International Business Etiquette

Understanding and adapting to cultural norms and etiquette related to business interactions, work schedules, professional attire, and body language are key for successful international engagement.

Culture Crossing is another resource that may provide helpful country-specific cultural information. Additionally, Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree provides travel information and advice for international trips.

You can also contact the Office of Global Strategy and Initiatives if you'd like assistance in compiling business etiquette information for your upcoming travel or project.

General gift giving recommendations

It is important to understand the gift-giving customs, rules, and protocols in different countries including differences due to the individual or institution with which you are meeting. In certain circumstances gifts are essential, while in other circumstances they can be perceived as a bribe or may be prohibited by rules or laws.

Please also note that Emory complies with both the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) as well as the United Kingdom Bribery Act (UKBA). The FCPA prohibits bribing foreign officials for improving business advantage, either directly or through a third party. In addition to bribes in the form of payments, favors and other inducements (e.g., inappropriate gifts) are prohibited. A foreign official can include government ministers and government employees, as well as employees of government-owned or controlled entities like state-run universities. The UKBA also prohibits receiving bribes, failing to prevent bribes, and paying facilitation or “grease” payments. Please contact Mindy Simon in the Office of General Counsel with any questions.

Questions to consider

  • What is the most appropriate way to schedule a meeting?
  • How far in advance does a meeting need to be scheduled?
  • How are meetings confirmed, if at all? Should confirmation come by email, telephone or other method?
  • Is it worthwhile to translate business cards into the local language? If so, who as a native speaker can assist with and proofread the translation?
  • How are initial business meetings conducted?
    • How and when should business cards be presented?
    • Is it appropriate to bring a gift?
    • If so, what kinds of gifts are appropriate? Which kinds of gifts are not appropriate?
    • How, if at all, should business gifts be wrapped?
  • Are thank you emails appropriate? If not, what is the preferred method of conveying thanks?
  • What other types of follow up to meetings are expected?
  • What is the appropriate business attire?
  • What are the most common social meeting places?
  • Is business typically conducted in a social setting or in an office setting?
  • Are there any special foods or dietary customs of which to be aware?
  • Is it appropriate to drink alcohol in business and/or social settings? If so, what is the appropriate behavior? What is the most popular drink in the host country?
  • What are appropriate conversation topics?
  • What are inappropriate conversation topics?
  • What are the most common cultural mistakes that Americans make in doing business in the host country?
  • Do minorities and/or women have any special considerations for doing business in the host country?
  • Has social media usage in and outside of the workplace created any special issues or problems?
  • What other issues should be considered when conducting business in the host country?