Ever found yourself waiting for your clients for over an hour at a restaurant? How about being the only one showing up without a gift…at a meeting? Maybe, you were just confused when your client invites you to family dinner or responds to every question you have with the term “Inshallah” (meaning: if god wills). You think, what does god have to do with you showing up on time at tomorrow’s meeting? If you’ve ever found yourself stuck in an awkward scenario while conducting international business, these tips are for you!


Do your homework

Know who you’re working with. Remember, company culture is just as important as the culture of the country you’re conducting business in. Is the company process driven or are they goal oriented? Is the company a social force? Find things to connect on. This will help with synergy.

Respect customs

Embrace social norms and be aware of local customs. Trust is an essential part of conducting business in many cultures. A great way of earning trust is through understanding and learning foreign culture. Remember, don’t give a Chinese guy a green cap. We don’t want him thinking his wife is cheating on him now do we?

Socialize and give gifts

In China, exchanging gifts is an important part of business customs.  In Argentina, it’s common to socialize in order to become familiar with the people you’re conducting business with. In France, wining and dining clients is common. So be open to attending dinners, going wine tastings or even partaking in tours. Take this opportunity to network and maybe you’ll get a few gifts in return.

Don’t lose face

The concept of “losing face” is a very important part of many cultures.  It’s essential not to lose face. It’s just as imperative not to cause someone else to lose face. In Argentina, you can lose face simply by forgetting to formally address someone of a higher rank, or by providing public feedback. This brings us back to doing our homework and making sure we are well versed in foreign cultural norms.

Have an open mind

They say patience is a virtue. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to conducting international business. Often times what you find procrastination may simply be a social norm. In Argentina, it’s common to spend a significant amount of time socializing, prior to “getting down to business”. So be patient and open to trying new things (this includes food)!