Communication is fundamental in business, although styles vary greatly from country to country. Business practices are shaped by deeply held cultural attitudes. Men and women working in global businesses must be aware of these differences to communicate effectively across cultures.
Here are examples of four different countries and their business communication norms:
When being introduced, make and maintain immediate eye contact. Say “good morning” to each person you meet, but it is not always necessary to shake hands. Note that men do not typically hug each other when greeting, and women and men do not kiss each other on the cheek unless they are well acquainted.
Keep an arm’s length distance between you and others; it’s important to maintain personal space.
Present your business card first to the receptionist and then to the individuals after a meeting.
Informal matters can be agreed upon verbally and do not need to be confirmed in writing. More formal issues are typically formalized in writing and, depending on the agreement, are signed by both parties.
Handshakes are expected as a form of greeting, however a more friendly greeting practice is “air kissing” on the cheeks. Starting with a kiss to your left first and then one to your right. The kissing practice is not usually extended to people you are meeting for the first time.
First impressions are very important. Be knowledgeable about your own country and be prepared to answer questions regarding its history and political matters.
It is preferable that business cards be printed in French and English. When you arrive in an office, present them to the receptionist first and then to each person you meet.
Because the French are very formal, they tend to make extensive use of titles in corporate life.
While more than a third of Germans speak English, German is the official language. Business people should not overestimate the capabilities of native German speakers to speak English or another language. Thus, it is recommended to make the first contacts in writing in German.
Germans are very straightforward and typically get right to the point and expect to have results at the end of a meeting. They show appreciation of a presentation by rapping their knuckles against the table top at the end of a business meeting.
Business communication is usually formal and follows strict rules of protocol. Spanish people always prefer face-to-face communications over telephone or video conferencing; they believe it is an easier way to build a personal relationship. Trust and personal relationships are the keys success in business.
Allow plenty of time for business meetings, especially when presentations are made. Spaniards like to take their time and hate to be rushed into important decisions.