August 5, 2016 11:52 am

Inventing is a global business. Typically, some sort of international business is involved in the invention process, whether during prototyping, manufacturing, licensing, or selling inventory. Business customs are different all around the world, and when you’re working with contacts from different parts of the globe, you have to be aware of different countries customs so you can make a great impression. Knowing, observing, and reacting to international business behaviors is essential to developing worthwhile business relationships while avoiding embarrassment.

Research Your Contact and Their Country’s Customs

The first step in learning about international business is identifying what country your contact works in. Many companies do business in multiple countries, so it is important to identify where the main office is, as well as where your contact is. You may be working with both throughout the course of your business relationship. Next, a simple Google search will get you started in revealing business customs for that country. When researching these customs, they may seem a little strange or out of the ordinary to you. For example, in Finland, if you are asked to spend time in the sauna with your business contact, it is a sign the meeting is going well. Instead of declining, go with the flow and participate in this local tradition. In China, it is customary to bring a small gift to a business meeting. However, the gift may be refused multiple times before being graciously accepted by the receiver. In India, eating with the left hand is considered unclean, so remember to only eat with your right hand. Although these customs may seem a little strange to you, it is important to research, understand, and follow them to start your business relationship on the right path.

Print Business Cards in Multiple Languages

Although English is the 3rd most commonly used language, you have to consider that those you are meeting with may not share a common language with you. Research what language your business contact speaks, and create business cards with multiple languages to reflect that. For example, if you are traveling to a country in South America, your business card might want to include English, Spanish, Portuguese, and local languages. It is up to you whether you want to design a business card that includes all these languages or whether you will have separate cards for each language. Either way, ensure your business card is still appealing and easy to read. Double check translations to be sure they are accurate. It is very easy to make a small typo that could lead to a huge error in translation. Multilingual business cards are a great tool for international business that takes little effort, but instills a lot of confidence.

Learn Simple Words as a Courtesy

When visiting another country, it is always smart to learn words and phrases such as “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome” and “bathroom.” This is especially important when doing business. Although you do not need to master a language or take a class, understanding a few key phrases makes you seem considerate and competent. Learn the words listed above, and also try to learn important words or phrases for your industry, as well as words like “mister,” “misses,” “it’s a pleasure to do business with you,” and “nice to meet you.” With this arsenal of key phrases, you can prove to your business contact that you care about their culture and language. Try downloading apps such as Duolingo, which has several business tutorials, or Google Translate, which is regarded as one of the best translating apps. Study your new language for a few days or weeks prior to your trip and freshen up your knowledge on the plane ride over.

Dress Conservatively

Dressing in line with other customs can be difficult. As you probably know, in the United States of America we have several different kinds of business dress codes: dressy/smart casual, business casual, business professional, and everything in between – and different people and companies interpret them differently. When traveling for business, dress classily and conservatively. It is better for you to be a little overdressed than underdressed. Wear plain colors, cover yourself with sleeves and higher necklines, and be careful of your hemlines. Always be aware of the climate where you are traveling and pack accordingly. Include comfy, yet stylish shoes, because you can never be sure how much walking or standing you will be doing. Dressing conservatively will help you to feel comfortable and make a great first impression.

Be Aware of Your Body Language

Although you may be uncomfortable in your new situation, you need to keep your cool and expel confidence through your body language and mannerisms. Avoid crossing your arms, touching your hair or face, and slouching. In some countries, such as Russia and Ireland, keeping your hands in your pockets is considered rude. Also, be aware that depending on where you’re doing business, you may receive a hug or a kiss on the cheek instead of a handshake. Mirror these customs and other people’s body language to fit in with your new business contacts.

Before doing any international business, take time to research and understand business customs. There is an extensive amount of information about international business customs available on the internet, both in general and specifically about locations you may visit. Research these customs, print multilingual business cards, learn key words and phrases, dress conservatively, and be aware of your body language to set yourself off in the right direction for your international business plans. Good luck!

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