12 November 2019

Three Tips to Improve Your Business Travel Etiquette and Strengthen Your International Partnerships

An overseas partnership could pay dividends for your company’s growth and expansion. But with new territories and regions come new ways of doing business. Can you confidently say you know how to carry yourself when visiting that potential new partner for the first time? 

A foreign language, diverse traditions, a different way of doing business together - experiencing a new culture can be a challenge for many business travellers. After all, there’s nothing worse than giving the wrong impression and running the risk of offending your prospects or partners.

So how do you combat this? A little preparation can help you to calmly anticipate your upcoming journey. Below are three useful tips to help you avoid business pitfalls and build stronger international partnerships, wherever you travel.

Put your international business etiquette knowledge to the test with our 10-question quiz!

How to improve your business travel etiquette

1. Learn some choice words and phrases in the local language

Don’t take for granted that your business partners will speak or understand English. Learning a few choice words and phrases in their local language shows respect to the host.

Even knowing how to greet your contacts (both verbally and physically) and say thank you can make a difference, and your foreign colleagues will appreciate your efforts in understanding their culture.

Making a good first impression can only be positive and can go a long way towards building a lasting business partnership.

Next steps… Dipping your toes into a new language doesn’t mean you have to spend hundreds of pounds or a semester at evening classes (unless you want to, great!). There’s a huge selection of free apps, games, and instant translators that can help you learn words and phrases in most languages, and you can even use these at your destination. What’s Spanish for ‘a cup of tea, please?’

2. Explore the local culture in your spare time

Use your trip as an opportunity to familiarise yourself with the local culture, as this may not be the only time you’ll visit that country. If your business goes well, you may find yourself back there many times over the coming months and years. Taking the time to experience the local culture is a sure-fire way of learning a little more every time. 

When you’re overseas on business, it can be easy to forget that you’re not just limited to the office or your hotel room - get out, be curious, and enjoy a little bleisure time.

Next steps… An effective way to discover local customs and traditions is to mingle with the locals. For example, events and conferences are an opportunity not to be missed and can even help build relationships with professionals from different industries. Fancy expanding your network? Street markets, restaurants, cafes, and even religious buildings are also a great way to soak up the local culture and see how your new contacts conduct themselves.

Your free time doesn’t have to end there. Check out what else you can do at ten of the best bleisure destinations.

3. Research the faux pas before you fly out

Did you know that in China, blowing your nose in public or accepting the business card of your prospect with just one hand is sometimes seen as discourteous?

Meanwhile, in Arab countries, it can be considered offensive to accept or hand documentation with your left hand.

What is normal for us can actually appear offensive abroad. But recognising and navigating these situations isn’t difficult if you just take the time to research them before you fly out.

Next steps… Most foreign faux pas can be researched online. (Why not test your knowledge now in our international business etiquette quiz!) If you’re stuck for time, ask your office colleagues who’ve already visited your destination about the culture and any no-nos. Perhaps some of your colleagues are in contact with specialists who know about the culture and can brief you? By sharing knowledge around the office, you’ll not only impress your colleagues but put yourself in a stronger position to understand your destination’s culture before your arrival.

Make a great first impression with the right business etiquette 

Business trips offer an indispensable opportunity to cultivate business relationships, meet potential customers, and increase your brand globally. But before you travel for business, it’s important to know the basic information about the culture and traditions of your destination. 

Manners matter and first impressions stick. With a little discipline and some light research, you can make yours count, so your next international meeting ends as well as it started.

Want to brush up on your foreign language skills but don’t have access to WiFi? With Lufthansa Group’s PartnerPlusBenefit programme you can redeem perks such as a FlyNet voucher or lounge pass.

In which country should you always accept tea or coffee when your business host offers it?