When planning a business trip overseas, it is just as important to take time to prepare yourself for the different cultures, as it is packing the correct clothing for the climate.
You must be willing to adapt yourself to the client’s culture to do proper business. You must also understand that businessmen from other countries find it very important to research the social customs of the United States before traveling here.
Since a large portion of your trip abroad will be done while dining out, it’s important to be fully prepared for the trip. Here are a few differences that you may discover during trips –
1~ Let the Host Seat You. In China, the most honored person sits in the middle of the table and the guests of honor sit on each side. The best thing to do is wait for the host to show you where to sit.
2~ Eat Slowly. In many cultures, dining is a sacred time that is not to be rushed. Quite often business meals can last for hours. Don’t rush through this time, but instead try to enjoy learning the culture and enjoying the company that surrounds you.
3~ You Don’t Have to Finish Everything. Although finishing your entire meal in the United States indicates that you truly enjoyed the food, some countries find a bare plate as an indication that you were not served enough and may still be hungry.
4~ Watch Others. During meals abroad, it is important to observe how others are dining. It’s considered rude in the U.S. to eat loudly, while in Japan and Hong Kong, it’s a compliment to loudly slurp down your soup – showing that it was truly enjoyed. Instead of thinking that others are being rude, learn the practices of the culture before you arrive, and partake in the activities that others at the table are doing.
5~ Talk Quietly. Other cultures often complain that Americans speak too loudly. Try to lower your voice and listen intently so that your words are enjoyed and not viewed as offensive.
6~ Cut Food Up. Most countries like Chile, Brazil, Germany and Italy use utensils to cut up all food – even things like pizza, that we would normally just pick up to eat. Even if it feels awkward, be sure to also cut your food up while dining in these countries.
7~ Watch Your Hands. Several countries believe that your left hand is used only for hygiene purposes, and never for eating. These countries are India, parts of the Middle East and Africa. In India, it is frowned upon to even touch your plate with your left hand.
8~ Tipping Rules are Important. Tipping is not necessary in all countries. In fact, Japan considers tipping as an insult. Some countries just add a service charge to the bill at the restaurant. It’s a good idea to learn the correct tipping procedures for the culture that you will be visiting before you visit, in order to not offend anyone.
As shown above, there are dozens of differences in the dining traditions of the world’s cultures. In order to make your travels abroad go more smoothly, and to help you fit in, it’s important to take the time to study the specific customs of the area where you will be traveling before you head out the door.