Business Card Etiquette in Various Countries
Here in the UK and in North America for that matter, there is very little ceremony when it comes to exchanging business cards. They’re simply given out to people without any big deal with regard to their significance and, for the most part, they’re simply a quicker way of giving your contact details to somebody who may be able to use your products or services in the future so, in reality, they’re considered little more than a networking tool and you’ll probably find that you don’t give them out to everybody and pay little heed to them most of the time. However, when you conduct business in certain countries overseas, it’s very different and the giving or exchanging of business cards needs to be done in the correct manner.
General GuidelinesThe business card is an internationally recognised method of offering a fellow businessperson your contact details so if you travel overseas on business a lot, you should take a good supply of cards with you. If you are travelling to a country whose main language is not English, you should also have one side of the card translated into the language of the country you’re visiting and always present your business card with the foreign version side up, not the English side. Unlike in the UK, in many countries overseas, it’s considered disrespectful if you immediately put the card you are offered straight into your pocket. You should study it for several seconds and comment on it or clarify any information on it before putting it away. Also, you’d usually offer a business card at the beginning or the end of a meeting. Here are a few more specific examples of what you should and shouldn’t do.
Middle EastAlways present your card with your right hand, never your left.
ChinaHave one side of your business card translated into Chinese and in gold coloured lettering as that is considered auspicious. You should also try to find out the local dialect of the people you’ll be meeting with e.g Cantonese or Mandarin and have the card tailored specifically. The card should feature your name and your job title and, if your company has been established for a very long time, it’s useful to state the year it was formed on the card. When offering the card, you should do so with both hands and if you’re receiving a card, make sure you study it and comment on it – don’t just stuff it in your jacket pocket and never write on it in the person’s presence.
JapanTo give and receive business cards in Japan is quite ceremonial. You should, therefore, invest in high quality cards and keep them in good condition by keeping them in a business card case and treat both the giving and receiving of business cards with the same degree of respect as you would show the person him or herself. Status is important in Japan so make sure your title is prominent on the card. And, whilst it’s perfectly acceptable to give your card with one hand, make sure you accept one with both hands. Don’t put it away in your pocket at a meeting. Keep it on the table in front of you and, if you are meeting several people at once who have all given you their cards, not only is it respectful to keep all the cards on the table in front of you until the meeting has concluded but it’s also useful in that, in placing them in front of you in the order in which people are seated, it will help you remember their names.
IndiaBusiness in India places a great emphasis on academic achievement so in addition to your name and job title, your business cards there should also state any university qualifications you have or any other kind of honour. As in the Middle East, always use your right hand when offering a business card. If the local dialect is Hindi, then you’d not normally need to print one side of the card in that language as most business people who speak Hindi can also speak English.
As you can, therefore, see – the way certain other cultures perceive business cards is very different to our own and, whilst failure to adhere to the correct etiquette might not cost you business, the fact that you have taken the time and trouble to observe the correct etiquette will have indicated the respect you have for your hosts which, in business, will only stand you in good stead. So, if you are travelling on business to foreign countries that have not been featured here, it’s important that you find out all you can about what’s considered the proper etiquette in the country you’re travelling to.