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14 essential tips for conducting successful international business meetings

Whether you are going abroad for a business meeting with colleagues or suppliers or to finalise a £1 billion deal with a new customer, it is very important to familiarise yourself with the local social customs and business etiquette to avoid offending anyone and potentially losing clients. However, it is not straightforward - a social norm for one country could be a total no-no in another.

Here are 14 essential tips for working in international business:

  1. Meetings in Germany are usually to the point with very little small talk.
  2. A handshake and kisses on both cheeks are the normal welcome in Spain.
  3. Punctuality is of great importance in Russia. Make sure you are always on time, even if the person you are meeting with is late.
  4. In South Korea you should not prolong eye contact.
  5. Business cards are given and received with both hands in China and they should be studied and then kept in immaculate condition. It is considered disrespectful if you do not do this.
  6. In Japan, bowing from the waist is more common than a handshake.  etiquette
  7. In India and UAE, all documents should be passed with the right hand as the left hand is considered unclean.
  8. The French are very appreciative when you try to speak their language. If you don’t speak French you should apologise for your lack of fluency.
  9. In Spain, face-to-face communications are preferred. Initial meetings tend to focus on relationship building.
  10. In UAE handshakes tend to last a long time so don’t be afraid!
  11. In Russia you should address a man using his first name and his father’s name. Check this before you go to the meeting.
  12. In South Korea criticism (even mild opinions) should be given on a one-to-one basis rather than publicly. Public reputation is very important.
  13. Do not eat with your hands in Brazil.
  14. For business meetings in the UAE men should wear a suit and women should aim to cover their legs, shoulders, arms and toes.

This article from Entrepreneur.com will give you more insight into business etiquette for the different countries around the world.

In addition, this article from Business Insider has put their “Quick guide to Going Global” into a helpful Infographic.

For UK businesses, it should never be assumed that business meetings will be conducted in English. Communication and relationships would be vastly improved if you could speak their language. If you do not, it is considered respectful if you can at least speak a few lines of greetings.

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