The world is a spectacularly diverse place and with most businesses having an aspect of globalisation these days, local customs are a quagmire of quicksand that need to be navigated with caution! This is our guide to local business customs so you can avoid offence wherever your work takes you.
In Kenya, don’t expect beverages with your meal. Kenyans believe it’s impolite to drink and eat at the same time. You’ll probably be served a drink afterwards.
In Egypt, it is considered rude not to accept tea or coffee if it is offered, even if you do not drink it. On occasions where you do decline something, put your right hand over your heart. It makes your refusal seem much more polite and gracious.
In Japan, it is polite to attend a meeting baring a gift for the most senior professional. In the US and some other countries this is frowned upon, as gift-giving can be mistaken as bribery, so a note is more accepted.
In Hong Kong, do not give a clock or watch as a gift. They are associated with death and funerals and a clock as a gift can be seen as a sinister action. Also, when eating a meal, don’t turn a fish over. It’s bad luck as it represents a boat capsizing.
In Argentina, don’t make the ‘OK’ sign or give a ‘thumbs up’. Both of these signs are considered vulgar.
In France, it is appreciated if you apologise for your lack of fluency in the language.
In Germany, don’t reschedule appointments unless you have a very good reason.
In the UK, be aware of keeping personal space when in public and do not touch or bump into others. Try not to make eye contact on public transport.
In the Netherlands, expect meetings to be conducted in the office, as opposed to a restaurant or coffee shop. Business meals are usually a break from a meeting or to celebrate.
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