Learning, experiencing and adapting to other cultures, while traveling for business
Business etiquette is an integral part of different countries’ business culture. It encompasses the accepted code of thoughtful behaviour in specific societies and can be thought of as the prescriptive elements of culture. Being aware of these elements can therefore help us understand expectations, as well as avoid doing or saying the wrong things, during a business encounter. We have visited three parts of the world, to understand different traditions for conducting business.
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In Denmark, Lunch is the most common mealtime during which to conduct business negotiations and is usually served from noon to 2 pm. Even if the Danes do tend to get straight down to business in meetings, it is still appropriate to start the meeting with about 10 minutes of informal conversation. Humour is an essential element of everyday living and to many Danes, humour comes with irony. This may be difficult for many foreigners to appreciate, but it is absolutely essential if you want to understand the Danish mentality. It is also important, in order to maintain credibility, that actions are followed up on and completed in the timescales agreed. Many executives will be impressed by a prompt follow up of actions, agreed at a meeting.
In the United States, business attire differs between regions, so make sure to double check before you go. A general rule is that East tends to be more formal than West. In general, social conversations in the United States are light. There is a standard format for small talk. People ask brief questions and expect brief answers. Some Americans become uncomfortable when a person talks for too long in social situations. Another essential social etiquette to understand, is that speaking loudly on the phone is considered rude, even when outside. Only speak as loudly as you need to for the other person to hear you. Finally, eye contact is considered a respectful behaviour, especially whilst greeting someone and shaking their hand. We sometimes forget that business is about people. But when thinking about it, many choose to collaborate with, work for, or buy from someone who has high standards of professional business behaviour. Making an effort to learn about the cultural etiquette of one’s business counterparts, can therefore make all the difference.
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