Each country has its own business customs. Some may be the same, others quite different. “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” - says Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Many westerners have a similar feeling of bewilderment when they first deal with foreign cultures.

With the advent of the Internet, the global economy, CNN and satellite TV; people around the world are much more familiar with the ways of the west that they used to be. However many of them still tenaciously hold on to the customs and manners that have served them so well over the centuries.

Specific business practices vary from country to country and the wise businessman will study the customs of the country they are going to before arriving. It is best to be prepared and avoid giving any offense. While the individual practices vary greatly, there are some generalized things the international businessman should be aware of:

  • Offices, banks and shops vary in their standard hours of operation from country to country. So called “banking hours” vary greatly as well as national holidays and working days (Friday is the Sabbath in some Muslim countries).
  • The forms of greetings may differ widely. In Thailand they use a “Wai” where they clasp their hands together in front of them and bow slightly. In Japan you bow your head slightly, in Europe a hug and kiss on both cheeks suffices in some countries.
  • Priority is also important in greetings. In Europe it is customary to greet the host first, while in Asia the oldest person should be greeted first. In non-western countries a higher value is given to personal relationships before business relationships. Your first meeting may just be a “get acquainted” meeting without any business actually being discussed.
  • Many cultures, especially in Asia respect and value on age and experience, so it may be best to head up a business delegation with someone over 50.
  • While gaining more international acceptance, there are still cultures that do not place as much authority with women. Western women are usually afforded more respect then local women, but if you are a woman from the same ethic background as the people you are doing business with you may have to be more assertive to command respect.

Using Electronics Abroad

In this day and age of the wired businessman with their notebooks, mobile phones and plethora of other devices the businessman will have to be aware of the hurdles of taking electronics overseas.

Voltages, current and power adaptors vary from country to country, even if you have an adaptor to allow you to plug in - you have to make certain the voltage requirements are the same or you may end up ruining your little electronic marvel.

Check out Kropla’s - Steve Kropla’s Help for World Travelers which provides invaluable information for plugging in electrical and phone systems around the world.

You may also want to check LaptopTravel.com - the online computing source for the laptop traveler.