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.
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.
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.