By Melissa Muth, Career Advancement Program Assistant

In our increasingly globalized world, cross cultural business exchanges are becoming the norm. Career Advancement Program interns and trainees come from more than 50 countries around the world, and must navigate many differences in business etiquette! Let’s take a look at some of the unique business etiquette around the world!

United States of America

In the United States, it is best to be punctual and ready for a meeting. Firm handshakes upon greeting and leaving are the norm, and eye contact is always important.

Additionally, business conversations sometimes take place during meals. This almost always includes a period of general socializing, which allows you to get to know company team members more personally. These networking opportunities usually involve refreshments, so it is customary to grab a drink or snack while socializing!


In Brazil, handshakes are typically exchanged among men, while women place their cheeks together and kiss the air. In Brazil first names are commonly used when greeting someone, but titles are also very important.

Further, Brazilians typically stand close to one another when conversing during networking events.

Fun Fact! In Brazil, never touch food with your fingers- Brazilians consider this rude!


In Japan, greetings come in the form of either a bow or a handshake. The Japanese prefer to greet each other using last names, and are often prefaced by the word “san”, which means Mr. or Ms. Greetings follow with the exchange of business cards (Meishi), also known as the first step of a business meeting. These cards are given and received with both hands.

Additionally, in Japan, bars are popular venues for business entertaining, particularly “karaoke” bars. If you’re at a karaoke bar for a networking event, plan to stay out until the early hours of the morning, belting out your favorite songs with your coworkers!

South Africa

In South Africa, handshakes are typically exchanged when greeting one another; however, greetings tend to vary between ethnic groups. Titles and surnames are to be used when addressing people.

When it comes to deal making, South Africans are somewhat casual- it is not necessary to rush a deal!

United Arab Emirates

In the United Arab Emirates, greetings typically include the phrase “Salaam alykum” (which literally translates to “Peace be unto you”). They follow with a handshake along with the phrase “Kaif halak” (How are you?). Another traditional greeting involves a handshake and sometimes an exchange of a kiss on each cheek.

Additionally, entertaining is most commonly done inside the home. Shoes are often   removed before entering a building, so it is important to observe what your host does.


In Italy, greetings typically include a handshake with an arm grasp. People tend to dress more formally for business meetings in Italy, so if you’re meeting with an Italian, make sure to dress your best!

Additionally, while presentation is of importance, punctuality is not a requirement.

It is typical for Italians to do business over a meal. It is best to note that high standards are held for dinner etiquette in Italy. For example, you must be careful when adding condiments or oils to your food, as this could offend the chef, making him assume that you find the food bland!

Different cultures have distinct (and often similar) expectations when it comes to interacting in work environments. By familiarizing ourselves with diverse cultural, national, and regional customs, we put ourselves ahead of the game when it comes to cross-cultural communication. Don’t forget to read up on your final destination before your next business trip! And more importantly, enjoy your business endeavors abroad!

Have you noticed any differences in business etiquette between your home and host country? If so, shoot us an email at CAP(AT)ccigreenheart(DOT)org and you could be featured on our blog!