Cross-Cultural Etiquette For Doing Business Globally

Cross-Cultural Etiquette For Doing Business Globally

Across the world, good business means creating value for others and generating profits in the process. Success is a game of nurturing good relationships. However, the rules of the game start to get complicated as soon as you cross the borders.

If you are expanding your business overseas, these are essential cross-cultural etiquette tips to help you succeed.

How To Build Profitable Cross-Cultural Business Relationships

1. Learn the local way of doing things

The key to successful relationship building in global business interactions is respecting local cultures.  Show conformance or willingness to do things the way they do. In turn, this will earn you respect and goodwill for your business.

Learn the appropriate formal greetings when doing business in the region. In places like New York, a firm handshake is the best way to start and conclude a business meeting. Bowing is more appropriate in Japan. In France, pucker up because kisses are much more common.

Expectations are just as diverse when it comes to punctuality. In Japan and Germany, tardiness is considered disrespectful. A five-minute delay is acceptable in France and South Africa.

2. Offer more value

Cultural intelligence (CQ) should be a top priority because you will need these people to be your customers, suppliers, or partners. Research the differences in the business culture between where you are coming from and the new target location across the borders.

Hire local people to help you learn and strategize your business for take-off in the new location outside your home country. You can work with teams of culture translators, marketing consultants, and local business concierge service providers for a streamlined commencement.

3. Be open-minded

Take advantage of invitations to formal parties and team-building activities. These events can help you engage and learn more about the people in a relaxed setting. When meeting clients for late evening dinner, that may mean that they want to talk shop. Stay formal. But if they just want to hang out, relax, but carry yourself with dignity.

Socializing after work may demonstrate that you are a team player and are genuinely interested in working with the locals. Let your charisma shine through the cultural differences. But be sincere and honest.

4. Show empathy

In Brazil and Africa, you don’t just get to business without inquiring about the other party’s health and family. In Asia, don’t look your colleagues, partners, or clients in the eye. It is considered rude.

In Japan, it’s inappropriate to directly tell someone older or superior to you that they are wrong. Similarly, while silence is a bad thing in the USA, it is a big part of business communication across the world. It demonstrates respect or contemplation for what has been said.

5. Dress the part

When in a new part of the world, look at what others were in business setups. You can never go wrong with conservative dressing in neutral colors as you gradually figure out what’s most appropriate.

For a casual meeting outside the office, a lighter-shade suit will help you blend in.  No matter the location, go for a wrinkle-free shirt and well-pressed pants for formal meetings.

In Arab countries, women must cover their hair with a scarf and avoid short skirts. Black suits will help you make a great first impression In Europe, Asia, and Africa. But in the USA, wearing black suits to the office would be a big mistake.


True global business success is founded on inclusivity, respect, and mutual trust. If you make a sincere effort to learn and understand cultural differences, you can create a better expansion course for your business.

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