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Mind Your Manners

Tips to take the guess-work out of international business etiquette.

With commerce becoming increasingly global, understanding foreign business rituals is more important than ever. That's especially true for Americans--who, as we understand it, aren't known as the world's most culturally sensitive people. Fortunately, folklorist Norine Dresser has released a revised edition of her 1996 book Multicultural Manners, which has the following tips for smooth negotiations with overseas partners.

Mind the Card

The Asian custom of presenting a business card with both hands is well known. But when accepting a card, don't write on it or put it in your back pocket--both are insults.

Get Friendly

In the Middle East, male-to-male physical contact (such as kissing on both cheeks and holding hands) is common and expected. But don't initiate. Follow your host's lead.

Respect the Desk

Never place objects on or lean on the desk of a prospective client in Asian countries. The desk is considered the boss's territory.

Go Slow

When dealing with Chinese, Korean, and many Middle Eastern and Latin American execs, a friendly rapport must be established. Your first visit should be a courtesy call; save the negotiating for later.

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