International Business Customs

Researching a Country’s Business Culture 

Choose a non-English-speaking country and, using some of the resources listed in Chapter 5, research on the Web the business customs of that country. Make sure you choose a country about which you are likely to find the information you need on Web (Japan, Italy, Brazil, France, Mexico, Germany, Spain, India, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, and China are all good options).Just Google “International Business Customs in__________(name of country),” just like I did for Brazil:

Make a list of some of the particular business customs of the country you research. For instance, do businesspeople in the country tend to be more formal or informal? Do they format their business correspondence in a different way than we do in the U.S.? What are some of the salutations they use? Do they prefer a personal or businesslike introduction in a letter? Do they appreciate humor in a business letter or don’t they? What type of host/hostess gifts are not acceptable (you’ll be surprised!).

A few years ago, I had dinner at a new Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood. Having traveled to Mexico on a missionary trip (2004), I really enjoy that food. This place was great, and to show my appreciation, I made the “OK” sign with my thumb and finger. Well, the chef (who didn’t speak English) burst into tears and had to be consoled by the hostess. I had no idea that my gesture actually meant (to the chef) that her meal was a big fat zero!! Who knew!! So, be on the alert for those types of things, too, please, when doing your research.


You are in a co-op or internship position in your dream job. Your boss is about to take a trip to this country, and he or she has asked you to prepare some notes about the local business customs that will be helpful when there. Think about what type of experiences the boss might have–meetings with business partners/new clients, an invitation to the host’s home for dinner, social outings, business communication, business-card exchanges, etc., then research the best tips for those occasions. Later in the course, you’ll be doing a memo to that boss containing your findings, so save that information.


Post/save your work to use in Part 2 (Week #4, Exercise #4). If you click on the assignment name, a box will open below where you can download your Word document with your notes. Then, when you’re ready to compose the memo to your boss later, you’ll have that information. It will show up as Attempt 1, Attempt 2, etc., but you should be able to retrieve all of your work.]

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