How to survive in a global economy

May 01, 2012

There’s no way around it. We are part of a global economy. And a global economy means doing business with people from all parts of the world. While this is exciting, it can also lead to misunderstandings, embarrassment and loss of a potential client if you’re unprepared. Therefore, research is essential.

How should you greet a potential client?
A handshake? A bow? An embrace? A kiss on the cheek? While a handshake is probably the most prevalent form of business greetings, it’s not appropriate in all situations. Some cultures prefer to bow as a greeting, while in other cultures more affectionate greetings are appropriate, such as a kiss to both cheeks.

How should you dress?
In most cultures, the more conservatively you dress, the less likely you are to offend your business partners. However, there are varying and distinct rules to be aware of depending on where you are doing business. In most cultures a suit in a neutral color, with a white shirt and subtle tie is appropriate attire for men attending a business meeting. For women, conservatism is essential; however, the rules for conservative dress for women vary vastly among cultures.

What about business meals?
Would it be more appropriate to host a business lunch or dinner? Who should pay for the meal and how? Should I leave a tip or is this considered impolite? If I should leave a tip, what percentage of the bill is appropriate? If tipping isn’t customary, how should I show my appreciation? Are there any food aversions, gestures or differing ideas of table manners I should be aware of? And the list goes on…

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all protocol for business interactions with clients from different cultures.. However, with all of the information and ways to connect across the globe, it’s easier than ever to find the tools necessary to be respectful and understanding  of cultural differences around the world.