Staying on Top of Cross-Cultural Business Etiquette

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on July 09, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

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 accustomed to?

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 person.
  • 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.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard