Business Etiquette in Other Parts of the World

Business etiquette can build or weaken relationships in a professional setting. Although there are some similarities, people across the world deal differently with colleagues or partners at their workplace. Knowing differences in business etiquette in different regions of the world is especially important for students aiming to internationalize their careers. As part of the International Education Week 2017, all students are invited to attend a panel discussion on “Global Etiquette and Intercultural Competency” on Tuesday November 07 from 7pm to 8.30pm in the Georgian Room at the IMU.

Bloomington is a melting pot of different cultures and practices, and some of our bloggers came forward to share their perspectives on professional norms in their country of origin or a region where they have studied before. We invite you to read on.

Image result for China flagChina (By Yan Qi)

面子 (face/dignity) is one of the key aspects of Chinese culture. A Chinese person always wants to save it instead of losing it. In order to “give face,” a person needs to pay attention to elders and rankings, especially when it comes to government officials. Also, be careful when commenting on strong negative statements. For Chinese people, it`s impolite to give negative answers directly. The blunt “No” should be replaced by the euphemistic “maybe” or “we`ll think about it”.

Gift giving is a common Chinese custom that business visitors to China should prepare for and use to their advantage. The advice of a Chinese friend or colleague is invaluable in doing this properly.  Gifts should not be too expensive. The gifts you receive will often have strong associations to local identity and therefore pride to the giver. The best gifts to offer in return will be items that are unique but meaningful like a handcrafted present. The Chinese are fond of dark red, gold or blue, which are all appropriate colors for gift wrapping. Gifts are usually given at the end of an introductory meeting or of a banquet. Visiting delegations are normally expected to offer gifts to their hosts. The most important thing is, always give and receive gifts or anything of value with two hands. You might find awkward that it is common in China for the recipient to refuse the offer of a gift at first. He doesn’t mean it. It’s just a way of being nice. The giver should persist, and the recipient will eventually accept the gift and exchange with its own gift.

Image result for India flagIndia (By Tapati Dutta)

The East and the West are worlds apart in most aspects and same applies to the expected professional etiquette and demeanor. Here are some broad observations highlighting some distinctions between the work etiquette in India, my home country, where I have worked for 15 years, and the US, where I have come a little over two years now, and still trying to acculturate!!

One difference I notice is the mode and pattern of communication in professional interactions. Higher ranking officials, in particular, prefer written communication, followed-up by a phone call. Text messaging and chatting on the social media with them is not in vogue, though connecting via LinkedIn and Tweeting is getting more and more common.

Again, addressing seniors by their first names is not appreciated. Culturally, it is a more acceptable norm to address a policy maker/CEO and the likes with her/his title like Doctor/ Professor followed by their last names or just Madam/Sir. Particularly between opposite genders, the opening greeting is either expressed verbally like ‘Good morning’ or in the traditional way by folding hands and saying ‘Namaste’, rather than a formal hug. Shaking hands is more common between same genders.

A sea difference lies in the dressing pattern. While in the US I have seen people wearing what they are comfortable with, in India, be it institutional settings or social gatherings, people mostly wear Western formals, or traditional dresses. Again, while the younger generation might mostly prefer Western formals, middle aged to elderly people like to flaunt in traditional outfits like sari and salwar kameez.

Related imageMauritius (By Trishnee Bhurosy)

Greetings. In professional settings, individuals of the opposite genders tend to avoid hugging each other and a firm handshake is usually the most common form of greeting someone with no physical contact. Since the island comprises of different ethnic groups, exchanges during meetings may vary. For example, Indo-Mauritians who have known each other for a long time, will greet each other by saying Namaste in informal situations related to work.

Schedule. The average working week is from Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.30pm, in most companies. Specific companies and jobs require their employees to work more hours for which they are paid additionally on an hourly or monthly basis. Appointments are usually made in several days’ and weeks’ advance and punctuality is highly respected. It is considered very rude for not showing up on time.

Business Attire. Mauritians business dress code tends to be conservative and formal for both men and women in companies and work offices. Individuals are expected to wear well-tailored attire. In some professions such as teachers, the dress code is more flexible and while still being conservative, both men and women can wear business casual or casual.

Gift Giving. Gift giving can happen during professional meetings and examples of appropriate gifts are a photo frame, a souvenir from the island or expensive stationery items. Giving gifts is also a common practice if a colleague is celebrating a special event or is retiring from the work place.

Related imageHaiti (By Nik Roseau)

In my country, Haiti, the practice of business etiquette seemed to always vary depending on what profession one goes into, but one thing that is always common is the value of hard work. I have had the chance to observe some of the hardest working people I know. My parents who were farmers had business relationships with so many diverse individuals and each brought their own different characteristics to the table. They respected and valued one another because they knew that was necessary in order for their relationships to continue. I’ve only had the chance to watch my parents interact with those they did business with, but I know what I learned from them will reverberate through the career path that I am choosing to go into which is law. This goes to show that no matter what career path anyone chooses to go into, whatever was learned from previous experiences anywhere else can be of some use.



A Marsian… oops a Mauritian working on her Ph.D. in Bloomington!

By Trishnee Bhurosy
Trishnee Bhurosy Student Ambassador - Blog Editor