For those who travel out of the country often you may be more than familiar with the term “culture shock” that is that disoriented feeling you get when you’re exposed to a foreign culture or environment without adequate preparation. While it is not unusual that other countries have their own customs that differ from our own it is important to know that what may be considered acceptable to do in a business function here may not be the case elsewhere. This is why as a professional interested in doing business abroad, you must get to know the business customs of your host country to avoid being offensive or disrespectful to the person you may be doing business with. In some of these places, simple actions such as eating a sandwich with both of your hands to even coming to an important event on time can be considered impolite in some places in South America. If you want to avoid making any mistakes on your next flight, here are 8 different customs practiced by these cultures below.
In the business world needless to say being punctual is very important. Not can you make it help you make it through deadlines easier but it shows that you value the time of your fellow co-workers and whomever you’re doing business with. While this custom is shared by many cultures around the world, not all of them place equal value on being punctual for all important business events. In Russia, for example, some business professionals may deliberately come to important meetings hours after the scheduled appointment time on and may not apologize for it. While considered rude to many traditional business customs, to Russians this is a way of testing your patience which is a deeply respected virtue held in the country.
In Japan, business cards are held with a great amount of respect in their culture. It is expected of any foreign national planning on doing business there to have piles of business cards printed in both Japanese and the native language of the person doing business with them (most of the time the second language is English). Japanese business professionals hold business cards to such a high regard that handing one to someone must be done in a specific fashion which is placing both hands on the card with the Japanese side facing upwards when presenting it to anyone. It is considered offensive in Japan to deface the card in any way or play with it during an important meeting.
Most Brazilians are generally very open people and to the professionals that live there, there is no such thing as invasion of personal space. In Brazil, it can be common to see business people using a lot’s of hand gestures when conversating with someone else while standing real close to them. While it may seem odd to Americans being that most people in the States would commonly back away to leave room in Brazil that would be considered disrespectful. It is possible to lose a business relationship like that too so maintaining close physical proximity to your Brazilian counterpart may help you keep an important client or business partner.
There are many cultures that are biased towards the use of your left hand for almost any type activity. Typically reserved for physical hygiene purposes in many countries in the Middle East and Africa, it is important that you use your right hand for just about everything if you’re planning on working there and while this may not be a big issue to many people considering that the right hand is the most dominantly used hand for those who fall in the rare 10% of the global population that are lefties must be aware of the challenges they may face if doing business in this part of the world. If you happen to be a professional who falls in that category avoiding the Middle East altogether may be your only alternative.
In India, cows are considered very sacred so if you’re deciding on what you’re going to order from the menu your best bet is to avoid choosing steak or hamburgers. Those planning on doing business there must refrain from wearing leather as well. Doing this would leave a good impression with your Indian business associates.
In Spain, some business deals can intertwine with casual affairs. When you’re out for drinks, for example, you may be in the company of Spanish professionals in a seemingly light-hearted environment but if you mention any business dealings in a way that might come off as being an offer some professionals would take you on your word. In America, we may be able to tell the difference between when someone is joking or being serious but in Spain, that joke might be taken too literally even if you’re in an informal setting.
This may be one of the oddest business customs on this list but in Finland, a business deal can be broken if you decline an offer to join your business host in a relaxing sauna. This is considered a sign that the relationship between any business partners or other parties involved is on a good track. Declining that offer will probably ruin that relationship so if you plan on traveling to Finland be prepared for sitting in a steam room in 120-degree temperature without your clothes on as Finns generally go in nude.
In the U.K when you’re doing business sometimes you may encounter British professionals tapping their nose every now and then and again at a glance it might seem strange but to the Brits, this sign indicates something very important. The tapping of the nose indicates that the matter at hand being discussed should be kept confidential. Though mildly awkward in appearance if you recognize this signal then you would know what business should be kept secret and not risk sharing it with others.
There are of course dozens of other examples of customs practiced around the world that may sound weird but have a great amount of significance in their respected culture. If you’d like to know some here you can click on this link here.