White globe on a white table

Any business leader who works with international companies knows and understands the importance of brushing up on local culture before you attempt to strike up a deal. What is perfectly acceptable in the United States could be a symbol of terrible rudeness or disrespect in another country.


In China, business culture dictates that you bring your host a gift. Use both hands to provide the gift and avoid white wrapping paper, as it symbolizes funerals. The host will likely reject your gift three times, as is the custom, and each time you must insist that they accept it. If you are offered a gift, you should do the same. Dress conservatively and avoid physical contact, as not doing so is considered too casual for business dealings.


While bowing is the typical Japanese greeting, handshakes are sometimes used. Allow the other person to initiate the greeting and follow suit. The word “no” should be used as little as possible, as it is customary to reply with, “yes,” even if you disagree. Finally, it is customary to bring a gift but never present an unwrapped present.


Keep all meetings in Germany straight to the point. Avoid jokes and small talk. When entering the boardroom with Germans, allow the oldest person to enter first. Additionally, punctuality is of the utmost importance. Show your German business partners that their time is valuable by arriving promptly at the agreed upon hour.


In France, it is imperative that you always make appointments before arriving at an office or home. Dropping in unannounced is considered unacceptably rude. Don’t be surprised, though, if you find that your French companions arrive fashionably late. Punctuality is not as important in France as it is in other international markets. Avoid giving gifts at the first business meeting. Wait until all parties are more comfortable with one another.

Advising Before the Big Move

If you’re thinking about moving into the international market, it wouldn’t hurt to start a relationship with a business advisor, such as Lori Moen at Catalyst Group ECR. We offer services, such as executive roundtables, where you can speak with peers in a space that promotes growth and confidentiality. Learn more through the contact form or check out our blog to see what Catalyst Group ECR has been up to.

You can also check out this useful infographic that goes into more details about etiquette from around the world!

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