We have all seen Americans depicted on film as loud and obnoxious when travelling. The stereotypical picture of the American couple in beach shirts comes to mind. It may be funny, but what happens when it’s your turn to travel overseas on business. You may be eloquent at home but how is your etiquette overseas? Are you prepared to handle business situations overseas or with your international clients?

One of the first things you will need to do is some homework. If you have clients in another country or are planning on travelling abroad do your homework on customs and the culture in that region. For example, when travelling to Japan you need to know that business cards are dealt with in a highly respected manner. The Japanese feel it is an honor to share their business card with you; they are sharing their title and personal information. If you were to simply put the business card into your back pocket and sit on it, this would be considered offensive. One great idea for traveling anywhere is to get your business card translated into that language. Asian business travelers do this all the time, they have done their homework.

Communication is going to be key. A smile and obvious attempts at trying to respect the other person’s culture can go a long way. Try to learn at least a few simple words in their language; hello, thank you and asking permission to speak English will show respect for their language. There are many online courses you can take in foreign languages. Open ended questions can also be helpful. Have you ever been speaking to someone who is a non-native English speaker and they keep answering yes even though you suspect they don’t understand? Well take this out of the equation. Ask your business colleague open questions that require an answer. When will the shipment be ready? Also, remember to speak slowly and minimize slang. Individuals outside the US even if fluent probably won’t understand the phrase “it’s driving me crazy”. Ease their embarrassment by minimizing such language.

Body Language and behavior can be tricky. You will definitely want to do your homework in this area. For men in Latin America it is often common to pat each other on the arm or rub each other’s back, this may be slightly uncomfortable for American businessmen. This is not to say that you should go to Latin America and rub everyone’s back, just know it is customary and do not take offense if someone does it to you.

Some Top Ten Preparations for International Business Travelers are:
1. Be more formal than you normally might be.
2. Do your homework on that country.
3. Watch closely to what others are doing and follow their lead.
4. Be open to experience the different culture. Fear or distaste of different customs will show.
5. Consult with a coach who specializes in etiquette for professionals.
6. Try not to ask personal questions. Americans comparatively tend to ask more personal questions and this can offend others.
7. Check the styles of the country you are visiting. i.e. suit colors, dress length
8. Slow down your speech and watch your use of idioms, slang and acronyms.
9. Watch your alcohol intake this will make things harder to navigate. But do share in customary toasts such as Russian vodka!
10. Ask questions and show curiosity, others will appreciate your attempt to learn more about their culture.

The main thing you can do is to show grace and help others avoid embarrassment. Everyone makes mistakes and people to some extent will expect some cultural or language blunders. We must look to the Queen of England as a perfect example of diplomacy. While dining at her home foreign dignitaries drank a bowl of water put out to wash hands with. The Queen, to save them embarrassment, picked up her hand wash bowl and drank it as well. Her example shows us that no matter how well prepared, we all make mistakes and we can use good grace and etiquette to make others feel comfortable.

Author's Bio: 

Walethia is the founder of Grace and Charm Success System, which includes over 30 unique training programs designed to improve organizational and personal behavior, business and social graces and effective team building. She is also host of Success with Grace and Charm radio show and has been a guest on over 100 other television and radio programs.

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