Tips on International Business Card Etiquette

Don’t let a simple act like exchanging business cards ruin a chance at establishing a lasting international relationship. Getting off on the right foot is critical, so be sure to know the appropriate cultural customs and sensitivities before you meet your foreign clients andbusiness card exchange image partners. Here are some tips on international business card etiquette to help get you started:
• For business meetings in non-English speaking countries, it’s important to have a two-sided version of your business card printed—English on one side, local language on the other. This makes an immediate statement about your awareness of global culture. Hand over your card with the local language side up and facing the other person. However, be sure to obtain a professional translation of your information first!
• In some cultures, it’s customary to include relevant educational credentials (especially postgraduate degrees) along with your job title. Check to see if this is a custom among the group you will be meeting with.
• In many countries, handling of business cards is more formal than in the United States (Japan and Korea being well-known examples). When foreign counterparts give you their card, thank them, study it for a moment and keep it in your hands or on the table during the meeting. It may be considered rude or dismissive to quickly tuck a card into your pocket, day planner or wallet. In many Asian cultures, it’s proper etiquette to present and receive business cards with both hands. Tossing or sliding a card across the table may be interpreted as a lack of manners or even disrespect. Likewise, avoid writing your notes or comments on someone’s business card.
• Unless they directly report to you within your own organization, do NOT point out typos or English grammatical errors on others’ business cards.
business card image• It is ALWAYS preferable to offer cards at the beginning, rather than the end, of a meeting. Like you, your counterparts may have difficulty remembering or correctly pronouncing foreign names. Having a business card in front of them could help avoid an awkward situation.
• Unless the number of participants is extremely large, personally hand a card to each person present. From an outside cultural perspective, it may not always be obvious to you who the ranking officers or decision-makers are, but when possible present cards first to the highest ranking individual(s).
Follow these simple guides and you’re sure to impress your foreign counterparts—the first step in building a solid relationship.
If you’d like more information about international business etiquette, give us a call. We’d be happy to help.