Even if you’re well-versed in American etiquette, your business may require global etiquette knowledge to best serve your clients and customers. Good manners look different around the globe! The last thing you want is an awkward encounter with an important, respected business associate because you failed to learn and honor their etiquette practices. 

Luckily, global etiquette is within your reach. You may be surprised by how simple it is to broaden your scope of manners and improve your business.

Global Etiquette Helps You Become A Global Communicator

Becoming fluent in global etiquette isn’t as difficult as learning multiple languages, per se. There are universal truths or patterns shared between many cultures to help you bridge the gaps. 

It’s a holistic approach—far more practical than studying one country at a time. Once you get the hang of it, your new global mindset will uplevel your skills and expand your thinking to recognize similarities and differences no matter where you are or who you’re with.

The trick is to look for the “overlap!” What similarities can you draw between one culture and another? Even if the answer isn’t obvious at first glance, some light research and an open mind will reveal the truth.

For example, every professional in the world shares these qualities:

  • Having the desire for safety and peace
  • Placing family above all else
  • When sharing projects, exploring opportunities to build relationships

The list can go on and on, depending on your circumstances. In most cases, we have more things in common than we realize! With this in mind, and a clear set of actionable steps, you can be an effective global communicator.

6 Global Etiquette Tips To Keep In Mind As A Professional

Where do you start on your global etiquette journey? You and your team can get a leg up on worldly manners by exercising these six strategies every time you meet with someone from a different culture. 

No matter who’s attending your next business meeting (or where in the world that is!) they’re sure to feel at ease with your new global etiquette skills.

1. Know The Laws When You’re Traveling

You show up to a new location, meet your peers for dinner…and immediately offend. It doesn’t sound very good, does it? Be aware that different gestures, expressions, or behaviors mean different things, depending on where you are—making a huge impact on your outcome.

Some countries don’t take kindly to waving or strong eye contact. Others expect a warm greeting and have a different acceptance of shared spaces or professional expectations. 

Not only can you get into trouble by skipping your research, but you can also be caught off guard by new, unfamiliar practices (like professionals napping on the job, which is totally acceptable and encouraged in some cultures).

2. Prioritize Respect For Other Cultures

Resolve any superiority complex you have before working with others from a different culture. No matter your personal beliefs, it’s crucial you understand, respect, and validate the practices of all people. They have a right to choose, just like you!

You may experience a variety of religious practices, dress, and dietary preferences during your international business travels or during meetings with international associates. It helps to read about all you can expect to see and why those practices are important to others.

Every bit of knowledge you acquire demonstrates a higher level of care and consideration for the people you’re working with. They’re sure to appreciate the effort!  

3. Prepare For Multicultural Interactions By Doing Your Research On Specific Locations

Picture this: You arrive somewhere new and have no concept for where you are on the map. When you leave the airport, arriving at your destination is a struggle. And once you get there, you have a difficult time engaging with others about your surroundings.

Your lack of understanding is more than embarrassing… it may be perceived as a sense of entitlement, which doesn’t bode well for business. You should never expect your international partners or clients to cart you around (or babysit you) during your travels. 

Of course, others will help you out when you visit new places, but you also need to demonstrate some independence. The more you know about your location, history, and traditions, the better off you’ll be. 

4. Know How To Shake Hands Appropriately

In America, a firm handshake with eye contact and square shoulders is best. But that’s not the case everywhere you go! And it’s wrong to expect your international friends and associates to assimilate to your traditions in their country.

It’s good global etiquette to research a proper greeting before your travels. In some cultures, it’s a show of respect to use a loose grip. Some countries have specific policies for men versus women. Whether it be a bow, a kiss on the cheek, or a prolonged embrace, be sure to practice and gain approval at home before you visit another country.

5. Avoid Tardiness and Be Punctual

Global etiquette surrounding timeliness varies. Some countries frown upon lateness, others mind very little, but most (if not all) cultures appreciate your on-time arrival for a meeting.

The consequence or regard for your lateness will vary between countries, so it’s best to account for troubles during your commute and arrive in plenty of time, just to be safe. Again, some light research can put your mind at ease so you’re not racing the clock in a country that’s very relaxed about appointment times, or stopping for coffee in a country that expects you ten minutes early.

6. Remember Global Etiquette At Dinner Parties or Business Lunches, Too

Dining in another place invites an entirely different set of challenges for international business meetings. Everything, from the taste of your food to napkin placement, is of the utmost importance! 

Imagine “wowing” your associates in the office only to fall flat during mealtime. Unfortunately, eating is not straightforward, and you’ll need to prepare for subtle differences in a new country. 

For example, make sure you know whether to eat with your hands, utensils, or chopsticks. Study common food pairings, how to request drink refills, and where to rest your hands during conversation… that is, if conversation is even embraced during meals where you are!

Related: How To Practice Perfect Business Lunch Etiquette As A Professional

While global etiquette can be intimidating for some, it’s not as though you need to learn about the entire world in one sitting. Keep your eyes open for commonalities and differences, and prepare for each of your business adventures with ample study time! You’re sure to impress your associates and represent your company well.

A team of etiquette professionals is the best way to perfect global communication and etiquette. American Etiquette can help you seamlessly navigate corporate life at home and abroad! 

6 Powerful Global Etiquette Lessons From Around The World | American Etiquette