The worst mistakes you can make during an overseas business meeting

New study reveals embarrassing blunders Brits make abroad and top secrets for surviving your next business trip (for those who don’t have a clue about business etiquette)

Did you know that, in Russia, it’s seen as insecure to smile during a business meeting? Or that in Hong Kong giving gifts within business is viewed as bribery?
UK online printer instantprint recently conducted a study on international business etiquette, collecting anecdotes from senior business people and speaking with experts in the field for their top tips.
The study revealed some interesting stories and statistics, such as 78% of business people are not fully educated on what the ‘correct’ business etiquette is internationally and 56% have encountered an awkward situation because of this.
Instantprint spoke with Business Etiquette International to uncover the top 10 tips Brits can use to prepare for international business travel.

Top tips to help you prepare for international business travel 

  1. Know what type of handshake to give. In China, it may be wise to wait and see if your host offers a handshake.
  2. Discover what gifts are acceptable in each country before purchasing or giving anything. In some countries, such as Hong Kong, it’s viewed as bribery.
  3. Be aware of the different customs for different nationalities. For example, in Middle East/UAE the left hand is considered unclean so when dining use your left hand as little as possible, especially with group shared dishes.
  4. Be careful with what humour you use. While it may be amusing in your country, it may be considered as extremely offensive in others.
  5. Ensure your body language matches what you’re saying so you’re easy to understand. A sign in one nationality could mean something entirely different in another. Make sure you do your research for each country.
  1. Understand the best way to introduce yourself. In China, it is polite to do a slight bow, India traditionally place their hands in a prayer like position and in Mexico they greet each other with a handshake, pat or hug.
  2. Discover the dress code beforehand. In Sweden, casual clothes are generally preferred to smart.
  3. Appreciate the general cultural mannerism for meetings. In Russia, it’s viewed as insecure to smile during a meeting.
  4. If you intend to present a business card, a great way to build a rapport discover the culture’s norm for business card exchanging. In Hong Kong it’s preferred to present your business cards with both hands, whereas in Brazil there is no ritual or tradition, so give away whenever and as many as you feel.
  5. Finally, Don’t be offended by anything that doesn’t fit in with your own culture, most will then extend this back to you.
Marla Harr, Consultant at Business Etiquette International, said: “It’s imperative for individuals who travel abroad for business to educate themselves and their teams on the proper business etiquette and accepted protocols for that country. Not knowing the idiosyncrasies within the culture can have unintentional misunderstandings that can be embarrassing, costly to a marketing campaign or a contract deal falling apart.”
From business meetings being confused as a first date (awkward) to that annoying colleague who always manages to offend the hosts, it’s clear that not all business people – no matter what level of seniority – fully understand international business etiquette.
Check out instantprint’s full study to discover funny blunders from senior business people and top secrets for surviving your next overseas meeting, here.
Co-founder of instantprint James Kinsella said: “Often, the smallest gesture such as handing over a business card correctly will be massively appreciated by your hosts. Despite the uncertainties of Brexit, globalisation means even the smallest of businesses can interact with suppliers or contacts abroad, so understanding their country’s correct business etiquette can do wonders for your working relationships.”
Back in July 2017, instantprint conducted a survey, quizzing 500 senior operatives in the UK to discover what employees do which secretly drives their boss mad and what an employee can do to get on their boss’ good side.
The firm says this survey is another example of instantprint’s dedication to inspire and empower small business owners across the country.