Other countries, other customs

How business is done globally

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We live the vision of intercultural networking like no one dared to dream decades ago. We network across countries and our business contacts are located all over the world. Thus, business trips to other continents are becoming more and more commonplace.

Studies like the VDR Business Travel Report 2018 have shown that the United States, China and the United Kingdom are the top business travel destinations for German travellers. Other countries like India or Russia, however, are also becoming more and more important for conducting business. This is the motivation behind this article: showing and explaining to you how cultural differences affect our way to interact with one another during business meetings. There are a lot of caveats and you have to tread carefully: differences in culture oftentimes are one of the main reasons for misunderstandings. We have collected some of the most important differences in our guide:

Customs in China

What should be your top priorities while travelling to China? Modesty and restraint! Both will help you navigate through complex hierarchical structures.

Chinese business dinners are infamous and often go hand in hand with the consumption of alcohol. If you do not want to participate in drinking, you need to communicate it early and offer strong reasons for doing so: health reasons are a good example. Speaking of health: rules of hygiene differ in China compared to European countries, too. Blowing or wiping your nose in public and especially during dinner is one of the most offensive things you can do there, so it is advised to use a restroom for this purpose. 

However: Times are changing in China and many strict cultural rules haves softened up. You can say that in many ways, China has adopted to the Western lifestyle. So when in doubt, do as the Chinese do! However, you should use restraint in this approach. Be interested instead and make sincere efforts to interact in the proper manner and you will be successfully navigating the intricacies of Chinese culture.

Customs in India

As a former British colony, India’s etiquette shows Western influence, especially compared to other countries in Asia. There are certain aspects which you should be attentive to nonetheless. Just as with other Asian cultures, hierarchy has a dominant role in business interactions. Additionally, the family is one of the core foundations of Indian culture – this is also true for the business world: Many important companies are run by families. 

Just in case you are hosting a business dinner for your partners, you need to be acquainted with their eating habits. India is a country with a diverse set of religions which also exert influence over what people will and will not eat. Muslims do not eat pork, for example, while Hindus do not eat beef. Finally, you have to keep in mind that the dinner usually marks the end of the business gathering. After that, the party is over immediately and you are expected to return home.

Customs in Russia

In order to be accepted as a business partner, you have to make clear that you are a high-ranking member of your organization. However, even in this case, Russian business people might act in a distant manner towards you. This is something different from what we know from most European cultures. You should not lose your patience in this case – you and your business partner are practically strangers at the first meeting. In Russia, it is important to get to know each other privately prior to signing important contracts. Here, people usually meet in the evening. The business lunch is not as popular as in most European countries. Do not be afraid when the vodka starts to flow: you may participate, but you do not have to. Your Russian business partners will understand if you say that you do not drink because of health reasons. However, if you start drinking merrily with everybody at the table, it is very important to tell them when you want or need to stop. In any other case, your glass will be filled with another round.

Other countries have other customs – this may sound trite, but it is true nonetheless. If you want to master your intercultural skills, we suggest booking a seminar or workshop with a cultural focus or buying an in-depth etiquette manual.
Published by Megali on 17/07/2018 Photo credit: © Felix Pergande

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