Entertaining clients is a very large and important part of the business world, but corporate entertainment can differ greatly from culture to culture. What is considered a good idea in one culture may be almost unheard of, or considered impolite in another.
Knowledge of this can make a lot of difference, as it has a direct impact on your business.
Remember Cultural Differences
Something important that you need to remember is that when you meet clients from different cultures, you are actually dealing with two cultures; both yours and the client’s. Working with people from other cultures is actually very interesting and you can learn a lot about different markets and business techniques.
Try to do as much research as possible about the culture you will be dealing with before your meeting; business etiquette is not much different from the rules of being polite when meeting someone for the first time in any culture. Communicate with your clients during their stay and be flexible; they may want to see something completely different from what you had in mind! Be a good listener.
Entertaining Foreign Clients
It can be difficult to know which direction to take when hosting foreign clients; in Japan, businessmen tie up with going out to get drunk on Sake at three high-end restaurants in one night, followed by some karaoke, which is a much different approach to a business outing in the UK, where business is usually conducted in a much louder manner. and seriously.
A great way to entertain overseas visitors is to celebrate your own business culture. Also remember, that language barriers may be a problem and humor sometimes doesn’t translate well from one language to another. A historical place or a very important cultural site is always a safe bet.
Business relations in China and Japan attach great importance to social gatherings, such as banquets. This is something that translates easily across many cultures, so going out to eat is also a great way to have a multi-cultural gathering. If you are dining with Chinese business people, you may want to pay in advance, as the Chinese will always regard themselves as your hosts, even in other countries. Chinese names are written with the surname first, so the most respectful way to address your Chinese clients is to use their business title, such as ‘Manager Liu’.
Despite some business etiquette, entertaining clients is quite similar in the western world. Some Europeans such as the Danes, the Dutch and the Germans are generally more serious about running their business, with a more direct attitude. Don’t mistake this for rudeness. Remember to be punctual and polite and keep the relationship personal and build trust.
Central Asia and India
Indians highly value personal space; around arm’s length is fine. Exchanging business cards when meeting for the first time is very important, as well as asking about people, hobbies, family etc before starting a business negotiation.
Strict Muslims and most Hindus do not consume alcohol, so business is usually conducted in high-end restaurants in prestigious hotels. Eating with the right hand is normal in India so don’t be surprised if this happens and just go with it. If you do business in India, always bring gifts for your hosts and their children.
As you can see, there are hundreds of different ways to entertain clients; these are just a few, but if you are dealing with clients from a specific country it is a good idea to do as much research as you can about that country’s business etiquette.
Paul writes about a number of B2B topics, specifically around business friendliness and network. He previously worked in the corporate hospitality industry.