7 Ways To Avoid International Business Faux Pas

You can help to avoid common international faux paus


In an international business market, companies are no longer just working with business partners in their own countries. To succeed and grow, you need to be able to work with people in other countries, with different cultural and religious backgrounds. While these business relationships can be beneficial on an economic and social level for your business partners and for you, they can also be potentially dangerous if you accidently say or do the wrong thing, especially while in another country. You can help to avoid common international faux pas and make a good impression while visiting a business partner by using different resources at your disposal and doing the research.

Cultural Research

When working with international partners, don’t go in to meetings unprepared. Before traveling, find out about customs related to food, greetings, personal space, naming conventions and gestures, making sure to do extensive research. If you are going to multiple countries on a trip, find out about similarities and differences between each country. In the digital age, use social media and blogs to learn more about cultural traditions. As you are conducting research, double check your information to make sure it is correct, especially when using online resources. Don’t be afraid to ask employees, friends or family members for advice, especially if they are from, or have visited, the country. They may be able to help you avoid making mistakes that could be costly to your business.

Language Tutorial

While people in many other countries speak English, you don’t want to go into an international meeting with no exposure to your business partner’s language. Before going abroad, try to learn a little of the language. Even learning a few words of greeting can go a long way in showing that you want to not only work with others but get to know them on a more personal level. Just make sure to get your pronunciations correct, or you could unintentionally cause an international faux pas. 

Company Research

One of the biggest mistakes that business people make is failing to learn enough about the companies with which they do business. You should find out as much as you can about your business partner’s company, including the names and titles of people you will be working with, before going abroad. If you can, contact research on the company culture. Often, businesses have their own rituals, so just knowing about a country’s traditions won’t be enough to avoid a faux pas. Use whatever resources you have available, including employees within the partnering company, to gather information.


It is important to not only learn about international customs but to put them into practice. By watching your body language or facial expressions, going into a meeting with an appropriate gift and planning meals according to local religious or cultural traditions, you can avoid a potential faux pas. It is important to make sure that everyone in your company is aware of and observes international customs. You may need to prepare yourself ahead of time through a trial run. This can allow you to be more natural with your body language and mannerisms during an international trip.


There are many different apps that can help you on an international trip. These apps can provide you with information on a country, its history, its customs, its people and/or its money, depending on the type of information you need. Many of these apps let you search for certain types of information, such as religious traditions in a specific country. While doing research beforehand is important, it is easy to forget some facts when you are adjusting to being in another country. Apps let you have information at your fingertips.

Subtitling Options

If you are making presentations in another country, you want to make sure that your business partners understand you. While they may speak English, it may be their second, third or fourth language. Subtitling can help you to ensure that you and your business partners receive the same information. You may want to have someone from your company handle the translation or hire an outside company. Subtitling services provide direct translation and take cultural context into consideration. Subtitling can be especially helpful if you include an idiom, slang or colloquial usage in your presentation because your business partners may be able to understand formal English but not variations of the language.


Never underestimate the power of a translator. Someone who understands not only a country’s language but customs can be especially helpful. Enlist the help of someone in your company, if possible, because an employee will not only know a language but will understand your business and market. Try to hire employees that are bilingual if you plan to do business in other countries frequently. If you do hire translators, find out as much as you can about them or the companies representing them. Knowing their backgrounds and services can allow you to better understand how they can help you.

International partnerships can be important in helping your business to grow and succeed. To be able to nurture these relationships, you want to develop a good rapport with the people with whom you are working. You can do this by making sure you don’t make an international faux pas, such as serving the wrong food or giving an inappropriate gift. By taking the time to do research and using digital programs and services, you can have a better chance of having a successful international business trip. 

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