When you are travelling around the world you can notice some pretty big cultural differences on the daily life. But when you are on a holiday trip you don’t usually notice the business etiquette. There are some minor differences if you take look the business etiquettes in Europe. For instance if you look Spain and other southern European countries there are some scheduling differences for example. Spanish culture is not about being on time like in the middle European countries. Spanish people stay up late dining with their family or business associates which strengthens the bond between them. In southern Europe religion and family are the core values for many. If you compare southern cultures to for example to Finnish culture, you can notice that we Finns do not value the religion that much, but we try to be on time as much as possible. Many middle and northern Europeans are very work driven. We do not have siesta which is a resting period spent after lunch. Almost all the work stops for an hour or two in the southern countries.
The major differences really appear when you travel across the continent. I have visited Asia many times and I have also tried to make business inquires with some Asian companies. When our sock brand Agli was on its baby steps we planned to make our socks in China. Finding the factories was not hard, because the companies were literally fighting for customers on the internet. When we approached the factories, they did not leave us alone if we did not answer to them under 24 hours. When we first just made survey that what kind of factories there are, what is the price range and what is the quality they can deliver. Even there was a time difference we usually got the answer in few hours which indicates that people in Asia are working around the clock. And as I previously mentioned if we did not reply to them under 24 hours they somehow found our phone numbers and sent us a message in the Whatsapp. As a Finn I felt somewhat uncomfortable, because I was not used to that. In Finland if you send an email to other company, usually you need to wait several days for their reply if they even ever reply. In Asian countries people are very “workaholics” which means they work long days and the impact they put on they work is massive compared to other cultures.
About the business etiquettes you can find differences between continentals. In Europe we treat business cards very casually and usually do not value them anymore as much as we used to. But in Asia it’s very important to show respect for the business card given to you. Of course showing respect in many other areas in daily life is very important in Asian countries. Showing negative feelings and especially anger in public is very inappropriate. Even if people around you won’t complain about your attitude, you will probably “lose” your face and their respect. For westerners it is very important to keep in mind that showing strong negative feelings should be avoided when visiting Asia more important doing business in Asian markets.
Business hierarchy in America and Europe are slowly breaking and the companies are becoming flat. Leaders are on the same level as the employees but in Asian countries bosses are still high in the hierarchy level.
Overall I think that getting to know the culture before you travel to the destination is very important even if you are travelling as a tourist. But as a business trip it’s mandatory to study the culture of the target country. Reading about the culture and etiquettes is good, but nowadays there are a lot of videos in the internet telling about the country. Also a good way to learn about the country is asking people who have visited the certain country. They usually have a lot of experiences about the country. Getting to know the culture and differences is not only for travelling because if you want to expand to the certain markets it is very important to know how the target markets behave. A good example is that Chinese people have a long holiday when the year changes and that affects on many things such as production time and shipping. There could easily be a delay of one month near the turn of the year.
My advice to all who are interested in going to the foreign countries is to pe polite and respect the others. You can’t go wrong if the others see that you are polite to them even if you miss a few minor etiquette rules.