From conducting business in a sauna to only accepting business cards with both hands, the world’s most interesting and unusual work-based customs have been revealed.
The workplace experts behind LondonOffices.com have researched business cultures across a variety of countries in order to reveal the remarkable customs businesspeople tend to follow across the world.
Hot-bath negotiations are the norm in Finland, where an affinity for saunas is deeply rooted in the culture, and in South Korea, your business dinner may be followed by an evening of karaoke.
In Hong Kong, the most senior member of staff should be offered a seat at the head of the table during any meeting or business dinner, and because Japanese businesspeople regard the business card very seriously, you must always accept a card with both hands and take time to study the information before putting it away.
A lot of European countries have a much more relaxed approach to business comparatively, but even the Italians have two business cards – one for business and another for personal information and social gatherings.
Chris Meredith, CEO of LondonOffices.com commented: “We Brits are renowned for taking work very seriously – we have one of the longest working weeks and spend on average around 81,000 hours, or the equivalent of a full nine years of our lives at work.
“But this almost pales in comparison to some other countries, who have strict business protocols that should always be adhered to out of respect.
“We feel it’s useful to draw attention to some of these customs, just in case British workers find themselves having to take business trips to these countries. You don’t want to end up ruffling any feathers when trying to seal important deals and partnerships!”
French workers pride themselves on maintaining a clear distinction between work life and personal life, which led to an initiative that was passed last year allowing employees the right to ignore work-related emails sent after working hours. The “right to disconnect” applied to companies with more than 50 employees.
You should also be prepared for lengthy business meals in France, as lunch can last up to two hours.
Italian people often have two business cards – one for business and another for personal information and social gatherings.
Hot-bath negotiations are the norm in Finland, where an affinity for saunas is deeply rooted in the culture. These sweltering sessions are thought to enhance creativity and encourage more open dialogue. In fact, the practice is so widespread that many large companies have saunas in the office!
Germans often respect direct communication – the more straightforward, the better. So, it’s wise to remain serious and devoid of humour, as jokes may not be appreciated in a business context.
It’s rude to start eating before the host in Hong Kong, and seating placements are also tied to seniority; the most senior member of staff should be offered a seat at the head of the table during any meeting or business dinner.
If you join Korean colleagues for dinner, you might find yourself at a karaoke establishment – and you will be expected to sing.
If you are offered a business card in Japan, you should take it with both hands and pause a moment to study the information before putting it away, as Japanese business people view the business card as a particular item of importance. In addition, the business card should never be written on or played with during a meeting, as both are signs of disrespect.
Napping in the office is also common in this country and is seen as a sign of employee diligence. The word for the practice is “inemuri” or “sleeping on duty” and is most prevalent among senior employees.
In China, the customary tradition is that gifts are presented when you show up for a business meeting. However, gifts can be refused up to three times before being accepted, so it’s important to continue offering your present until it is taken.
United Arab Emirates
Left-handers may have some trouble doing business in the United Arab Emirates, as in a lot of Middle Eastern countries, the left hand is considered unclean and used strictly for bodily hygiene. As a result, it’s important to eat, shake hands and pass documents with the right hand only. Using the left hand is a serious insult.
Business meetings are never scheduled for Fridays in Egypt, as it’s considered a day of rest.
Argentinian business lunches are few and far between – most business-related meals are arranged for dinner, which starts around 9pm.
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