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International Etiquette

When doing business in Australia


Typical greetings are "Hello" and "G'day," rather than "Good morning" and "Good-bye."

Be prepared to offer your business cards. However, don't be surprised if you do not receive one in return.

Because Australia is a society that places less emphasis on formal social status than many other countries, titles are not used in introductions to gain respect. Actions and reputations generally outweigh titles.


Be ready to establish rapport by making "small talk" before getting down to business. You will find that Australians tend to be direct and will often expect you to speak your mind.

Appropriate topics of conversation include sports and tours you have taken while in Australia. If you choose to discuss politics or religion, be ready to banter. Besides enjoying your strong opinion, bantering is also considered a form of entertainment.


Punctuality is both respected and a basic social norm. If you are late, this fact will reflect negatively on you and your organization.

Public manners

When riding in a taxi in Australia, you will be expected to sit in the front passenger seat rather than in the back seat.

A warning: The popular American "thumbs up" sign is considered to be an obscene gesture in Australia.

Business dress is generally conservative.

Business entertaining

If you are in a pub, it is appropriate to take a turn "shouting for a round" (that is, paying for a round of drinks).

When invited to a home, a gift, such as wine, candy, or flowers, is appropriate.

While dinner is served in the early evening hours between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., a late evening meal called "supper" is taken a few hours after dinner.

When doing business in France


When greeting a person who has earned the title of professor (professeur) or engineer (ingenieur), use the title in your greeting. These are considered marks of high accomplishment. Company managers and directors also are addressed by titles ("Monsieur le directeur").

Don't confuse someone who is addressed by the title "chef" for a person working in a kitchen; this term translates loosely as "boss."

Even after you have established a working relationship with a Frenchman, it will still be appropriate to maintain certain formalities (such as using last names).


Good topics of conversation include where you are from, your interests, food, cultures of other countries, and sports.

Topics to avoid include how much things cost, what someone does for a living, prejudices about Americans, salary levels, and questions about a person's family.


Although individuals in southern France may be relatively relaxed about meeting times, it still is important to be respectful of your contact's time.

Public manners

While the French may stand closer to each other when talking than North Americans would, it is common to stand at an arm's length when discussing business.

Your hands should be visible at all times, including when you are seated at a table.

Business entertaining

It is considered acceptable to invite your French customer to lunch. If your French customer initiates the invitation, it is still in order for you to act as the host.

Although it is uncommon for alcoholic beverages to be consumed during lunch in the United States, this is very common in France. The French consider wine to be an aid to digestion and to act as a stimulant to the appetite.

The French, as their reputation holds, truly enjoy the art of dining. Just as many Americans "eat to live," the

French seem to "live to eat." Business meals are not, as a rule, hurried meetings.

If you are invited to the home of a French associate and you bring flowers, be sure to take an odd number, and choose a flower other than chrysanthemums.

Business should be discussed only after dinner, when coffee (and perhaps brandy) are served.

Seating etiquette dictates that the host and hostess sit at the center of the table opposite each other. Guests are then seating in descending order of importance to the left and right.

You will not be offered a bread plate. When eating bread, you may place it on the table next to your main course plate.

When doing business in Germany


When meeting people in a group, greet them and then shake hands with each person.

Rather than presenting your business card to your potential German customer, attach it to the material in your presentation folder. If you are involved in a meeting in which material will not be left, present your card upon leaving.

Be sure give a firm and hearty handshake.

It is common for a third party to introduce two people who do not yet know one another.

In southern Germany, and also in small towns, male professionals (lawyers, doctors, clergymen, etc.) should be addressed as "Herr Doktor." You will learn the person's last name when you are introduced.

When you are introduced to a woman, you will be introduced to her as "Frau" (Mrs.) or "Fraulein" (Miss) and the last name. If the woman works in a category considered to be professional, she should be addressed as "Frau (or Fraulein) Doktor."

Use last names unless you have been invited to do otherwise. During the transition from last-name basis to first-name basis, a drink ritual generally takes place. Your German friend will intertwine his right arm with yours, and with drinks in hand, will say, "To brotherhood." Return the toast.

When you say farewell to a group, address everyone in the room, beginning with the top-level person.


Take note: The person who speaks the most softly in a meeting usually is the person who has the most authority.

Even if you are not fluent in German, "Guten tag" (equivalent to the English "Hello") should be part of your conversational repertoire. Similarly, "Danke" and "Bitte" ("Thank you" and "Please," respectively) should also be natural elements of your vocabulary.

Appropriate topics of conversation include hobbies, soccer, the places you've traveled in Germany, and the duration of your stay.

Topics to avoid include World War II and personal questions, such as, "How many people are in your family?"


Being prompt is of the utmost importance when interacting with Germans.

Public manners

It is considered impolite to put your hands in your pockets. Gum chewing in public is also considered rude. Germans may not use a smile as a nonverbal cue that they are pleased about something.

During a business meeting, expect the doors to be closed. Be sure to walk to your contact's left. By doing so, you will be giving the person a position of respect.

Sit down only after you have been offered a seat.

Business entertaining

When inviting a German to eat with you, do so for lunch rather than for breakfast. If business is going to be discussed, do so prior to eating or after your last course.

Appropriate gifts include unwrapped flowers in a quantity other than 13. Your choice in flowers should be those other than lilies (which are reserved for funerals) or roses (which have a romantic connotation, regardless of their color).

When doing business in Hong Kong


A handshake and slight nod of the head is considered appropriate when meeting a business contact.

Acknowledge the most senior person first by bowing.

If you know the title of the person, use it in the greeting. ("Mr. Yu," "Dr. Yu").

Be sure to have your business cards translated into Chinese on one side. Present your business card with both hands.


Appropriate topics include how a person is feeling and a recent business deal.

Topics to avoid include politics, censorship, and protest movements.


Be sure to show your respect by being prompt. Punctuality is a much-appreciated virtue in Hong Kong.

Public manners

It is important to maintain a two arm's-length distance from your contact. Touching and patting are considered taboo.

Feet should be facing the ground rather than having the soles of shoes showing.

Business entertaining

Be prepared for an eight- to 12-course banquet. You may be involved in this type of meal after a business relationship has been established.

Be prepared to use chopsticks. When you are not using them, lay them on the rest or across the bowl - never place them vertically.

You may be offered a finger towel rather than a napkin at the end of a meal.

When eating rice, be sure to leave most of it in the bowl by the time the last course is concluded. Otherwise you will be perceived as not having had enough to eat during the meal.

Gift-giving is considered a business custom. Avoid giving a clock. This item is equated with death.

Just as with business cards, present a gift with both hands.

Open a gift in front of the person who gave it to you only when requested to do so.

When doing business in Indonesia


Indonesian etiquette dictates that you shake hands the first time you meet a person, and not again. (The exception: Handshaking is also considered appropriate when someone is leaving or returning from a long trip.)

If a person touches his heart when meeting you for the first time, it means that the individual is very honored to meet you.

Titles (doctor, professor, and so on) are generally considered important and should be used in conversation.

It is wise to have your business card translated into Indonesian on the back of the card. You should present your card with both hands. When someone else presents a business card, make a point of studying it for a few seconds. When you choose to put away the card, be sure to put it in a card case or in your personal planner. Do not put the card in your wallet and slip it into your back pocket.


Appropriate topics of conversation include family, food, the weather, and travel experiences. Although you may feel uncomfortable being asked personal questions about your own family, the cost of something you bought, and so on, it is acceptable to ask similar questions once they have been posed to you.

(If you are visiting Java, however, you should avoid topics such as family, purchases, and possessions.)


Promptness is appreciated.

Public manners

When you are in a private home or mosque, be sure to remove your shoes. Point them toward the door from which you entered.

Hugging and kissing in public is considered to be inappropriate.

Indonesians would, as a rule, rather be wrong than not be able to give you directions. For that reason, it's a good idea to ask a few people to confirm the directions you have been given.

If you are at a gathering in Java and are introduced to a group whose members all represent the same organization, it is not necessary to shake hands with each person.

Business entertaining

Rather than giving your Indonesian client a gift, consider passing along a compliment or thank you note.

Understand that it will be considered good manners to take a second helping of food. Recognize, too, that eating is regarded as a very private matter and that conversation will therefore be kept to a bare minimum.

It is considered good manners to leave a taste of food on the plate and a few sips of your beverage in the glass.

Eat with your right hand, rather than your left hand.

Be aware that women may be seated at separate tables from men. (In Java, however, men and women may be seated next to each other. The most important male guest will typically be seated next to the host, just as the most important female guest will be asked to sit next to the hostess.)

While a fork and large spoon will be available for you, a knife will not. Food is served in bite-sized pieces, so a knife will not be needed. Use the fork as a tool for putting food on the spoon.

When doing business in Japan


When meeting a Japanese business contact, the bow is still the tradition. The deep, formal bow should be used for the initial greeting. To perform this bow, bend your body at about a 30-degree angle from the waist. This bow should be held for just a couple of seconds.

How low should you go?

With business subordinates: Allow them to bow longer and lower than you do.

With equals, match bows, however, add an extra bow in situations where it is appropriate to pass along a note of respect (that is, when bowing before someone who is older than you, a customer, or some other respected person who is technically "on your level").

With the person who is of a higher rank than you: You should out-bow this person. Keep your eyes respectfully lowered. If you know your contact outranks you, bow first and go low!

When you're unsure of status: Bow a shade lower than the other person.

For men: Palms should be face up, toward your knee.

For women: Hands should be folded in front of you as you bow.

Westerners may initiate a handshake after a bow. Last names rather than first names always should be used.

Business card rules

  1. Have your cards printed in English on one side and translated into Japanese on the other side.

  2. Carry your cards at all times.

  3. When presenting your card, be sure to have the writing facing the person receiving the card.

  4. Present your card with two hands.

  5. When handed a Japanese contact's business card, study it carefully. Keep the card out and place it on the table in front of you when you are seated. Do not put the card in your wallet and slip it into your back pocket.

  6. You will be expected to exchange your card with just about everyone you meet. Have plenty of cards on hand.


Topics to discuss include Japanese food, sports (such as baseball), Japan, and other places you have visited.

Topics to avoid include your career, World War II, prices, your personal life.

Remember, "silence is a virtue" - especially in the Japanese culture. Rather than filling awkward moments with "small talk," recognize that to the Japanese, silence is equated with tranquillity.


Punctuality should be observed at all times. The Japanese culture is extremely time-sensitive.

Public manners

Even if you are experiencing displeasure or are upset about something, you should smile to show self-control.

Don't touch. "Backslapping" is likely to be seen as a major lapse in etiquette.

When you need to blow your nose, do so discreetly, preferably in private, with a paper tissue. Dispose of the tissue immediately. You don't want to be glimpsed putting a used tissue away in a pocket or purse; this is regarded as crude.

Bear in mind: To the Japanese, laughter can mean confusion rather than reacting to something funny.

Careful - the American "okay" sign means "money" in Japan.

Business entertaining

The reason for these get-togethers is for building friendships. Be prepared for a long meal. Karaoke or Sumo wrestling may entertain you.

Consider it an honor when you are invited to a Japanese home. Be sure to remove your shoes at the front door; you will be offered a pair of slippers. Follow your host's lead if you're uncertain about when to remove your slippers and when to put them on.

Chopstick etiquette dictates that you place the sticks on the rest when you are not using them; don't leave them in your food. Whatever you do, avoid standing chopsticks straight up in the air or pointing them toward your hosts.

A box of fine candy is an appropriate gift to bring upon being invited to a Japanese home.

You may choose to give a more lasting gift (such as a pen and pencil set). If you do so, wrap it in pastel paper without a bow. Keep in mind that odd numbers are considered lucky.

When you are offered a gift, thank the person. Before taking it, wait for the person to offer it to you a few more times. As with business cards, accept a gift with both hands.

Drinking etiquette

Four ironclad rules:

  1. Never pour your own drink.

  2. Always lift your cup when someone is replenishing your drink.

  3. Never let your guests' cups remain empty.

  4. Take turns pouring for each other.

Drinking is a part of the socialization ritual in Japan; make it a time to cultivate friendships and trust. However, avoid getting too happy! (Many an American business person has regretted letting too much sake become a "truth serum" in social encounters with Japanese contacts.)

When doing business in Saudi Arabia


Expect greetings to be very emotional. They consist of a "salaam alaykum" ("May God be with you"), followed by a handshake and then a "keef halak" ("How are you?"). If you already have a rapport with this person, you may receive a kiss on both cheeks. Your Saudi Arabian client also may take your hands in his as a way of saying, "It's good to see you."


Topics to discuss include the country, the person's family (although not your contact's wife, as this may be misconstrued as a romantic interest), the countries where your Saudi client travels, etc.

Avoid discussing politics in any form. Do not discuss the social roles of Saudi Arabian women. Stay away from offering criticisms, even ones that seem insignificant.


Being on time is much appreciated.

Public manners

When reaching for something or offering something to a Saudi Arabian, be sure to do so with your right hand. Using the left hand is considered a taboo. When sitting, be sure the soles of your shoes face the ground. It is considered taboo for the soles to be showing.

Business entertaining

Realize the importance of accepting food and a beverage when offered. It is considered a personal insult to refuse what is offered.

Hard as it may be, don't show hesitation if you are offered sheep's eyes. These are regarded as a delicacy.

Alcoholic drinks should not be requested, although you may decide to accept if you are offered one.

Do not bring a gift to a Saudi Arabian's wife. (Again, this may be misinterpreted as a romantic gesture.)

When doing business in Singapore


When greeting someone, use the person's title with the name. If you have not been told about a specific title, address the person using "Mr." or "Mrs."

Use a last name unless invited to do otherwise.

Do not ask to be addressed by your first name until you have been asked to address the person by his or her first name.

Present your business card with both hands.


Appropriate topics of conversation include where you have traveled, the weather, the length of your stay. Those to avoid include politics and religious beliefs.


Punctuality will be much appreciated.

Public manners

Gesture with your entire hand during conversation. Pointing with one or two fingers is considered rude. Avoid showing the soles of your shoes.

Your feet should be used for walking - nothing else. Feet are considered unclean parts of the body and should never, for instance, be used for moving anything (a chair closer to a table, for example).

Business entertaining

Expect all courses to be served simultaneously.

If you are invited to a person's home for dinner, flowers or a box of candy are considered appropriate gifts.

Avoid giving gifts when establishing a business relationship. The gesture could be perceived as a bribe.

When it is appropriate to give a gift, expect it to be refused a few times before it is accepted. Express your own gratitude once it has been accepted.

When doing business in South Korea


When meeting someone, a slight bow is appropriate. When two people meet, the junior ranking person initiates the greeting to the senior ranking person.

When meeting a Korean woman, a man should wait for her to extend a handshake. A businesswoman from overseas should initiate a handshake with Korean men and women.

The term "son sae nim" means "respected person." It is used after either the family name or full name as a sign of respect. If you don't know a person's name, it is appropriate to use this title by itself.

While most cultures use two names, Koreans use three - a family name, a generational or clan name, and a given name. Family names tend to be one syllable long and clan names typically consist of two syllables.

It is considered good manners to acknowledge an older person by standing when the person enters a room.

One way to show respect for elders is by lowering your eyes.


It is good manners to comment on the good health of an older person. Although compliments are much appreciated, it is considered polite for them to be denied.

Because Koreans place a high value on families, this is a good topic for discussion.

Topics to avoid include politics (especially any topic related to socialism and communism).

Avoid any type of disagreement in public.


Although Koreans do not put a particularly high value on punctuality, Westerners should nevertheless make an effort to be prompt.

Public manners

Loud laughter is considered rude. When laughing in public, cover your mouth.

Nose blowing is also considered to be in poor taste and should be done in private.

Be sure to remove your shoes before entering a temple or a person's home.

A hug or patting another on the back is considered rude.

Business entertaining

It is more common for entertaining to take place at a restaurant or bar (without spouses), rather than in a person's home.

If you are invited to a person's home, be sure to take a modest gift (such as flowers), offering the gift with both hands. Bear in mind that it is considered polite not to open a gift in front of the person giving it.

Expect all courses of a meal to be served at once.

Formal business professional attire is considered appropriate. Koreans believe that when you dress well, you acknowledge the importance of the occasion.

When doing business in the United Kingdom


When meeting someone, respect space by maintaining a two arm's-length distance. If a person has an honorary title, it should be used in conversation - even among acquaintances. Use last names unless invited to do otherwise.

Men should wait for a British woman to extend her hand before shaking hands. When meeting someone, rather than saying, "It's nice to meet you," a more appropriate response is, "How do you do?"


Refrain from asking the British, "What do you do?" This question is considered too personal.

When discussing individuals from the United Kingdom, (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) refer to them as the "British." Just to be on the safe side, avoid using the term "English" to describe anyone.

Avoid discussing politics and religion.


Promptness is appreciated.

Public manners

Your hands should always be visible. It is considered rude for hands to be in pockets.

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