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Last updated: 3 August 2021

7 Unusual Business Etiquettes Around the World that Might Surprise You

Business Customs Around the World

“Going global” or doing business overseas is a worldwide movement towards economic, financial, trade, and communication integration. However, going global is a complex and dynamic process. Undertaking this in your business could lead to significant results, positive as well as negative. Gaining a deep understanding of the targeted markets—the competition, current local market trends, and requirements, is an essential step when doing business abroad.

Each market and country accordingly, has its own specifics and customs that people need to be aware of when doing business in a foreign country. While being able to effectively communicate is one of the components to succeeding internationally, a second important components would be following proper protocols and etiquette. The outcome of your business could depend on the way a business card is handed out, or even what you order during a working lunch.

7 Surprising Business Etiquettes 

Market Inspector has prepared a visualisation of some of the most interesting international business customs in the form of a video.
In the video 7 of the most unusual business customs are presented, as follows.

7 Unusual Business Etiquettes Around the World that Might Surprise You

If you would like to use this video on your website, use the embed code below:


Being on time is one of the most important component of the business etiquette protocol. However, the situation is completely different in Russia—being on time is of the utmost importance; at least for one party, that is. While you are expected to arrive not a second later than the scheduled time, Russians feel free to arrive as late as they desire and you should not expect any apology about it. Thus, the move is directed to provoke and test the patience of the business counterparts.


When doing business in China, you better have a gift ready when you show up for a business meeting. However, you should be prepared for a rejection, or three rejections to be more specific. In China, the tradition is that gifts are refused up to three times before being accepted. Yet, it is very important not to stop offering the present until the present is finally taken.


In a lot of countries, the business card had lost its importance. However, this is far from the truth in Japan. When dealing with Japanese businessmen, you should be armed with stacks of business cards. Moreover, they should be printed in both English and Japanese.

The traditional custom requires the business card to be handed out with both hands, Japanese side facing up. When receiving a business card, you should accept the card with both hands and thank them while doing that.

Furthermore, the business card needs to be in a perfect condition—never written on or played with during the business meeting, as both are clear signs of disrespect.

United Arab Emirates

If you are left handed and trying to do business in United Arab Emirates you may have some difficulties. In UAE, the left hand is considered unclean and used strictly used only for body hygiene. Therefore, it is from essential importance to eat, shake hands and pass documents with the right hand only. Otherwise, using the left hand for any of those activities, would be considered a serious insult.


When doing business in India, an important custom you need to know is the fact that the cow is considered a sacred animal. So, when at a business dinner in India, you need to be careful what you order. In order to make a good impression, you should refrain from ordering a juicy steak or hamburger, or any beef meal for that matter.

Ordering a beef dish would be considered as a sign of disrespect. In addition to that, wearing any type of leather is disrespectful as well.


Saying hello and goodbye in Belgium can take some time. While handshaking is enough in most countries, when closing a deal in Belgium the case is completely different. Belgians prefer to kiss or ‘air kiss’.

Belgian business professionals have the tradition of greeting each other with three air kisses once a relationship is established. Moreover, the kisses are given in a precise order: first is the right cheek, next is left cheek, and the last one is left check again. Spoiling the tradition and not giving the kisses or not following the right order when giving them, are both actions that are considered disrespectful.

United Kingdom

British professionals have a strong sense of discreteness. However, they have a very unusual custom to indicate that they are about to discuss something private and confidential to their business counterparts. When British people start tapping their nose, you should not consider that as something unimportant. Exactly the opposite, in fact.  This action is the signal that lets you know that what is about to be said and discussed is strictly private and should not be shared with third parties.

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