Professional Protocol: Understanding International Business Customs

Business Customs

Thinking of doing business in another country? You should know about various business and cultural customs then. Here are a few you may not know about or be familiar with.

Weird Russian Time

Being on time in Russia is very important – at least for Americans. If you are scheduled to meet for a meeting with a Russian businessman, expect to be there exactly on time. But, your Russian counterpart won’t be. Nope. He or she may be as late as they please, and they won’t apologize for it.

The purpose for this tardiness is to test your patience. If you make it, you may be worth doing business with.

The Gift-Giving Chinese

It’s not enough to get payroll out on time. The Chinese are gift-givers on top of the normal and customary business practices. So, when you show up for a meeting, make sure you bring a gift. But, Chinese are notoriously modest and will likely refuse your gift on the first offer. Keep offering until it is finally accepted.

Japan’s All-Business Attitude

In Japan, the business card isn’t dead. In fact, it’s very much alive. When you arrive for a meeting, you should have the card ready to give out. Expect to receive one. Your cards should be printed in both English and Japanese. When you hand the card to someone, place it in their hands with the Japanese side facing up. They will likely receive it with both hands. You should do the same when you are handed a card.

Brazil’s Laid-Back Attitude

If you like personal space, you’ll have to learn to love the cozy attitudes of the Brazilians. They invade personal space and are very touchy-feely. Here’s it’s customary to stand extremely close and engage in lots of physical contact while talking.

It’s considered disrespectful to back away when someone does this. Also, don’t jump right into business talk. Brazilians don’t like to get down to “brass tacks” right away. Ease into it. And, expect a hug when it’s all over.

Steamy Business Transactions In Finland

You might be used to business being conducted in the boardroom. In Finland, however, business is done in the sauna. It’s considered a sign of hospitality to be invited for a steam bath. You should accept graciously. Don’t worry if the meeting is unisex. Also, you may be whipped with a special device, called a “whisk” upon entering or while you’re in the sauna. This helps get the blood going and the sweat pouring. That’s just how things are done in Finland.

Business and Love In Belgium

Belgium is a more casual place when it comes to business. Sometimes, you will say “hello” and “goodbye.” But, this is usually not enough. You will have to get used to the idea of kissing. That’s right, the Belgians kiss before meetings. Technically, it’s an “air kiss,” where you kiss once on the right cheek, once on the left, and back to the right once more.

Giving a kiss in the wrong order, or not at all, is a great way to offend your business partners. But, don’t rush in for a smooch before you get to know them. That could be seen as being rude or awkward.

Grace Lee is an entrepreneur who has created several successful international businesses over the years. Now looking to ‘pay it forward’ Grace is sharing her tips and knowledge with a wide online audience.