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Three simple ways to avoid an international faux pas


You’ve probably heard about incidents where business people committed faux pas when travelling 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 business travel increases, it’s imperative for companies to consider the following suggestions while planning their next business trip.

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. In many cultures, people socialize before they talk business and being late in some places is almost expected. In some places, women are still not expected to have an active role at the negotiation table. Do the research to know what is acceptable business practice and adapt to suit the culture.

Practice your dining skills. Many business meetings occur over a meal. It’s critical to know which utensils to use, which topics are appropriate to discuss and what to do if you are served something that looks and smells strange. In some cultures, cleaning our plate can be seen as impolite, while in other parts of the world it is a compliment to the chef.

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 headdress required? Before you pack for your trip, know what is expected. Getting the business is the most important thing.

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. The goal is to close the deal and make the customer happy in every way.

Karen Hinds is “The Workplace Success Expert.”
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