European Business Etiquette

For those who will be travelling for business to Europe, here are some tips that would help you in various European countries. It is common to hear “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, but just how do the Romans do things? And while we are at it, let us also add in the Austrians, the Spanish, and the British too. Do not forget the Dutch and the Greeks and the Irish as well.

General International Tips

Simplify your conversations and writings with words that are not overly technical or lengthy. For people who translate, or people who translate in their head, you will need to speak slowly and clearly, preferably without that extra added emphasis on your accent. Before you take your trip, learn a bit about that country’s business and social culture and customs. Write things down for easier understanding, at times. Many countries do things slower and at a much more relaxed pace than we do in the States. You will have to learn to be patient for just about everything. Finally, silence is often the best thing you can give someone.

General European Tips

Do: gift gifts, such as candy or flowers; give in odd numbers; shake hands firmly; be punctual; and toast your host.

Do not: give chrysanthemums or red roses; give anything in a set of 13; or take wine to a French household, unless you know it is a very excellent vintage.

Austria and Germany – Hands do not go in your lap or pockets

Scandinavia – Do not use first names or touch casually

Netherlands – No social touching

Greece – Admiring an object might cause it to be given to you. Greeks smile when happy and when angry. A raised eyebrow and unturned chin signifies “no.”

Spain – Interrupting is accepted. First name is used in addressing as Mrs. Judith Espanza is known as Mrs. Judith. Main meal is served just before tea time, while supper is served at 10pm.

United Kingdom – England is the most formal, and they have always been known as a very formal country. Titles are very important and well-used. Appointments and reservations are given well in advance. Do not feel obligated to ask for seconds or to say “You’re welcome.”

Ireland – Punctuality is not stressed. Neither is gift-giving. For that matter, neither is refusing a drink!

Italy – Punctuality isn’t so important here either. Do not talk business during any social occasion. There is, however, a fair amount of social touching here.

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