Business Card Etiquette Around the World
Thanks to technology and ease of travel, it is getting easier and easier to do business on an international level. But, traveling internationally for business presents challenges, as well. New cultures, traditions, and business rituals are all things you’ll need to explore. A good understanding of business culture can be the difference between making a deal and going home with egg on your face.
Business card etiquette around the world varies from country to country. But, a few rules are standard. Always have one side of your business card translated into the language of the country you are visiting to do business. Always keep your business cards in pristine condition. It is best to keep your cards in a card holder, to be opened and offered at the appropriate time. Your business card is an extension of yourself, and the company you represent, in a foreign land. Don’t present your business card in any way that you wouldn’t present yourself for a high-profile business meeting. The contacts you make in other countries are important, and your business card, as well as the way you present it, are representative of the way you view those contacts.
While each culture has subtle differences that will be important to understand and appreciate, here are some highlights on business card etiquette around the world.
Business Card Etiquette in Japan
In Japan, the business card is seen as an extension of individual identity, in a culture which honors the good of the organization over the good of the person. As such, the business card is a very personal item and must be treated with a great deal of respect. The condition of your business cards and the way you carry them, reveals to your Japanese counterpart how you see yourself and how he or she should treat you. You should always carry your business cards in a case, keeping them in pristine condition, and present them using both hands, with a Japanese translation facing the receiver of the card.
After receiving a Japanese business card never put it away immediately. Place it on the table, or on top of your card carrying case, and look at it occasionally, before placing it in the case at the close of the meeting. Never, under any circumstances, write on another person’s card in front of them, or place it in your pocket unprotected. Remember, the Japanese business card is an extension of the individuality of the person who presented it to you. The way they see you treat their card is a reflection of the type of treatment they can expect to get from you.
Business Card Etiquette in China
When preparing to travel to China for business, be sure to have plenty of quality business cards printed with a Simplified Chinese translation on one side and English on the other. Chinese business culture, as an extension of their national culture, can be difficult to breach, and a Simplified Chinese translation on your business card can help you build a bridge.
When exchanging business cards, always stand and offer your card with both hands; the Chinese translation should be facing the person to whom you are giving the card. Pay special attention to the cards you are given and don’t put them away immediately, as this may be taken as dismissive and disrespectful. Take plenty of business cards with you at all times, as you will be expected to exchange business cards with each person you meet. Never present a smudged or wrinkled card, this is a sign of great disrespect. And, never write on another person’s business card in their presence. This is also considered very disrespectful.
Business Card Etiquette in India
Take lots of business cards when you travel to India. They are expected at every greeting, and not just business meetings. It is not necessary to have a dual translation card in India, however. English is widely spoken in the business community. While Indian business culture is friendly and not overly-formal, there are a few dos and don’ts that should be remembered. Men should only shake hands with other men, unless a woman offers to shake a man’s hand. A Western woman should not offer to shake an Indian man’s hand unless he first offers to shake hers. This shows respect for their religious beliefs, which sometimes prohibit the shaking of hands between the sexes.
Titles are very important in India. If a person has any medical or academic titles, it is important to use them. It is also important to note any academic honors you may have, on your business card. Always use the highest title available when referring to someone else. Always present your business card facing up and with your right hand. The left hand is seen as being unclean.
Business Card Etiquette in the Middle East
When preparing your business cards for a trip to the Middle East, you’ll want to have one side in English and the other side in Arabic. Arabic is read from right to left and your Arab counterpart’s eyes will naturally be drawn to the right side of your card. Place your company logo with that in mind. Carry multiple copies of any printed materials, not just business cards. The person you meet with may not be the decision maker and materials may need to be shared among many levels of the organization.
When traveling to the Middle East for business, it is important to remember that there are many differences in culture and take your cues from those around you. Each country in the Middle East has different rules about visitors, especially females, and it pays to give attention to these details. Men traveling to the Middle East should never initiate a handshake with an Arab woman, as contact with a man may violate her religious beliefs. Likewise, women traveling to the Middle East for business should wait for her Arab male counterparts to initiate a handshake, to avoid offending them. By being alert to the customs of Middle Eastern countries, you can avoid embarrassment and better foster productive relationships.
Business Card Etiquette Around the World
While these are some of the most extreme examples of business card etiquette variations, each country, and even regions within a country, has their own way of viewing business cards and the ceremony around their exchange. If you are traveling for business, it pays to be up to date on the best practices for business etiquette in the area to which you’ll be traveling. But, wherever you go, and whoever you meet with, people recognize business cards as a personal means of exchanging contact information and opening the door to a future relationship. Keeping plenty of high-quality, beautifully designed business cards on hand will keep you ready to reach out, network and connect, and show that you’re ready for business whenever business is ready for you.