Culture anyone?

Do you have colleagues traveling for work or moving to another country? Is your sales force traversing across continents? Entering a new international market can be a nerve-wracking proposition for even the most seasoned businessperson.  How can you and your team avoid offending foreign business partners? Consider discussing etiquette.’s recent research showed that 62% of business travelers polled feel that lack of cultural understanding and resulting errors in etiquette, affect a company’s reputation and bottom line.  Ouch!  Certain gestures and behaviors that are acceptable in one country or city can cause offence in another and cause a business deal to flounder. surveyed 4,500 business travelers across eight countries. One third admitted to a cultural faux pas during business travel. About half had observed a colleague make one.”

According to the survey, here are the top 5 business etiquette blunders:

Being on a mobile device during a meeting    46%
Not greeting people appropriately    43%
Inappropriate attire    36%
Speaking loudly    32%
Not responding to emails within 24 hours    19%

Believe it or not, 83% of business travelers know the importance of correct etiquette when traveling to a different country.  While about three out of four business travelers say they research the country’s business etiquette before they go, that does not fully guarantee against an error in etiquette.

Top 5 countries who admit to business etiquette faux pas:

China     67%
Italy    65%
USA    58%
Germany    56%
Spain    52%

What are the top concerns for business travelers?

Dining and pleasantries:
There are many cultural nuances when it comes to food and small talk.  About 25% of the respondents were uncomfortable going to a restaurant with people they did not know well.  One-third worried about being served too much alcohol along with what topics were safe to discuss over a meal.

Mobile devices:
Half of respondents strongly believed that being on your mobile device during a meeting is the most offensive.

43% of global business travelers believed that not greeting a business associate properly was one of the biggest cultural faux pas one can commit.  Japanese business travelers (61%) viewed improper greetings as the highest form of rudeness.  Speaking loudly, for (50%) of Chinese respondents, was the biggest cultural faux pas in their country.

What should happen if you accidentally offend a foreign colleague? While 37% of Italian business travelers felt an apology should be offered right away, 69% of Japanese business travelers believed it was important to make amends immediately.

There are more nuances to global business etiquette than meet the eye.  A strong understanding of how culture impacts business is essential to recognizing the specific cultural differences between countries.  If your employees are hitting the road, ask about any concerns they might have. Offer resources for your global employees to make the most of their assignment, business event, or business meetings.  The results will yield a more productive and confident employee and a successful outcome to your global business relationships.