Business has become increasingly more global today and this means that meetings, conferences and phone calls are held across the globe and attendees can be from any point of the world. In international business, you find yourself dealing over the phone, face-to-face or by mail with people whose cultures and customs differ from your own. Sometimes, you might never have to leave your home to connect on an international level. When dealing with international clients and colleagues, you should treat them with sensitivity and understanding of their unique culture. Failure to put your finest international foot forward and do your homework can cost you relationships or even future business. One minor misstep like using first names inappropriately, sending the wrong flower type in the welcome bouquet or failing to observe the rules of timing can be very costly.
However, it should be noted that there is no single set of rules that pertains to all international visitors. For that reason, you should do some research for every country that your clients and colleagues represent. This might sound like a frightening task but if taken in small stages, it is very manageable and its rewards merit the effort. You should however, remember that the ways of doing international business are as many as there are countries. Here are some etiquette tips that will help you succeed in international business.
Building Relationships and Dressing Conservatively
Before getting to the bottom line, you should first take time to know your international customers and build rapport with them. Business relationships are made on trust that people develop over time, particularly with people from Latin America and Asia. Some people will not even do business with anyone they consider a stranger.
When it comes to dressing for international business meetings, be a bit conservative. While some people like the Americans dress for style and comfort, people from some other parts of the globe are usually more conservative. Your business attire choice is a symbol of your reverence to the other individual or organization. Leave your fashionable clothing in the closet on days you are meeting with your foreign guests.
Using Titles and Right Forms of Address
While you might be from a country that is informal and has no problem referring to people by their first names, this might be unacceptable in other cultures. When dealing with foreign clients, approach first names cautiously. Use titles and the clients’ last names until they invite you to use their first name. However, in some instances this might never occur because use of first names is only reserved for close friends and family in some cultures.
You will find that titles are held with more significance in other parts of the world than in United States and are also an essential feature of addressing business people. Attained academic degrees are acknowledged. Therefore, you should listen carefully when introduced to an important person and give some consideration to business cards once you receive them.
Valuing Time and Honoring Space Issues
Americans are known to be very time conscious but not everybody else in the world is. Do not take it personally if somebody from the more relaxed cultures keeps you waiting or takes more time than you normally would over meals or in meetings. Be punctual but understand it when your contact from another part of the world seems unconcerned.
When it comes to physical space, go with what your international visitor seems to be comfortable with. If, for example, your contact seems to want to get close during discussions, accept it as backing away could send the wrong message. You should also be careful with touching as it can make you violate another person’s space. Be professional and only use a handshake.
Understanding the Handshake
Business people around the globe use a handshake for conference and greeting, with just a few exceptions. There are variations in handshake from one country to another and you should be aware of this. Do not be shocked if you occasionally get a hug, a kiss or even a bow someplace along the way.
In conclusion, international business success depends on your ability to deal with your foreign contacts. The biggest compliment you can give your international clients is learning about their country and culture. Understand differences in manners and respect them with your actions. Do not be offended when foreign visitors act according to their norms. Contacts from other cultures will be thankful for your hard work to accommodate them this will help you succeed in building your international clientele.
[author ]Jack Chen is a business writer who also helps new businesses. If you want to set up a new business in Myanmar and need some help with registering your buiness in Myanmar, visit Myanmar Company Registration Advice.[/author]