video conferencing, in particular, has made meetings with people in other countries far easier, but if you expect to do business with a Cypriot, this is unlikely to suffice.

Time is money in the U.S.

In the U.S. try and keep your discussions short and sweet, and they’ll appreciate you for it. Time is money is a phrase that is very much adhered to here.

Laugh with the Irish

The Irish are known for their modesty and sense of humour and this can (and probably will) extend into the business setting. Light teasing is common, so don’t be offended if you’re the butt of a couple of jokes. Feel free to give it back, just don’t go too far!

Using data from ONS, below you’ll find many more business etiquette tips for eleven countries you are likely to visit on business.

About Jessica Harland

Jessica Harland is a marketing executive and writer in the UK.

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