Sales presentations

Tips on business etiquette abroad

Business etiquette matters. You know this. You’re at a point in your career where you’re confident in attending business appointments (especially when meeting people for the first time) and you know how to make the right impression.

Your handshake is just the right length and strength. You’ve not turned up late to a meeting since that time you naively assumed Stamford Bridge was in Chelsea (it’s actually in Fulham). And you always make sure to look the people your meeting in the eye without creeping them out.

Then what happens? You’ve spent years honing your business etiquette skills and now you have to start travelling abroad for work. And the tips and skills you’ve amassed work all around the world, right?  Errr… kind of. Business etiquette can vary quite significantly from country to country.

But never fear, in true Buffalo 7 style, we’re here to help. Using data from ONS, we’ve focused our business etiquette tips on the eleven countries you are most likely to visit on business from the UK.

 

Business etiquette in France

Time-keeping

Turning up unannounced simply isn’t done in France – and doing so is considered rude – so you should make an appointment beforehand. As long as you’re scheduled in, don’t worry too much about being late. We’re not advising you to be late on purpose, but arriving ten minutes after you said you would isn’t a big deal.

 

How do I look?

For men, it might be an idea to shave. And a wet shave at that, if your sensitive skin can take it. A stubbly face for an important business meeting won’t be particularly well received. If you can afford to splash out, then good-quality suits, jewellery and accessories will gain you some kudos.

 

Lunch meetings

You won’t be grabbing a quick sandwich at Pret: a French business lunch is quite the affair, and it’s likely to be formal and lengthy. Assuming you don’t want to leave the meeting slurring your words, then try to keep your wine glass at least half full. The more you sip, the more your glass will be topped up. Whoever is hosting the meeting should initiate the business conversation and they are likely to do so after the dessert is served.

 

Presenting style

Your mum taught you not to interrupt, and being the well-mannered individual that you are, you never do. Well in France, you can. And in fact, maybe you should. Interrupting someone is seen as showing interest in the speaker and what they’re talking about, so don’t be offended if you are interrupted. And likewise, if you’re being presented to, feel free to jump in.

 

Our top tip

Learn French gestures. If someone taps their index finger on the end of their nose they are indicating that you’re clever, so you’re doing well! Conversely, if they form a circle with their thumb and finger they aren’t saying ‘OK’. This gesture means ‘nothing’, ‘worthless’ or ‘zero’, so not so good!

tips on french business etiquette

 

Business etiquette in Germany

Time-keeping

Be on time. If you say you’re going to be there at 12, be there at 12 or even earlier. Even a few minutes delay can offend Germans.

 

How do I look?

Dress well. Smart and professional. For women, try not to wear heavy makeup or over-the-top jewellery. Think elderly relatives posh birthday lunch rather than New Years Eve in The Printworks.

For men, if you want to remove your jacket and tie then wait until your German colleague or client does so first.

 

Lunch meetings

These will usually take place between 12 and 3pm and the atmosphere will be a little warmer than an office meeting. You’ll get the opportunity to get to know your German contacts a bit more, but you won’t go down that well if you start eating before your hosts or just as they were about to make a toast. If you’ve been invited, then your host will likely insist on paying the bill….Result!

 

Presenting style

No need for small talk. When you’re presenting, just jump straight in. Get to the point and your German friends will appreciate you for it.

 

Our top tip

No gifts. Any gift giving in a business scenario is considered inappropriate or even illegal. It can be taken as a form of bribery, so leave the Beefeater bear at home.

tips on german business etiquette

 

Business etiquette in Spain

Time-keeping

If you can, try to arrange meetings around mid-morning to avoid any issues with siesta breaks. Before you arrive at the meeting, it’s a good idea to confirm your attendance via email.

 

How do I look?

Dress smart and fashionably. Neaten your hair up and make sure those shoes are clean.

 

Lunch meetings

A business meeting at lunch is likely to be between 1pm and 2pm, and it may not necessarily be a formal affair at a fine restaurant. It could just as easily be a casual meal at a local cafe.

 

Presenting style

Spaniards like to know exactly who they are doing business with so don’t be afraid to tell them lots about your company, as well as showing examples of your previous work.

 

Our top tip

Be open. As we said above, Spanish people like to know the people they are going into business with so, if they ask you personal questions, then really you should answer them.

tips on spanish business etiquette

 

Business etiquette in Italy

Time-keeping

You’ll be expected to turn up on time, but it’s almost guaranteed that the meeting will start and finish late.

 

How do I look?

Without being too clichéd about it: dress to impress. Wearing fashionable, designer clothes will portray an image of success.

 

Lunch meetings

It’s likely any business deals will be concluded over some great food and a nice bottle of wine.

 

Presenting style

If, while presenting, your audience expresses disagreement with something you’ve said then don’t worry. Constructive conflict is very common in business negotiations in Italy.

 

Our top tip

Gift giving. Don’t offer your gift before receiving one yourself, and you should try a lot harder than a USB stick and notebook with your company logo plastered all over it. It’s considered rude.

tips on italian business etiquette

 

Business etiquette in the UAE

Time-keeping

Be on time, but don’t always expect your hosts to follow suit. Middle Easterners are quite relaxed when it comes to business meetings, so may arrive late, but they will expect Westerners to be on time.

 

How do I look?

For men and women, modesty is expected. No revealing clothes and it’s seen as disrespectful to have your shoulders, arms and/or legs on show.

 

Lunch meetings

Don’t ask for alcohol if it’s not offered and don’t refuse an additional helping of food. While you devour all this food, do so with your right hand. Sorry lefties.

 

Presenting style

If you’re presenting, don’t be surprised if more people turn up half way through, or if a member of your audience takes a phone call. Business meetings can be somewhat chaotic.

 

Our top tip

Watch how you sit. If your sat down in a meeting be careful not to show the soles of your shoes. It’s seen as very disrespectful.

etiquette tips for business in the UAE

 

Business etiquette in Switzerland

Time-keeping

Turns out it’s not just their watches that make excellent timekeepers: punctuality is important to the people of Switzerland. Less so in the French speaking areas, but you’re better to err on the side of caution and just be on time.

 

How do I look?

Cliché time again: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. This is of particular importance in Switzerland, so make sure you’re looking smart, your hair’s not gone berserk in the wind, there’s no toilet roll on your shoe, etc, when you meet you Swiss friends for the first time.

 

Lunch meetings

Keep your feet on the floor (that’s not a metaphor) and your forearms on the table until you’ve finished eating. Only then is it appropriate to place your arms in your lap.

 

Presenting style

Swiss people will always look at your face first while you’re presenting so it’s important to smile and look friendly. And when you’re smiling, try and go more Philip Schofield than Jack Nicholson.

 

Our top tip

Hand gestures. Don’t go overboard with hand gestures. In some countries, it’s more common to emphasise certain points using your hands, but not so much in Switzerland. If you see people looking at your hands while your presenting, you’re using them too much.

tips on swiss business etiquette

 

Business etiquette in the Netherlands

Time-keeping

The Dutch take time-keeping seriously. They’ll be on time, so make sure you are too. If you’re late or change the time of a meeting with little notice, they are likely to look elsewhere for the product or service you are offering.

 

How do I look?

To be safe, you won’t go far wrong with classic business attire. Dress code can vary depending on the industry, and it is more relaxed in some cases but, as always, it’s better to be overdressed than too casual.

 

Lunch meetings

Business discussions over lunch are common place and this will likely take place in a restaurant. If your Dutch client or colleague intends to pay the bill, they will make it clear you’re their guest. If there’s no mention of it, expect to ‘go Dutch’ and split the bill.

 

Presenting style

Don’t expect much small talk and be prepared to rattle through your presentation at a rapid pace. Focus on the facts and logic in your presentation, rather than the ‘fluffy stuff’, and your Dutch friends will be grateful for it.

 

Our top tip

Personal space. It’s generally not a good idea to talk to anyone only millimetres from their face, but in the Netherlands pay extra care and make sure you’re giving everyone enough room to breathe.

tips on dutch business etiquette

 

Business etiquette in Austria

Time-keeping

Austria is not just close to Germany in proximity, they are very similar on how they approach time-keeping. You be on time. They’ll be on time. Cushty.

 

How do I look?

Presentation is very important to Austrians. No matter what the level or position is of the person you are visiting, you should dress your business best.

 

Lunch meetings

It’s more likely for any business discussions not to take place over lunch. Whether you’re eating at a cafe or restaurant with your Austrian host, don’t initiate any business discussions unless they do first.

 

Presenting style

Keep your presentation factual and be prepared to have statistics to back up your points, because you will get quizzed. The little details are very important. You certainly won’t be able to blag your way through here!

 

Our top tip

Experience. If you have an impressive education and/or your company has been in business for a hundred years, let them know. If you’re looking to do business with Austrians, this may tip the balance in your favour.

tips on austrian business etiquette

 

Business etiquette in Cyprus

Time-keeping

It’s considered proper Cypriot business etiquette to be on time. You’ll be starting off on the wrong foot if you are late, so you’d better have a good excuse if you are. “I got lost” won’t cut it.

 

How do I look?

Traditional business attire is expected for both men and women. If you’re suited and booted, you won’t go far wrong. As a business relationship develops, it may get a bit more casual, but you’re best off dressing to the nines to start off with.

 

Lunch meetings

It’s more likely for a business meeting to be conducted before lunch over a coffee. If you’re offered a coffee then accept it. It’s better to accept the offer and not really drink it than to politely refuse. If you really hate it, you could ask for a tea. Following the meeting, if you are invited out for lunch, there may not be a menu if it’s a small local restaurant. Don’t pretend you know what you’re doing, just ask. Either your host or the waiter will be able to recommend something.

 

Presenting style

You’ve practiced your presentation a million times and you know it’ll take you exactly 17 minutes to get through it. Think again. Be prepared to be interrupted a number of times. This is perfectly normal. Don’t worry, they don’t hate you.

 

Our top tip

Face-to-face. Video conferencing, in particular, has made meetings with people in other countries far easier, but if you expect to do business with a Cypriot, this is unlikely to suffice.

tips on cypriot business etiquette

 

Business etiquette in the USA

Time-keeping

The United States is a big old place and business etiquette in Alabama might be quite different to New York. If in doubt about whether punctuality is expected, guess what? Yep. Be on time. In most states you will be expected to make appointments on time.

 

How do I look?

It’s considered proper business etiquette to dress conservatively in the first meeting. After that, the clothing style may relax a little. You won’t be wearing your onesie by the third meeting, but perhaps an open collar.

 

Lunch meetings

Unlike many other countries (where they wait to discuss business after the meal) Americans are happy to partake in business discussions throughout the entirety of the lunch meeting. You don’t have to wait until everyone has finished eating before you talk business, but don’t talk with your mouth full. Nobody wants to see that.

 

Presenting style

Expect your American friends to disagree with you and ask lots of questions while you’re talking. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal. Fight your corner, but don’t turn it into an argument!

 

Our top tip

Time is money. Try and keep your discussions short and sweet, and they’ll appreciate you for it.

tips on american business etiquette

 

Business etiquette in the ROI

Time-keeping

While Irish people may be late for business meetings with their fellow Irishman, you shouldn’t be. It’s expected that foreigners will arrive on time, so don’t be the exception. It might not go down too well.

 

How do I look?

Business clothing is a little less formal than in other Western European countries. Tweeds, wools, jacket and pant combos rather than a traditional grey suit perhaps. You won’t look out of place though wearing your standard, formal, business suit.

 

Lunch meetings

Business meetings over lunch are very common. As they are on the golf course or in the pub. Don’t wait to be asked by your Irish counterpart. Feel free to invite them to lunch where you can discuss business. Just make sure it’s a quiet enough place that you’re able to hear each other.

 

Presenting style

While speaking with your Irish associates, you should maintain eye contact. If you’re not looking them in the eye they’re unlikely to trust you. Use common sense here. Maintain eye contact but don’t scare the hell out of them with your intense laser eyes.

 

Our top tip

LOL. The Irish are known for their modesty and sense of humour and this can (and probably will) extend into the business setting. Light teasing is common, so don’t be offended if you’re the butt of a couple of jokes. Feel free to give it back, just don’t go too far!

tips on irish business etiquette

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