Guide to International Business Etiquette in Europe

In the globalization best practices, developing good face-to-face relationships with partners and customers is crucial for business success. This post focuses specifically on business etiquette within Germany, Italy, Poland and Sweden, offering some important tips on how to conduct business in these countries.

Germany

In Germany, titles are important. Titles should be used correctly. Within the corporate culture of Germany, it is acceptable and often common to give and receive company and personal profiles before your first business meeting to establish credibility. Arrive at your meetings well prepared and try to avoid hard-sell tactics or surprises. Written or spoken presentations should be specific, factual, technical and realistic and make sure printed materials are available in both English and German. Reports, briefings and presentations should be backed up by facts, figures, tables and charts. Business meetings will start and end with a firm handshake. If this is the first business meeting, it is customary to exchange business cards; business cards can be in both English and or German

Italy

Italians, like most south European people, are very relationship-oriented. They usually prefer to establish direct relationships, before talking about business. The goal of early contact and the first meeting is to provide all the information needed regarding a proposal and, in particular, to establish a reciprocal climate of trust and respect.

On your first business meeting, it is important to exchange a business card with each person attending. It is also culturally polite to look at the name and title on the business card received and to set it carefully in front of you. English is a common business language; however, it is recommended to inquire before your meeting if an interpreter is required. It is common that business meetings end with an invitation to eat out, typically in a carefully selected restaurant as a way to socialize and establish a closer relationship. If possible, always try and accept. Negotiations usually take time and patience. Do not rush or show signs of impatience, as this can give a bad impression.

Poland

When entering into a business meeting in Poland or with Polish colleagues, offer a firm handshake with all those present. It is important to make direct eye contact and state your name to each person. Business cards are used and it is customary to include your full title and any advanced degrees or professional accreditation. You will most likely receive a business card in Polish on one side and English on another.

When entering the meeting, it is important not to stand around doorways as this is believed to bring bad luck. It is common in Poland for business discussions to move fairly quickly. Presentations can be in English but it is customary to prepare supporting documentation into Polish. During business meetings, Poles may not hide their emotions especially if they are angry or frustrated. It is important to take this into consideration when taking part in discussions.

Sweden

In Sweden, business meetings are very punctual. Being punctual symbolizes that you have respect and are efficient. In Sweden, the notion of equality and consensus are very common in business meetings and it is important that everyone participates in the discussions. Be well-prepared when entering negotiations with Swedes; as they carefully analyze information, backgrounds and proposals. To conduct business with Swedish organizations, it is important to be honest and all agreements must be written and signed since Swedes consider a written contract as a memorandum of understanding as well as being proof of a deal.

These are just a few basic tips to consider for when businesses are looking to do business in these European countries. Each country and district within each European country is unique and culturally rich and diverse. It is important to know your host country’s culture, corporate culture, social norms and body language. Learning the customs and culture of another country shows respect for them and respect is important in developing strong effective business relationships.