As businesses become increasingly more global and bringing people of all races, cultures, and backgrounds closer, learning the skills of proper etiquette on an international level is one of the most important elements for business success and growth. The ability to appreciate and respect cultural differences can be very helpful in understanding why people act in certain ways and gives you a better understanding on how you should act while conducting business or attending social events with them.
Each country comes with a set of rules and traditions. In recent news, President Obama was criticized by some critics for bowing to a Japanese Emperor. They argued that as President of the United States, he displayed an act of "weakness" because in America, all are considered created equal and therefore on equal playing field. While others said the bow was not the problem, it was that he bowed and shook hands with a Japanese Emperor. Sources at the White House said the President was following protocol. But the best etiquette approach in this case would have been to follow the lead of the host.
Examples like the above show how significant it is to know what to do and when to do it when dealing with diverse cultures. The last thing you want to do is offend someone you are trying to share ideas and conduct business. As a young girl, my lack of social etiquette knowledge resulted in several embarrassing hours, but turned into a lifetime commitment of striving to always put my best foot forward and to help others accomplish the same. Etiquette is not a fad that will go away over time. In fact, I believe that as we become more global in the way we do business and interact on a social level, knowing proper etiquette has never been more important.
One of the first things you need to understand is that culture includes areas such as a country's norms, values, behaviors, food, architecture, fashion and art. One area of culture that is important for international business people is etiquette.
The English dictionary defines etiquette as the rules and conventions governing correct or polite behavior in society in general or in a specific social or professional group or situation. Basically, what is the common practice of behavior in which a person of another country greets conducts business and entertains.
As a business professional, part of getting prepared requires not only the details of the meeting or presentation, but also the social aspects of the meeting. For example, do you know the proper way to introduce yourself and or your colleagues? Introductions may only last a few moments, but they set the stage for the rest of your time with the person's whom you will be conducting business.
To get you started, here is a helpful resource. You can always contact the embassy of the country you are traveling to for more information.
Executive Planet- Guide to business culture, customs, and etiquette worldwide