Today’s post is written by Kara Ronin, an international business etiquette expert and founder of Executive Impressions.
International business trips are exciting. They can open up a world of opportunity for you personally and professionally. But just as much as the new destination, new people and new cuisine can be a new adventure, the different culture and business environment can confuse and overwhelm even the most experienced professionals.
You might find yourself asking questions like – What clothes do you take on your international business trip? Are there any body language gestures you need to avoid? How do you make a positive first impression when you meet your international business partners?
5 Practical Business Etiquette Tips for Female Leaders
1) Pack Conservative Outfits
In some cultures, the professional dress code is highly conservative. Conservative outfits can help you project more authority. When packing your international business suitcase, be sure to include a dark suit (in navy, black, or charcoal), stockings, closed toed shoes, and a crisp business shirt. Add elegance and contrast to your professional outfit with unique buttons, cufflinks, or a scarf.
2) Loosen the Grip of Your Handshake
In Western business cultures, we’re often taught that a firm handshake is how you project confidence and power in the business world. And as professional women, we take particular care to convey this exact image when we greet somebody for the first time.
But how do you think somebody from China would interpret this type of handshake when they’re more accustomed to a gentler handshake with less eye contact? To avoid overpowering the other person when you greet them, loosen the grip of your handshake just a little.
3) Relax Your Eye Contact
A firm handshake is often accompanied by direct eye contact in Western business cultures. It helps enhance the trust factor. But if you use this direct eye contact during your business trip to Japan, it could make you look aggressive and overpowering instead of confident and trustworthy. When you meet somebody for the first time on your international business trip, relax your eye contact a little.
4) Learn What is Considered Punctual
What you consider to be “on time” can often be late or super early, depending on what country you’re going to. The Swiss are known to be exact with their time, like the Germans, and even the British. But from my experience living in France, “on time” can often mean 15 minutes late.
There has been more than one occasion when I’ve been thanked for arriving for a 2:00 business meeting at, believe it or not, 2:00! Research the punctuality of the country where you will visit and find out how early (or late) people arrive for business meetings.
5) Be Aware of Your Personal Space
Depending on the culture in which you grew up, you may need a large amount of space around you to feel comfortable when talking to others, or a small amount. In most Western cultures, it’s usually an arm’s length. In Asia or Latin America, it’s often much smaller. When you’re on your international business trip and you feel someone edge away during conversation, you may be standing inside their personal space. Don’t move toward them. Respect that person’s personal space if you want to be able to connect with them.
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