So you're getting ready to expand your business overseas. Maybe that means you're opening a new office, or maybe you're planning to negotiate with a new supplier. Either way, chances are that you're going to be flying over to meet the folks on the ground with whom you'll be working. Nothing beats a face-to-face meeting. It's critical to establishing trust and good rapport. Just be sure to do your homework so that you begin on the right foot.
It can be easy to inadvertently give offense if you're not familiar with the local niceties. And unfortunately, Americans are known throughout the world for not brushing up before they visit. Just a couple of weeks ago John Kerry found himself in an awkward situation when meeting French President Holland. Mr. Kerry, in a gregarious American way, tried to hug Holland and wound up in a half-kiss half-embrace. According to The Telegraph, the French media struggled to even translate the word ‘hug.’
In Japan, it’s polite to scrutinize the business card you’re given before putting it away. If you take the card and immediately stick it in your bag you've given offense before you've even begun. And in Germany, you need to make sure you're on time for your meetings, or you give the impression that you don't think your German associates are very important.
Finally, take the time to learn a little bit of the language of the country you are visiting. At least be able to say hello, goodbye, how are you, and thank you. And try to learn the standard responses to each. When I moved to Boston, I quickly learned that the query "how are you" was not meant to be a conversation opener as it was in Denver. The same sort of conventions apply in different cultures. The more effort you put in to trying to understand the local culture, the better your business will grow.