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Avoiding international embarrassment

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You’ve probably heard about incidents where business people committed faux pas when traveling or hosting international guests. They were dressed inappropriately, unknowingly said something that offended the host, or disrespected the culture. These incidents can be embarrassing, and even detrimental to potential business deals.{{more}}

As you embark on business trips, it’s imperative for companies and government officials to consider the following suggestions while planning.

Research the culture and business practices. Things are done differently in each culture. For example, in the western hemisphere, a cursory glance is given to a business card upon its presentation, whereas in Asian culture, time is taken to read the card carefully immediately as it’s received.

Practice your dining skills. Many business meetings occur over a meal. It’s critical to know which utensils to use, what style of dining to use, which topics are appropriate to discuss, and what to do if you are served something that looks and smells strange.

Know the dress code. Depending on the country, dress codes can differ, especially for women. Is it business casual? Are women allowed to wear pants? Is a head covering required? Be sure before your pack.

Understand greetings. In some countries, it is OK to kiss on the cheek as a greeting (even men); in others it’s strictly a handshake. Not knowing when to use them can be embarrassing and uncomfortable for all involved.

Research gender roles and restrictions. Some countries have specific gender roles that govern how men and women interact and what is permissible. This is especially true in the Middle East. In some countries it’s illegal for women to drive, while in others renting a car upon arrival at the airport to take you to your business meeting is standard practice.

A successful business trip begins when you take the time to prepare and learn how to avoid offending your host and embarrassing yourself and your company or government.

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