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25 essential cultural differences for the business traveller

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When travelling for business, it’s vital to avoid faux-pas that can show you and your company in a bad light. The wrong hand gesture, or inappropriate eye contact could risk disruption to a potential deal, or even just cause bad feeling between your employee and their host or colleague. To keep awkwardness to a minimum, we’ve compiled 25 of the most common cultural differences business travellers come across, along with how to avoid them.

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25 essential cultural differences for the business traveller

  1. 1. www.manticpoint.com 25 ESSENTIAL CULTURAL DIFFERENCES FOR THE BUSINESS TRAVELLER
  2. 2. When travelling for business, it’s vital to avoid faux- pas that can show you and your company in a bad light. Here are 25 of the most common cultural differences business travellers come across, and how to avoid them. www.manticpoint.com
  3. 3. EYE CONTACT www.manticpoint.com
  4. 4. #1 Avoid making eye contact with people on London tubes, but smile if you do so accidentally. Also, when walking between trains, stand on the right hand side of escalators to allow people to walk by on the left. www.manticpoint.com
  5. 5. #2 In southern Europe it’s not considered rude to stare at people, and in Italy it is customary to stare back. www.manticpoint.com
  6. 6. #3 Avoiding direct eye contact is considered rude, or a sign of weakness in the United States. www.manticpoint.com
  7. 7. #4 In some parts of Asia, prolonged eye contact can make people uncomfortable, even in business situations. www.manticpoint.com
  8. 8. #5 In Germany, breaking eye contact during a toast is considered to be bad luck. www.manticpoint.com
  9. 9. BODY LANGUAGE AND PHYSICAL CONTACT www.manticpoint.com
  10. 10. #6 In Thailand, touching another person’s head is incredibly offensive, even if they are a child. www.manticpoint.com
  11. 11. #7 Avoid backslapping in Asian countries such as Korea, as it can be offensive. www.manticpoint.com
  12. 12. #8 Physical contact during conversations in Spain and in some parts of the Mediterranean is incredibly common and not considered an intrusion, but in Asia and the Middle East, it can be. If you’re unsure, observe the behaviours of others and respond in kind. www.manticpoint.com
  13. 13. #9 Open palms are an insult in Greek culture. Be careful to avoid waving, high fives and making open-handed gestures when presenting. www.manticpoint.com
  14. 14. #10Greeks can be very loud and intense in conversation, so don’t assume you’ve given offense during a business discussion, even if offensive language is used. www.manticpoint.com
  15. 15. #11The ‘thumbs up’ gesture is considered extremely offensive in large parts of the Middle East, but is a sign of approval in the US and Western Europe. www.manticpoint.com
  16. 16. #12Pointing with your forefinger is considered rude in Indonesia. Also, if you want to pass someone something, avoid using your left hand. www.manticpoint.com
  17. 17. #13People from the Middle East or other Arab nations such as Egypt prefer to talk with little ‘personal space’ between them and the listener. www.manticpoint.com
  18. 18. #14In India, nodding your head does not mean ‘yes’, a ‘yes’ is a head wobble moving your head from side to side. www.manticpoint.com
  19. 19. #15When sitting in Thailand or Japan, do not cross your legs or point your feet towards the other person, as this is considered offensive. www.manticpoint.com
  20. 20. #16In Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries including Bulgaria and Albania, a single upwards nod of the head indicates refusal. www.manticpoint.com
  21. 21. #17In most of Southeast Europe, a shake of the head means ‘yes’. www.manticpoint.com
  22. 22. EATING AND DRINKING HABITS www.manticpoint.com
  23. 23. #18In China, Russia and many parts of Africa it is uncommon for people to speak during a meal, as the food is the focus. www.manticpoint.com
  24. 24. #19For German and many UK restaurants, a bill on the table signifies the end of the meal. Staff will not bring it unless it is requested. www.manticpoint.com
  25. 25. #20Pouring soy sauce on your white rice is considered rude in Japan. In China, you are more likely to find vinegar and chilli oil on the side of your table than soy. www.manticpoint.com
  26. 26. #21Do not leave your chopsticks crossed when you put them down, always rest them side by side. Also, prepare to use them properly and do not use them to spear your food as you would with a fork. www.manticpoint.com
  27. 27. #22In cultures where food is commonly still eaten with hands, such as India, Morocco, Africa and the Middle East, touching food with your left hand is considered highly offensive – always use your right hand even if you are left handed. Always eat from the part of the dish nearest to you. www.manticpoint.com
  28. 28. DRESS CODE www.manticpoint.com
  29. 29. #23In Scandinavia, wearing clothing to a sauna or steam room is considered offensive, as nudity is much more accepted as part of daily life. The same is true of a Turkish bath or hammam. In both cases, it is also best to avoid talking unless someone else starts a conversation. www.manticpoint.com
  30. 30. #24Yellow is a colour reserved for royalty in Malaysia, avoid wearing it. www.manticpoint.com
  31. 31. #25In China, a red tie or dress will make a good impression as it is considered a lucky colour. www.manticpoint.com
  32. 32. Cultural differences aren’t the only risks your business travellers face when they’re abroad. Itinerary management can help you plan, avoid and minimise risk for your organisation’s travellers. To find out more, click here to download our ebook on itinerary management for corporate travel risk and duty of care. www.manticpoint.com

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