November 13, 2014 | 3 minutes

International Business Practices Every Entrepreneur Should Be Well-Versed In


Photo by: Kevin Dooley (Flickr)

By Nathan Strum

One of the biggest advantages to working in the virtual office industry is that I get to meet a wide variety of business professionals from all over the world. My first exposure to international business professionals was a little rocky as I did not understand the different ways to show respect to people from other cultures.

I learned that international business people will usually forgive a little disrespect the first time it happens, but you better not repeat it. That is why I have put together this list of international business practices that every entrepreneur needs to know.

Chinese Business Professionals Expect Gifts

For centuries, the Chinese have been very aware of the world around them. Chinese business professionals love to receive small tokens from the hometowns of international business associates. Whether you are headed to China for your first business meeting there or you are preparing to host your first business meeting with Chinese guests, it is important to remember to give some small (but important) memento from your town.

Keeping Quiet Is Fine in Finland

My first experience with Finnish business associates was filled with tension, but it was all tension of my own creation. My guests would take what I felt to be extraordinary amounts of time to review their notes and check their smartphones for messages. Then they would look to me to start talking and I had no idea what to say. The point is that long instances of silence are the norm in Finnish business meetings, so do not let it make you feel uncomfortable.

There Are No Lunch Meetings in Germany

The German people are renowned for their focus and their prosperity. They are also known for their enjoyment of food and drink. When meeting with German business associates, be sure to discuss all of your business issues at the meeting table. As soon as the meeting breaks for lunch, the business talk stops because Germans consider it rude to discuss business while eating.

Watch Your Hands in the Middle East

In the United States, we do not associate any significance to our right or left hands, except when talking about which hand is our dominant one. In the Middle East, the left hand is reserved for taking care of personal hygiene issues. That means that you always shake hands, present business cards and accept business cards with your right hand.

Try A Little Small Talk First

In the United States, business professionals cannot wait to get down to business and discuss details. While that works in some parts of the world, there are other regions where this is considered inappropriate. For example, in Latin America it is customary to start off business meetings with a discussion of personal preferences. In the United States, we call it small talk. In Latin America, it is known as getting to know you before doing business.

Doing business directly with international associates is rewarding and educational. But if you want to get the very most out of your next contact with an international business professional, then take some time to learn their customs and you will find that the meeting will go much smoother.

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