International Business Card Etiquette

If you plan to do business internationally, it is important to understand the cultural significance of business cards and the etiquette that surrounds them in each country. A good rule is to view the business card as a personal representation of one's self. In North America and the United Kingdom, business card etiquette is easy to understand and quick to learn. Cards must be clean and well-kept but they may be carried loose in one's pocket and can be used to make notes. At the beginning of each meeting, one card is presented to each attendee.

For international use, it is important to provide a translation of the card information on the reverse side. For accuracy, please hire a professional translation agency. The card needs the basic information: name, title, company, and contact information. By using a professional translation agency, you will be made aware of cultural nuances. Depending on the country, there are specific paper and ink preferences.

CEO of Culture Coach International (CCI), Kari Heistad writes, "Understanding the norms and values of the local culture while traveling internationally helps to avoid giving offense. Observing the appropriate etiquette communicates respect and facilitates communication. In many parts of the globe a business card carries much greater significance than a handy means to trade contact information. For the most part, the exchange of cards occurs at the beginning or end of the initial meeting although this detail should be clarified for any given nation before traveling there."

In Japan, the business card is treated with respect and honor and there is a lot of ceremony involved with presenting and receiving cards. When you are offered a card, receive it with both hands; bow, and express appreciation for the meeting. It is polite to examine the card and make a comment. Please note that it is rude to put the card away immediately. It is also unacceptable to use the blank areas to make notes.

In China, it is important to present your card before asking for one. As in Japan, accept the card with both hands; bow, and thank the person for the opportunity to meet them. Review the card and try to make a small comment or clarification. Again, do not put the card away and do not write on the blank areas. And, absolutely do not put it in your back pocket - this is a big insult.

In India, there is no need to translate your card as English is widely spoken in the Indian business world. Make sure you have plenty of cards as business cards are exchanged in non-business or social situations. In most Islamic countries, you should present and receive cards with your right hand because one never knows what you might have been doing with your left hand.

Knowing the cultural nuances of the country you are visiting is an important business skill. By not presenting and receiving cards in a positive manor, you may insult your business associates. Customs that are accepted in one country may not be accepted in another. It is up to you to consult a translation and interpretation company in order to be prepared.

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