Business etiquette when communicating internationally

To build a good working relationship with correspondents across the globe, language and business etiquette play a huge part in striking the right approach.

In our latest blog, we look at what you should consider when preparing to meet international business contacts.

Make your welcome personal

Before you initiate conversations with business connections whose first language is different to yours, it’s a nice idea to check the best way to greet them.

Showing you’ve taken the time to learn a few phrases, will help to demonstrate your commitment to working with them – as well as providing a kind, personal gesture.

If they’re visiting your office, consider translating a welcome message into their native language on the screen in the reception area to welcome them – or on the first slide of your presentation material.

Opening emails with a greeting in their native language is also a nice way to interact with global business contacts.

Research business etiquette

Every country has different cultures and ways of doing business, and often even the smallest things matter. Refusing a drink because you’re not thirsty when you first arrive may seem ok to you, but what if it’s customary to offer a welcome drink in their culture and your refusal is misjudged?

Look into how business meetings are typically held. This may include sharing food for guests to enjoy, or avoiding having meetings over lunch time. Business dinners together with family may be encouraged, as a way to symbolise the importance of the relationship.

Remember to check any dietary requirements for guests if you are serving food, especially around religious and cultural customs.

It may be tradition to provide a gift when meeting people, so if it’s that the case carefully consider what gift would be well received.

Check what business dress should be worn, to meet any expected dress codes and give the best impression. Look up whether business is generally undertaken in formal or smart-casual attire.

Don’t forget to follow up business meetings with a thank you note as well, this may be best sent by email or something more personal.

If you’re sharing minutes from the meeting, it’s worth considering whether these would be more beneficial translated into their native language. Then when it comes to producing any legal contracts and paperwork, you may wish to provide a transcribed version of these as well for their reference.

Alleviate language barriers

For face-to-face and virtual business meetings, consider hiring an interpreter to attend and assist. They’ll be able to recall key information into the language you require, and could help you to address any questions the meeting guests may have.

Ask in advance whether meeting participants would like an interpreter to attend. They may be comfortable speaking in the standard language your business uses, or they may feel more happier having an independent interpreter on hand.

Reassure them that any linguists attending the meeting understand that it is confidential, and will maintain privacy and professionalism at all times. Eldon (now NRL) is a long-standing Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) corporate member, and operates in line with the code of conduct set out by the institute when delivering services to clients.

If you are booking an interpreter, it’s a good idea to brief your language solutions provider in advance, so they can prepare for the meeting. If you can provide the exact location of your meeting guests, then this may help to accommodate any local dialects.

Looking for support to help with your next international business meeting?

Our team are always on hand to discuss your needs.