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The international business etiquette you need to know

Business is a fairly stressful environment as it is. But throw into this the etiquette rules which vary widely from continent to continent, and it is all too easy to cause offence and get off on the wrong foot when on international soil. So, gentlemen, follow this guide to ensure you don’t put your foot in it…


  • As a foreigner, be the first to offer you business card
  • Wait for your host to extend his hand to greet you
  • Present your business card with both hands. Reciprocate by accepting someone else’s business card in the same way
  • Look at the business card for a couple of seconds before putting it away
  • If your shoes or feet touch someone else, make sure you apologise immediately
  • The word ‘no’ is considered harsh in Asian culture
  • Always use formal titles when interacting with Asian clients
  • Use British humour sparingly


  • Never cross your legs when sitting in a chair
  • Don’t take photos of women without asking permission
  • Never use your left hand for presenting your business card, eating or shaking hands
  • Handshakes are customary, but you may also be greeted with a kiss
  • Wait until your host releases your hand from a handshake
  • Don’t be surprised if another man holds your hand while leading you somewhere


  • Exchange business cards during introductions
  • In Latin America, expect close proximity conversation – don’t move away
  • In North America, shake firmly and make direct eye contact
  • If someone offers you a seat, take it
  • Men and women in the workplace are legally and socially equal
  • New Yorkers are generally very busy, and time can be precious
  • During business meetings it is considered rude to answer phone calls or send e-mails


  • Present a business card on introduction – do not expect one in return
  • Always make eye contact when chinking glasses, or suffer 7 years of bad sex
  • Call your hosts by their first names

Main image from The Wise Traveller, featured image from GT Review

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