Very often, scoring an awesome networking opportunity takes the back-seat when travelling on business. There’s a lot to consider, from your itinerary to the distances between your hotel and the meeting venue, preparing presentations…

When travelling on business, it is important to focus on meeting new people and immersing yourself within a new cultural setting. Interacting with people from different cultures can lead you to discover many unusual differences in etiquette that can be mastered with a little bit of preparation and open mindedness.

Once you’re jetting off to meet someone from a totally different culture, here’s what you can do to maximise the potential of fostering positive cross-cultural relationships.

The Networking App

Scheduit is an excellent tool for business travellers and facilitates cross-cultural networking exponentially. By signing up to the unique matchmaking app, those travelling on business will be able to connect with compatible professionals beyond their social circles and schedule meetings anywhere in the world.

The business networking app will help you get to know who you will be interacting with before even setting foot in the aircraft.

The Business Card

Americans and Europeans are very casual when it comes to exchanging business cards. Quite often, all it takes is a brief glance before swiftly tucking it into your breast pocket while carrying on with the conversation. In most of Asia however, especially in Japan, the exchange of the business cards (meishi) is treated like a ritual — in a group-oriented culture, the business card is regarded an extension of the person’s identity and regarded with utmost respect. In fact, business cards are exchanged with both hands holding the top corners of the card and examined carefully before placed in a card holder.

The Business Meeting

Lunches or dinners usually seal the deal at business meetings, but the table etiquette varies across cultures. When networking in Russia, never refuse a drink. Russians often conduct business dinners with a healthy dose of vodka, and declining a glass would be an insult to their hospitality.

Meanwhile, if you are conducting business in Middle-Eastern countries during the holy month of Ramadan, be respectful towards observant Muslims who do not eat or drink from sunrise to sundown. Also bear in mind that Friday is the day for prayer and rest so ideally no business is conducted on this day.

Personal space is also an important consideration to make with business partners from another culture. While Westerners believe eye-contact inspires a sense of confidence and reassurance that the other is listening attentively, Asians tend to avoid eye-contact altogether. In fact, the Japanese tend to show they are concentrating by closing their eyes. In the Middle East, females should avoid extending a handshake to a male businessman, unless he offers his hand first. Devout Muslims often refrain from making contact with non-relative members of the opposite sex. If no handshake is extended, verbally communicate your greetings with a warm smile.

Building business relationships in a foreign country takes time and require patience. When networking in a new culture, be ready to learn from those around you and customise your own approach based on what you observe. The key to successful cross-cultural networking is fostering positive relationships based on trust and respect.

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