Women don’t wear pants in Japan! Now before your imagination runs riot, let me tell you this is one of the guidelines prescribed to many female business travellers to Japan. As per Google, “Japanese business etiquette” is one of the most searched for Japan business related keywords. According to these guidelines, Japanese men do not relate easily to women with authority in business and that can cause problems while doing business. The Japanese culture encourages women to wear long skirt suits to work. Most Japanese companies prefer that their female employees not wear high-heeled shoes as Japanese men are not very tall, and towering over them might offend some.

While “Going Dutch” is a culture common to Netherlands and accepted in many other cultures, the Turks don’t believe in “Going Dutch” at all, and a suggestion to that effect may not be appreciated much.

The head is considered a sacred place and nobody in Singapore appreciates it if you fondly pat a child on his head. In India, it’s a way of showing affection – not there.

Each country comes with its unique cultural nuances, and as a business traveller, it’s of utmost importance that one remains sensitive to these seemingly small irrelevant details. They will help you strengthen your bonds with your foreign partner and help you do business better. Though it might not in any way affect your balance sheets but it helps to understand your counterpart better when you know that sitting cross-legged in Singapore may be considered offensive, or that Germans consider a weak handshake as a signal that you are insecure and not convinced of your abilities, or that in Israel (due to years of fighting) men prefer to sit with their legs slightly apart and upper body leaning forward (akin to a position where they are ready to get up at a moment’s notice), or that in Switzerland, before starting a conversation, it’s important to shake hands with everyone – including children. While Arabs consider it a show of trust and solidarity when they put their arms around you and hold your hand with both their hands, doing the same in Germany could be one of the biggest etiquette blunders one could make. Germans avoid physical contact and placing your hand on someone’s’ shoulder could make you appear too authoritative and not appreciated. Knowledge about the etiquettes of other cultures is becoming very vital as it could as well be a deciding factor in whether you succeed in that country or not.


Yes, gone are the days when simply understanding your own country’s business environment well was enough to succeed. Today, if you really want to make it big, you need to stretch out, go beyond the boundaries and learn to do business in strange, foreign cultures. Ratan Tata, during his 18-year tenure as Chairman of the Tata Group, ensured that his company expanded internationally – a strategy that India’s other business houses copied and are still trying. Today, the Tatas have annual revenue of about $70 billion – that’s great, but what’s of significance is that 65% of the group’s sales are derived from outside India. If you really want to grow big, you not only need to expand but also need to have a global mind-set too.     Read More....

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