Don’t embarrass yourself in a business meeting, learn these business customs

High angle shot of two professionals greeting each other with a handshake

The only thing worse than insulting a business associate is not knowing that you’ve insulted them and then accidentally repeating the same mistake.

Shot of a young businesswoman on the move in the city

No one can really blame you, it’s not like we’re taught about various business customs and cultures in school. However, if you’re doing business with international markets it is vital you know how your clients and partners conduct business and what they consider appropriate or not.

Here’s our easy to follow guide to getting on your client’s good side:

China:

Greeting: In China, business associates greet each other with a handshake. A hug or a kiss aren’t considered a business greeting and could make your guests or host uncomfortable.

Meals: Don’t leave your chopsticks standing upright and don’t discuss business during a meal.
Both these actions are considered rude and possibly offensive.

Gifts: In China, it is customary to present your business associate with a gift. Remember to give and accept gifts using both hands. You should also make sure you never give a gift without good reason or a witness present.

India:

Greeting: In India, it is considered inappropriate to touch someone else. Just to be sure, rather wait and see if your Indian business associate extends their hand for a handshake.

Meals: Never order beef during a business meeting.

Hindus don’t eat beef and Hinduism is one of India’s major religions. Your food order may deeply insult someone.

Gifts: In India gift giving is customary and is considered a symbol of friendship. However, be sure not to buy gifts that are too expensive, rather be conservative. Remember, it’s the thought that counts.

UK

Greeting: A firm handshake is considered polite and respectful.

Often business associates will greet each other with “how do you do,” it’s important to remember this is a formal greeting and not a question.

Meals: Don’t reach across the dinner table or across other people, rather ask someone to assist you.

You should also use a knife and fork, unless you are eating sandwiches, chips/crisps, corn on the cob or fruit.

Gifts: Giving gifts to business associates isn’t a business custom in the UK. In fact, some companies don’t accept gifts for legal purposes as it could be seen as a bribe.

USA:

Greeting: Greeting your business associates with a firm handshake is considered polite. A light handshake can be considered disrespectful to the person you’re greeting.

Meals: Often business meetings are conducted over a meal.
Be sure not to place your left hand, arm or elbow on the table while eating, it’s considered bad manners.

Gifts: Gift giving isn’t the norm in the USA. In some instances, gift giving can be viewed as bribery, which is why you need to be careful. If you are offering a gift of thanks or appreciation, make your intentions known.

Brazil:

Greeting: In Brazil, a firm handshake is considered a good greeting. It’s also common to stand very close and make physical contact during a conversation.

Meals: In Brazil, meals are longer and can go on for a number of hours.

It’s also considered rude to touch your food. All meals should be eaten with a knife and fork. If you have a sandwich or a slice of pizza, you should use a serviette/napkin to hold it.

Gifts: Giving and receiving gifts in a business setting isn’t common. Be careful, a gift may embarrass your associate or it could be seen as a bribe.

Germany:

Greeting: A firm handshake followed by a nod is considered a polite and respectable greeting. You should also let senior business associates enter a room first as a sign of respect.

Meals: Do not begin eating until the host has said, “Guten Appetit.”

When eating, your knife and fork should not be put down unless you are having a drink or picking up bread. Once you’ve finished your meal, make sure you place your knife and fork parallel to each other across the right side of the plate. This signifies the end of your meal.

Gifts: Giving gifts in a business setting is not customary, however, in a social situation gifts are gladly accepted.

If you’re set on giving a German business associate a gift, make sure the gift is good quality, but not expensive.

France:

Greeting: If you don’t speak French, your business associates will appreciate an apology for not being fluent in their language.

In France, it’s customary to greet a woman with a kiss and a man with a handshake. However, if you don’t wish to be kissed, we suggest extending your hand for a handshake.

Meals: Don’t eat until your host says, “Bon appétit!”
It is also considered polite to wait for your host to toast, after your host has toasted, you are then free to toast to them as a form of gratitude.

Gifts: Giving presents is acceptable here, but exercise discretion. Business gifts are usually not exchanged at the first meeting.

Can you think of any other important business customs that could change the way you do business? Let us know!

 

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