Common Blunders That Business Travellers around the World Can Make

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Common Blunders That Business Travellers around the World Can Make

The globalisation of modern times has completely revolutionised the way business is conducted. These days, travelling for business has become quite common and if you have not researched about the country you are travelling to, you might make some etiquette blunders that could cost you.

Dressing Inappropriately
There is no denying the fact that what you're wearing will make the all-important first impression in the eyes of your business partner. Choosing the appropriate attire depends on the country’s culture. Some people think that it’s normal to wear what they wear in their own but this is not true.   For example, it's appropriate to dress casually for a meeting in Singapore, but in China it's perceived as disrespectful.

Greeting Incorrectly
After your attire, your greeting will determine how you will be perceived for the rest of the meeting. Knowing how to greet people is of utmost importance. In some countries, it is impolite to address someone by their first name. Also in some cultures, men greet women with a kiss but in others, it would be considered highly inappropriate. 

Giving Gifts or Not Giving Gifts
Companies in countries like Japan, China and Taiwan appreciate presents whereas companies in the US might not be expecting any gifts on business meetings. Some people bring too extravagant or personal gifts and that makes the situation quite awkward. Make sure that you have completely understood if bringing gifts would be the right thing to do.   You also have to be minful of the Bribery Act 2010.

Common Cross-Cultural Blunders
Cross-cultural blunders are mistakes that even the smartest of travellers make. One might ask: What could be wrong with sipping vodka in Russia? Or eating with one’s left hand in India? These seemingly harmless things might cause offence and ruin your impression. Let us take a look at some examples:


  • People might be avoiding certain foods for various religious or cultural reasons. For instance, Hindus consider it unholy to eat beef and Muslims and Jews are forbidden to eat pork.
  • In Russia and some Asian countries like China, it is very impolite to talk while eating. Whereas in Japan, socialising over a meal is quite common.
  • If you do not eat enough in Russia, Greece or Italy, your hosts might get offended.

Body Language

  • In Africa, India and the Middle East, people use right hands for greeting touching and eating because the left hand is considered unclean.
  • A “thumbs up” gesture in the West is a sign that everything is alright whereas in the Middle East, it is considered highly offensive.
  • In Japan, it is rude to cross your legs in front of an elder as this will be considered a sign of disrespect.

Personal Space

  • In the Western countries like the United States or the United Kingdom, it is appropriate to keep distance whereas in Saudi Arabia, people stand quite close to each other.
  • Generally, while talking to each other, people from China and other Asian cultures do not require as much personal space as people from Western countries. 

The best advice we can give is - do your research !