From not saying “thank you” in India, to arriving up to an hour late in Brazil, every country has its own customs when it comes to business dinners. When you go abroad for these important meetings, our normal traditions can be surprisingly insulting, or just out of place in different cultures. Avoiding these potential awkward moments is important for not offending potential business partners. Here are the do’s and don’ts of business dining etiquette in different countries around the world.Britain
If you’re doing business with the Brits, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Etiquette is relaxed and there are few complicated customs to uphold. One crucial piece of advice, however, is you need to turn up on time, if not earlier. Rocking up ten minutes late will not sit well and will be viewed as impolite.
Impress your potential partners with money saving tips or restaurant discount cards when paying for a meal, demonstrating your savviness.
Wanting to do a deal in Japan, first impressions count. Hide any tattoos, as failure to do this is disrespectful and will get you nowhere with your deal.
Business cards in Japan are a must and will be exchanged after initial greetings. They need to be studied intensively, not just shoved in your pocket.
Be careful with where you put your chopsticks. Don’t be tempted to place them upwards, as when you do this, it can resemble a Japanese funeral ritual. This is both insensitive and unhelpful in creating a positive, working relationship needed to get a successful outcome. Try to eat all the food you are given, but don’t worry about this! Portions are often a lot smaller than they are in Britain and America.
Business dining in Brazil will probably come as a big culture shock to us Brits. If you are dining at a restaurant, turn up on time, even if your Brazilian counterpart leaves you waiting for a bit. However, if you are going for dinner at their home, arrive around 30 minutes late. If it’s a bigger gathering, this can be closer to an hour.
Demonstrate your patience by waiting till after the meal to talk business. You’ll discuss it over a cup of coffee after you’ve eaten. Further restraint is needed in Brazilian business as you should wait for the matter to be brought up by the host, unless it has been mentioned previously. Don’t fall into the trap of being offended if someone interrupts mid-sentence. Interrupting is seen as sign of enthusiasm and interest; it is not thought of as rude or inconsiderate.
There is a lot to remember when dining in India, but don’t be intimidated as theirs is a culture of hospitality and empathy. Any mistakes will be quickly forgotten. If you want to get off on a good foot, don’t leave any food on your plate and always accept any more that is offered to you. The amount of food you’ve eaten symbolises how much you’ve enjoyed their meal.
Even if you are frustrated or angry with the progress of your talks, don’t be too blunt, however tempting it may be. You may be dead set against something, but directly saying ‘no’ is seen as rude. Instead, say ‘I’ll think about it’ or ‘I’ll get back to you’. Once you’ve reached the end of the meal, don’t say “thank you” — it is seen as unnecessary and in bad taste, ending your productive meeting on a sour note. Instead perform a slight bow, with your hands pressed together, as a sign of your gratitude.
Wanting to create a good relationship with your future German partners? Bring a small gift — some nice alcohol or stationery will do. After you’ve completed your deal, go for a more meaningful, larger gift.
Even more so than in the UK, being late in Germany is seen as rude and impolite. Arriving just a couple of minutes late will limit your chances of success before you’ve even entered the room. To achieve success in Germany, make sure everything you are going to discuss has already been set out and agreed. At the end of your meeting, don’t introduce a huge change or massive transaction to your future partner, as this will ruin all the progress you’ve made.
Overwhelming as it seems, no one expects you to know all the customs of a country. Most, if not all, faux pas will go unnoticed or will be quickly forgotten. Yes, respecting other countries’ traditions is important, but don’t spend the whole dinner panicking about it. So, relax, enjoy the food, and focus on achieving the deal you set out to get!