International Business Etiquette - Customs and Culture
With offices in multiple countries, international corporations have long been navigating the fine points of dealing with the cultural differences of doing business in foreign countries. With the ability to contact clients and customers around the world through e-commerce websites, social media, email, and other forms of technology, now entrepreneurs and small businesses are also increasingly dealing with the pressures and challenges of handling international business. The standards of doing business in the United States, however, often do not apply when doing business in other regions. All countries have unique customs, cultures, and traditions. Therefore, when expanding a company into an overseas market, interacting with a foreign customer or client who is visiting the United States, or working in another country, requires taking the time to know more about cultural differences to avoid embarrassing, offending, or ruining a business deal. For instance, even though Canadians, Australians, and British individuals all speak English, differences in accents, meaning of words, spelling, and slang can lead to some communication issues.
In international business, first impressions are often the only chance professionals have to impress a business contact. Avoiding a faux pas, building trust, and putting a foreign partner at ease requires knowledge of cultural customs concerning business attire, facial expressions, body language, eye contact, and shaking hands. For instance, in some Asian countries extended eye contact can be viewed as impolite or aggressive while American and Canadian business practices usually emphasize eye contact as a means of showing interest and respect. As international business is often negotiated and discussed at social events, business lunches and dinners, and through online contact, global professionals need to know much more than handling interactions in a conference or other business setting. How to interact when in the home of a foreign business contact, gender differences, dining etiquette, and seating hierarchy are all important. Ultimately, business professionals who take the time to understand the culture and customs of the countries they do business with will have more success in networking with, impressing, and closing business deals with people from other cultures.
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