7 Business Travel Customs You Need to Know About

Understanding business customs and etiquette in your own culture can seem simple, especially if you’re used to western business culture. Never turn up late to a meeting, smile, shake hands, you can address people by their first name, easy. When approaching international business affairs it’s never safe to assume you can sail through with your own culture’s business travel customs. Whether you’re traveling to Europe, the Middle East or the Land of the Rising Sun, here are 7 travel customs to help you turn your business deal into makers, not breakers:


  1. Learn how to greet your equals and superiors: a handshake won’t always do, in Japan, for instance, it’s respectable to bow when meeting someone for the first time. A deep, respectful bow and addressing the person with the appropriate title will make a good first impression.
  2. Dress the part: in some cultures it’s is advised to dress in sober colors such as greys and blacks, and to dress conservatively, especially in countries such as Japan and the Middle East it is uncommon for women to wear trousers, so skirts below knee length are suggested.
  3. Timing: In western culture being late to a business meeting is considered highly rude, whereas in some cultures being an hour or two late isn’t considered rude at all. In countries like Latin America or the Middle East you can be left waiting, just don’t appear annoyed or frustrated; take it as a chance to go over your business plan. In countries like America, Europe, and China, being spot on time is a great sign of professionalism.
  4. The business card is king: business cards may seem a slightly outdated concept in the western business world, but in Japan and China, for instance, they are considered a true representation of a person, and so must be treated with respect. Offering or receiving a business card you should offer or receive it in both hands, appear to study it with interest and detail, and never ever stuff it into your pocket! If sitting down, place it in front of you and put it away with care when you leave.

  5. Gift Giving: In some cultures, wine or chocolates are appropriate gifts, but in countries like Dubai, the gifting of alcohol would be a great insult. This is where extensive research pays off, so always check ahead.
  6. Eating: In some countries, a business lunch is when everything is done, and others it’s an evening meal. Whatever form it takes, take care to brush up on how to use eating utensils, whether you need to tip (this is not a done in Japan) and what is the acceptable amount to drink.
  7. Learn a few words of the language: You don’t need to become fluent overnight, but learning the common words such as hello, yes, no, thank-you etc will stand you in good stead. When learning the words also learn any common expression that might go with them.

If you are traveling on business make sure you can stay connected when you travel without extortionate roaming fees.