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Mastering International Business Etiquette With Interpreters

Business etiquette is crucial in the corporate world, helping to create a mutually respectful atmosphere, improving communication, and enabling people to behave in an appropriate manner. Violating even the smallest rules of corporate etiquette can impose barriers, create the wrong impression, and potentially jeopardise business relationships.

This etiquette is even more important when conducting business in a different language or another country. In these scenarios, the accepted business etiquette may be totally different from what you’re used to. This is why it’s recommended that you work with experienced interpreters, who can help you adhere to these rules, and set you on the right track to international success, no matter where you’re doing business.

Why mastering international business etiquette is important

Despite English being a lingua franca in much of the world, it’s only spoken by 20% of the world, which means there’s no guarantee that overseas clients will, or can, conduct business in your native tongue. And even if they are willing to do so, this doesn’t mean that things will go smoothly.

With each country’s individual business etiquette being influenced by its own unique culture, you may find that there is a greater chance of making mistakes or being unintentionally rude when conducting international business from country to country. This could be very damaging to your client relationships. Indeed, properly adhering to country-specific business etiquette can be what determines whether or not a business meeting is successful. By knowing and practising these customs, you can not only communicate more effectively, but demonstrate respect for your counterparts. This is something that they’re likely to value, and bolsters the possibility of a successful business relationship.

What you need to know about international business etiquette

There are numerous components of business etiquette, from how to address somebody appropriately to maintaining a suitable physical distance. These may all differ depending on the country you’re in. Here are a few examples for you to consider:

Using the proper names and titles

In certain countries (like France), people usually refer to one another by using their title followed by their surname — at least until somebody suggests using first names. However, in Germany, it is common for people to use a person’s title followed by their job role, especially if they are high-ranking. For instance, a director may be referred to as “Frau/Herr Direktor.” However, other countries go the complete opposite way, businesspeople in Thailand typically addressing each other by their first names.

Greeting people appropriately

They say first impressions are the most lasting, and the way you greet somebody provides you with your earliest opportunity to make a great one. However, what is deemed appropriate varies wildly from country to country, and doing something seen as awkward or rude in somebody else’s culture could ruin the impression you make. For example, while handshakes are a common greeting in many countries, in Japan people bow to each other, while Belgians greet one another with three kisses (or air kisses).


While being late to a business meeting is seen as rude here in the UK, and in countries like Germany and Japan, this isn’t the case everywhere. For instance, in India and many South American countries, being late isn’t anywhere near as big of a deal. Conversely, other nations consider arriving on time to a meeting as still being late, with French businesspeople typically turning up to meetings at least ten minutes before it’s due to start.

How interpreters can help

They know your business prospect’s native tongue

Many aspects of business etiquette come down to communication, so if you can’t fluently speak your business prospect’s language, an interpreter will be able to get your message across much more accurately. Here at London Translations, we only employ experienced native speakers who know the target language inside-out, meaning accuracy is guaranteed. Considering every industry has its own specific terminology, and aspects which require clear translation, it’s also important that you hire somebody who understands all of this, or you’ll fail to get your message across. This is why all of our expert linguists have sector-specific experience, so regardless of the industry you’re in, we’re sure to match you up with somebody who knows what you do like the back of their hand.

They understand your business prospect’s cultural attitudes

As we’ve touched upon, cultural customs have a huge impact on a country’s corporate etiquette, and you may well find them hard to grasp, or simply be unaware that they exist altogether. With a professional interpreter, a lot of this pressure is taken off your hands. At London Translations, our native interpreters understand these cultural traditions down to a tee, and can advise you on how to behave in both social and business situations. For instance, in countries like Brazil it is common for prospective business partners to meet up several times—including socially—before sealing a deal, something an interpreter would know and be able to inform you about in good time.

Regardless of the language you need interpreting, we have linguists you can call upon. Whether it’s a commonly-spoken language like French or Mandarin, or something less widely-used, you can rely on London Translations to aid your international business efforts. Please feel free to contact us today for more information on our services.

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