It might seem, to an untrained eye, that European business etiquette is similar to business etiquette in the United States. After all, it could be said that Europe and the States are closer to each other culturally than, let’s say, Asian countries and the United States. And while this is undoubtedly true, the way they do business across the Atlantic is not the same way business is done States-side. The good news is that with only a few good tips, anyone can do business with European partners without looking too out of place.
- Europe is made out of 50 countries
Americans sometimes view Europe as a continent with a degree of homogeneity it actually does not have. Even with the European Union, Europe is still made out of more than 50 different states, with even more languages, very different customs and, yes, business etiquette. So, the most valuable advice any American doing business with European partners can get is – learn about their specific country and business etiquette.
- Prepare your business card
You might assume that everyone doing business in Europe knows English. While that might be right, keep in mind that European countries are fiercely proud of their own languages. It would be unreasonable to expect from you to learn each and every language spoken by your European business partners, but a token of respect will go a very long way. One of the most effective ways to show your European partners you respect their national identity is to have your business cards printed in English on one side, and your partners’ language on the other side.
- Be punctual, or early, or maybe a little bit late
European people from different countries have certain reputations. When you’re about to meet with a German business partner in Germany, you should be at the meeting precisely on time. However, in the United Kingdom, and especially when dealing with older, more traditional business people, you’ll be expected to be a bit early for your meetings. In Spain or Italy, there is a widespread laid back approach to having a meeting. That doesn’t mean you can be late for an hour or two, but a couple of minutes are likely to pass without notice.
- Address people properly
Generally, it is expected from you to address people using their title, or in lack there off, by adding the country’s equivalent to Mr. or Mrs. before their last name. You should keep on addressing them in the same way until they tell you otherwise.
- Learn to behave in a business meeting
If there’s one thing that’s in common to business etiquettes of most European countries, it’s the fact that spending a meeting with your eyes fixed on the screen of your smartphone is not a very nice thing to do. In meetings, you should pay attention and contribute in the areas where you can. If you’re not sure of something, it’s better to stay quiet. And don’t try to speak the local language unless you’re able to do it very good. And above all, remember that what flies on one side of the Atlantic, might not be considered business-like on the other.