Relocating to a new country and starting a new role are exciting challenges. One of the first aspects that all new global assignees need to master is the business etiquette in their new country. How should you greet new contacts? Are business cards exchanged – and with whom? Plus, what communication styles required?

New information from training organisation SocialTalent gives a valuable look into the requirements of several key trading countries across Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Australia.

Are handshakes acceptable?

Yes – handshakes are acceptable everywhere. However traditional Indian women may not shake hands with men. In United Arab Emirates, always handshake with the right hand. Bowing is the common greeting in Japan, although some Japanese people may offer a handshake.

Should first names be used?

In all cases, use a contact’s title and surname until invited to use their first name.

Should business cards be offered?

Business cards are accepted by everyone however the way these are presented and their content varies. For example:

  • In France, business cards should be handed to the receptionist when arriving at the meeting location
  • Translations to the language of the host country is important in Russia, India, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, (Portuguese) and Canada, (French).
  • In China and Japan, business cards should be given and received with two hands and kept in pristine condition


How do communication styles differ?

This varies greatly between different countries. For example:

  • Punctuality is very important in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. In Russia, you will be expected to arrive on time, however Russians may be late.
  • In United Arab Emirates, is usual to answer text messages and phone calls during meetings – which is very disconcerting if this is new to you!
  • French and German meetings usually stick to business-orientated discussion. However in the United Kingdom, Unites States and Spain, small talk involving non-business subjects is usual.


“It’s fascinating how business etiquette varies between different cultures,” says Louise Chilcott, Global Move Specialist at BTR International. “From where to sit, how to address contacts to the importance of eye contact and personal space… it varies hugely. That’s why we offer cultural training as part of our destination services for assignees. It helps people to feel more comfortable in their new working environment and avoids mistakes that can impact upon working relationships.”

Would you like to know more? Contact Louise for an initial discussion without obligation. You can reach her by emailing or calling +44 (0) 1582 495495.

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