Business Dining

International Business Etiquette - 8 Tips

Most people know the importance of understanding culture communication and that business is conducted differently throughout the world, yet this is an aspect in business that is frequently overlooked. As a result, even a subtle misunderstanding in cultural differences can cause tensions and jeopardize relationships.

When doing business at an international level, we must be knowledgeable about the different customs and traditions and remain respectful of these differences. Taking the time to understand these cultural variations can lead to a more positive image for your company and more successful negotiations.

Here are 8 important considerations for international business:

1.    Greetings and introductions – business and social greetings may differ.

2.    Titles and Forms of Address – the importance of business hierarchy varies around the world.

3.    Punctuality and concept of time – may or may not be a very important priority.

4.    Business Card Etiquette – there are country specific differences in the etiquette of giving and receiving business cards.

5.    Communication Styles (verbal & non verbal) – high-context v’s low-context cultures widely differ.

6.    Business Dining Etiquette – a universal practice yet with many cultural variations.

7.    Business Gift Giving – can be highly valued and an important part of business relationships.

8.    Business Dress Codes – match the level of formality of your international host.

One important point to remember when conducting business abroad -  it is considered polite to defer to the culture and tradition of the country you are visiting. That said, be sure to let common sense prevail. If you know your counterparts will arrive late for the meeting, err on the side of caution and arrive on time, just don’t let anyone think you’re rushing them!  

10 Reasons Why Afternoon Tea Is Good For Business

Many thoughts and words may come to mind when we hear ‘Afternoon Tea’ including pretentious, old-fashioned, Downton Abbey…to name a few. However in recent years, traditional afternoon tea has become increasingly advantageous for businesses. But why? Well apart from the fun factor, here are a few reasons why Afternoon Tea can be better than a business lunch or dinner…

1. It’s practical - It’s sophisticated without being pretentious, less intimidating for guests and very convenient as it doesn’t invade the private time of clients.
2. It’s less formal - It’s a great balance between the business lunch and business meal and is a more relaxing environment.
3. It’s less time consuming - Afternoon tea usually lasts one to two hours. Ideal for a client who may have a busy schedule. Business dinners usually last upwards of two hours and then someone inevitably wants to have drinks….
4. It’s cost effective - The menu is usually clear cut, with the option of including a glass of champagne (if you’re looking to impress) but no risk of expensive bottles of wine.
5. It’s more productive - It’s more likely to be considered part of the business day instead of an ‘after work’ event. Everyone will still be in business mode!
6. It’s a different atmosphere - It’s not a formal restaurant, yet not a conference room…perfect!
7. There's a tea for everyone! - Black tea, green tea, white tea, red tea, and usually there is a tea sommelier on hand to help advise on blends, what a treat!
8. Everyone has to share - Believe it or not, sharing actually fosters communication, consideration and conversation. Who doesn’t need that in business?
9. There's little or no alcohol - Clients are unlikely to order wine or drinks during afternoon tea, so everyone will have clear heads and focus on business. A glass of champagne along with afternoon tea will add an extra something special for an important guest.
10. It’s a great way to end the day - As afternoon tea usually takes place towards the end of the business day, everyone can head home afterwards feeling a sense of accomplishment and still have the evening ahead to enjoy.

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

Quick Guide To Business Dining For Graduates

Maintaining a professional image is always important and dining in a business setting can be an opportunity to make a good impression. For young graduates new to the corporate world it can be daunting, but knowing the correct business dining etiquette is a silent plus on your curriculum. Here is a quick guide to getting it right:

Arrival – Be on time, or better, a little early. If you arrive first don’t go straight to the table, wait for your host. Be sure to greet everyone at the table as they arrive and try to remember names.

Ordering Food – Try to follow the lead of your host. Don’t order the most expensive item on the menu, or the cheapest. If the host doesn’t order first, ask for recommendations. Beware of tricky foods that are difficult to eat and don’t order something that you are unfamiliar with!

Alcohol – For a business lunch, alcohol should be avoided, even if the host is having a beer or glass of wine. It is perfectly acceptable to have an alcoholic drink during an evening dinner but you should limit yourself to one glass, as dancing on the table may not be your best look!

Table Manners – How you eat, hold your cutlery and even communicate with service staff, will send a message to those around you. Consider what message you want to send! Table manners vary according to cultures but the continental style of eating is considered the most acceptable manner of eating internationally and will never be wrong. Brush up on how to use your utensils, eat bread and napkin placements before you go.

Conversation & Talking Business – Your host will usually guide the conversation in the right direction. Small talk is to be expected at the start of the meal with business topics generally being introduced during the main course. During shorter business lunches the small talk may only last until the food has been ordered. Try to prepare a few conversation starters beforehand if you are nervous. Who will be attending the meal?  What are their job positions in the company? What interests might they have?  What nationalities will be present? Religion, politics and controversial subjects should always be avoided.

Paying the bill – The globally accepted rule is that the person who is hosting the dinner is the person who pays for the dinner and the tip. There is no need to offer, just be sure to thank your host!


Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant