Plenty of businesses and business persons have made a blunder from time-to-time. They range from Ratner who called his own jewelry line “Sh*t” on live TV and bankrupted his business, to the Mission Impossible 3 makers who put a small box in newspapers that played the Mission Impossible theme tune. People around the US mistakenly believed this meant their newspaper was going to explode.
Before you step on the plane or boat, let’s see which international customs you remember when conducting business.
The Unexpected Indian Custom
We all know that a business dinner in India means you shouldn’t order any sort of beef meal. Eating a beef meal would be as disrespectful as ordering a white swan in Britain. However, what many business visitors forget is that leather is often a touchy subject because it is predominantly made from cows. Ergo, if you walk into an Indian meeting with your bright and shiny leather shoes, make sure it says “Faux Leather” down the side.
Deadline Doesn’t Mean What You Think in Spain
In most countries, when you give a business deadline, you are giving a certain time and date by which you expect a goal to be achieved. In Spain, the word “deadline” is more of a guideline. It is like saying, “see you later” to a friend rather than saying, “See you, Thursday, 2am, the 23rd.” Clarifying completion dates and allowing for delays is all part of dealing with people in Spain. Also, in Spain, if people are genuinely interested in the conversation, then expect them to butt in. Interruptions during large conferences can be rather frustrating in Spain.
Direct and No Jokes for Germans
It sounds like a funny racial slur when you say that Germans have no sense of humor. Obviously, it is not true, but if you try to make a joke during a business meeting, then you will be rebuked. Making jokes during business meetings is the same as breaking wind during a meeting in the US. Jokes, anecdotes, and the “hard sell” approach are not welcome.
Do not insult a competitor or make a spontaneous presentations. Slang language and colloquialisms are not welcome either. It may sound like a set of cold customs, but to them, it is all as inappropriate as whistling during somebody’s funeral service. Some say you can make a joke or two if they are quick, but you risk them thinking you are not taking the meeting seriously.
Making Friends With an Italian
If you are coming from a place like Britain, then you are rarely surprised by the welcoming and friendly nature of the Australian. However, it takes some businesspersons by surprise when Italian businesspersons are so quick to develop personal relationships with their overseas partners. Even the nature of their written business communications seems far warmer than the people you meet on the streets when you visit.
Disorganized Down Under
Welcoming and friendly are the Australians. Class still exists, but it is far less rigid than in Europe. There are some cold Australian businesspersons, some are ruthless, and some are overly warm and almost cuddly.
Yet, if you are late for meetings, you are often perceived as being disorganized. Being late for job interviews, business meetings, and even a business lunch is seen as something a child would do. It makes you appear disorganized and some may even judge you as being lackadaisical about the whole business deal. The British are not too keen on lateness either and they often see it as disrespectful.
Getting Close to a Brazilian
Perhaps you have had experience with this sort of thing. Some call it the Chinese dance. When people from China and Japan meet in groups with people from Anglo Saxon countries, a dance occurs where Chinese people get close to chat, and people from Anglo Saxon countries move away slightly. Recorded and sped up, it looks like the talkers are dancing around the room. People in Japan are used to talking up close, and people in places like Australia, Canada, UK, etc., are used to having a larger area of personal space.
In Brazil, the rules seem to have been intensified, and backing away is considered rude. It can range from anything, from pulling their chair up to yours, to reaching over and across your chest to pick up a pen from the table. Brazilians can also be a little more touchy than some people are used to, and some North Americans mistake this for being sexually aggressive. Your Brazilian business partners are not flirting with you; they are just as tactile with everybody.
Talk Less in the United Kingdom
Be you nestled in Scotland, doing business in Northern Ireland, having meetings in Wales, or hiring a resident director in England, you may have to tone down your salesmanship. Some people consider it an enthusiastic and maybe even a loud presentation to show real energy and drive. However, when dealing with people in the UK, this sort of thing doesn’t gel (as they would say).
You do not have to be drab with your presentation, nor do you have to be clinical. Instead, use correct English, and do not talk down to the people involved by dumbing down your words; keep things highbrow and intellectual. There is nothing wrong with energy, but it needs to be tempered. If your presentation were a musical theater piece, then think more Mary Poppins than Grease..