Just as business meetings vary from company to company, they can also vary from culture to culture. International business meetings can be incredible experiences, but they also come with unique challenges that aren’t seen in purely domestic interactions. Here are a few ways to prepare yourself for an international business meeting.
Learn the Cultural Customs
Did you know that in Russian business meetings, smiling denotes insincerity? That Israel conducts business on Sunday through Thursday? That in many Asian countries, business cards and other handouts must be accepted using two hands? As Business Insider reports, countries around the world have vastly different business culture customs. There’s no one right way to hold a business meeting, and this can create tension if cultural norms are not researched or followed. Before you hold such a meeting, conduct research to learn about typical customs. Be sure to look into dining, business, and personal etiquette for the country you’re visiting or the individuals you’re hosting.
Learn the Titles
In a typical American business meeting, you may refer to coworkers by their first names. For example, John Schmidt may be referred to as simply “John.” However, this is not the case around the world. In highly strict, professional settings, such as German companies, “Herr Schmidt” would be expected. In Asian countries such as China, the surname often comes before the first name. Make sure you know how to address business partners and take a moment to acquaint yourself with how they’ll address you.
Learn the Lingo
Although English is the language of international business, many globe-trotting professionals are bi- or multilingual. While you don’t necessarily have to scramble and learn an entire language right before your trip, knowing useful phrases in the country’s native tongue will help you appear prepared, professional, and personable. Simple sayings such as “please,” “thank you,” and “pardon me” can help you get by as you venture through the city and into your meeting. It’s still a good idea to learn another language, but knowing some of those key phrases is definitely important in the short and long term.
Learn the Strategies
This is especially important when negotiating with another country for the first time. Because businesses around the world take different approaches to strategy, it’s important to do your research and figure out how a given business in a given country will want to act. Going into a business meeting with a plan that works on American soil but doesn’t account for French taxes isn’t going to help, and can lead to negative impressions of your business. Before you map out a specific strategy, research how the country conducts business and prepare questions that you can’t answer through your research.