Great Ideas for your Small Business:
Abide by the Etiquette of International Trade
With everyone buzzing about international trade, it helps to know the DO’s and DON’Ts of conducting business abroad. I asked my friend Syndi Seid for a few specific ideas to share with you.
1. Avoid calendar confusion.
One of the most confusing things about dealing with foreign businesspeople is the way they note the date. In many countries, people put the day, month, and year, rather than the U.S custom of writing month, day, and year. One good way to avoid confusion is to write a date like this: 5 February 2002.
This can save you the grief of a missed appointment or conference.
2. Bring a gift.
Many foreigners will expect you to present them with a gift before any real business can be done. “Con- sider the person’s heritage, religion, and culture before choosing a gift,” advises Seid.
For instance, items made of cowhide are verboten in India because cows are considered sacred. Never give a Chinese person a clock, because if it stops, it’s considered bad luck. And don’t give letter openers or sharp objects to Mexicans.
They consider that offensive. So what is the best universal gift? Chocolate! If it’s too hot to bring chocolate, try a well- crafted business accessory. Don’t wrap your gifts before you leave home because you may be asked to open them by picky customs officials. “Take paper and simple ribbon along to wrap it after you arrive,” Seid advises.
3. Treat shopkeepers with respect.
All small business owners will appreciate this international etiquette tip. Always acknowledge the person standing behind the counter when you visit a shop.
“Americans have often been criticized for being rude because we don’t say anything to the clerk or cashier,” said Seid.
“Most small stores throughout the world are owned by husbands and wives and often staffed by fam- ily members. It is customary for visitors to greet the shop- keeper when entering the store and say goodbye, even if you don’t buy anything.”
Seid’s business, Advanced Etiquette, is located at 1168 Clay Street, San Francisco, CA 94108-1406;