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Business travellers find etiquette challenging

This week Gary Kleyn takes a look at the importance of following business etiquette when dealing and wheeling internationally.

GLOBALISATION has created enormous opportunities and the challenge of working under a different code of practise from what most Australians are used to.

The rules of engagement vary as much as the country in which you wish to operate in, or supply goods and services to.

However, business etiquette experts normally hold that the old adage of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” holds a lot of truth.

For those who wish to learn more about customs and business etiquette in various countries, the Internet provides helpful information, as does the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Industry and Resources, or the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA.

However, as a starting point, US firm Etiquette International suggests business travellers adopt the FIRST GET GOOD anagram which covers the eight aspects of international etiquette and the four guiding principles of international interaction.

(F)orming Relationships: Apart from the Germanic countries and the US (which display a tendency to want to get down to business) almost everywhere in the world relationships are important.

The three Fs of business in Asian cultures are family, friends and favours, which play an important part in business negotiation.

(I)nformation and Communication: Pay heed to your volume, vocal quality, tone of voice and posture.

Learn to listen.

(R)ank and Status: Dress can play a part in showing self-respect and status as much as the way people greet and introduce them-selves.

Learn which cultures place the surname first. Don’t forget people’s titles.

(S)pace: Touching and personal space vary significantly depending on the culture.

(T)ime: Be punctual but be prepared to be flexible to avoid getting angry.

It can be totally unnerving when confronted with a relationship-orientated Arab, Asian or Latin who considers time as flowing and flexible and beyond human control so go with the flow.

(G)ift giving: May not always be necessary and can cause offence in some cultures.

(E)ntertainment: Be prepared to party and dine out.

(T)aboos and sensitivities: Most commonly stem from politics, religion, ethnicity, geography, gender or misunderstood humour.

Jokes don’t travel or translate well.

(G)olden rule: The first guiding principle: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

(O)ffense given and (O)ffense taken: Don’t be ignorant of the culture you deal with.

(D)ifference: The fourth guiding principle: “Every culture is different. Try to act local.”

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