How To Network Effectively Across Cultures And Countries

How To Network Effectively Across Cultures And Countries

Networking with a diverse crowd of people is a much sought-after skill for any global business leader. The problem is, how do you network globally when the rules of networking between cultures can sometimes vary as wide as day and night?

Here are key networking strategies for building global business connections in different cultures.

Essential Tips For Networking On The Global Stage

1. Research

Before you even arrive at the networking event, research that place. Do you share similar cultural values? What conversation style is acceptable? Is there a hierarchy you need to observe? Learn even the tiniest of details, for example, why “small talk” is a BIG deal in the U.S. or the U.K and not in Eastern Europe. 

Try to understand the unspoken dynamics of space. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, your intimate space isn’t considered private. You might find yourself shrinking, while your associate might interpret your reaction as defensive. In Germany, this situation might be reversed. 

If you master the logic of the new culture beforehand, you’ll come in prepared to experience it. Oh! One other thing. Try not to box yourself into the prevailing stereotypical thinking.

2. Observe

What do you do when you have done your homework about the local culture only to realize that your networking strategy doesn’t quite match the local way of being? Solution! You turn to the time-tested method of observing. Watch how others behave in different networking situations and adjust your approach depending on the situation and the person.

You may need to use more or less gestures, titles, or formal language. Sometimes, the situation can dictate that you talk less often or follow strange greeting protocols. For instance, in Qatar, U.A.E, or Yemen, you bring in your nose for a few friendly taps to demonstrate that you view the other person as a business peer, according to a BBC work-life study. Just remember not to sniff.

In much of South America, one air kiss is sufficient, but in Ukraine and Russia, three is the norm. The secret here is to be flexible, learn from mistakes, and improve your game.

3. Adopt technology

Technology enables networking across cultures, as it can help you overcome logistical and geographical barriers. A quick search through the web will reveal plenty of platforms for connecting and collaborating with your contacts.

For example, you might find yourself at an international trade fair where you meet a Japanese car exporter. You can use a translation app to help you explain car specifications.

But tread very carefully here. Technology poses its fair share of challenges, including time zone disparities and network glitches. As a precaution, remember to verify critical details in person. 

Bonus Tips

  • Take heed when using slang in business settings to avoid the risk of being misquoted.
  • Remember to observe proper etiquette when exchanging business cards.
  • Research how to adequately address other people's names and titles depending on the local cultural nuances.
  • Prepare to spark conversations by researching relevant business or local news.


You can excel at building global business networks by analyzing the business customs of the host country. Once you learn how the locals do it, you can adapt your networking style to theirs or find your unique way of interacting with others.

Remember that practice makes perfect. Behind closed doors, try to simulate similar scenarios that will mimic the pressure of real cross-cultural networking situations. Use the above strategies, and you’ll soon be networking as if it's part of your instinct.

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