Staying on Top of Cross-Cultural Business Etiquette
With the business world growing increasingly global,
borders and time zones are being torn down for the global board room.
As in house counsel, it's not unfathomable that you may have to engage in
mediation or negotiations with parties in other countries. You might even have
to travel to other countries to engage in discussions or mediation.
How can you ensure that you maintain a cultural respect when dealing with
another party whose business culture might be different from what you're
Here are a few cross-cultural business tips.
- Get to know the other party. It shouldn't be too hard to
find some information on the person whom you will engage in mediation with. Look
them up online and see what they've written. You can find out who else in your
office knows the opposing party and see what they have to say.
- Get to know the culture. Again, an Internet search can tell
you the basics about the culture. It might be wise to learn a few words of
greeting in the other party's language and get to know dining etiquette, since
you might be required to dine with them.
- Handshaking. Handshaking isn't always the norm when
greeting people. In some Asian cultures, people avoid eye contact during
handshakes. In some Middle Eastern countries, handshaking between a man and
woman is taboo.
- Business cards. In Asian cultures, business cards are very
important and you should only present pristine cards, with both hands and the
native language side up. When receiving a card, it's important to thank the
- Hierarchy. Do some advance preparation and get to know who
will be at the meeting and what the hierarchy is. In some East Asian cultures,
it's a sign of respect to greet the most senior person in the room first. The
same applies among Indian cultures.
A final tip: In addition to learning about basic cross-cultural norms, be
sure to research possible taboos also, as these could impair your negotiations
heavily. The Internet is abundant full of information and articles on cultural
norms in business.