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The Ten Golden Rules
There is an outstanding book about (business) behaviours in different cultures:
Richard R. Gesteland: Global Business Behaviour
However, there are 10 simple and general valid rules, which - when taken into consideration - make cooperation easier throughout all cultural areas:
- Be natural and authentic. Don't try to follow every spontaneous recommendation and avoid being "extremely tough or overbearing."
- A smile creates a positive atmosphere and opens a door - in and throughout all cultures.
- Be polite and respectful. Don't show too openly your position and that you are Western European.
- In case you are undecided, i.e. when at the table or during a party, simply wait and see how the others behave.
- Try to learn at least a few words in the native language (greeting, please/thanks/welcome, etc.) and to pronounce the names of your business partners in the locally appropriate way.
- Don't insist on your usual food, but rather accept local food - and mind locally appropriate table manners.
- There is no culture in this world, which likes arrogance or the description "how to do it in the right way". Avoid a know-it-all attitude, but be open instead.
- Avoid comments about local issues (politics, religion, etc.) to judge something or even make fun of it.
- Treat other people, which are of different levels of position, skin colour or body height always in the same way as you would like to be treated.
- Keep your composure even in difficult situations. You represent your company and - regardless whether intended or not - also your country.
- Other countries and cultures work in a different way. This does not mean, that they work in the wrong way. What is right for us, must not be necessarily be right for others.
- Very often, it will be necessary to have local support in place, especially regarding the language. Even where the language barrier does not exist, it is always recommendable to have local support, since local people "look through local glasses" and can open doors, which a foreigner can not.
- Other countries have a different way of information processing, a different understanding of punctuality, precision and quality. It will not only be necesssary to say: "This must be done this way", but also explained why.