xcflag1In the global commercial world you can’t survive without a business card. A business card is the thing that consolidates ‘who you are’, gives you a ‘proper’ identity and tells the world that you are ‘open for business’. However, people around the world project different meanings on the exchange of cards doing it, therefore, in different ways.

In some cultures, the exchange symbolises the beginning of a relationship. The most ritualistic and sensitive to the practice of business card exchange are the Asian countries (Japan and Korea in particular). Perhaps the least are the British/US/Australians where NO significance whatsoever is attached to the exchange – it’s merely a function of giving someone your details – a reminder.

If you want to ensure that you don’t offend, read the Top Ten Tips below and the special section on Japan and the other on US/Britain. Instructive and comical videos included:

  1. Exchanging business cards should ALWAYS be done with respect and decorum, whatever country you are in.  It is so easy to make a cultural gaffe. Asian countries attach a lot of importance to a ‘formal’ exchange, the Brits/Australians do it very informally – like an after thought – South Africans have no formal exchange protocol, and those from the Middle East/Latin countries are passing you a part of their honour, their ‘machismo’ with them. In Middle East only senior business people exchange them.
  2. Always pass your card the right way up so the other person can read it immediately. This shows consideration for the other person.
  3. In Asia, offering and receiving cards is a very formal ceremony. Meishi koukan in Japan is a very important aspect of business etiquette. Placing the card in front of you on the table is an additional sign of respect. (See special section on Asian etiquette with videos).  Show respect when you receive a card by using both hands. Especially in the Far East.
  4. Always take the time to read someone’s card, this shows respect. In my experience, this is special advice for those from Anglo-Saxon cultures, as everywhere else I have travelled honours the passing of your card to them. Look at it, study it, and then put it away carefully.
  5. Don’t put it into your back pocket! This is disrespectful. Unfortunately, people from Anglo-Saxon cultures have the habit of just taking a card, giving it a cursory glance and (for men) placing it directly into a wallet that goes straight into the back pocket – no thought given to that action at all.
  6. Don’t write on other people’s business cards! This is a great insult in some countries.
  7. The Japanese like photographs on cards. These are beginning to become common in the US and UK. It really does serve as a good reminder.
  8. Many US/UK companies are dispensing with job titles, as they are considered unnecessary. Titles are very important in most other cultures, so use them when abroad. They signify seniority and status. Germans are especially ‘hot’ on their titles and academic qualifications and expect to be addressed by them.
  9. Think about having a translation on the reverse side of your card. Don’t have more than one other language printed on the back – it’s false economy – Hebrew and Arabic don’t mix; Asians will feel slighted; and the different styles of writing (vertically, right to left, back to front) means that aesthetically your cards will look messy. There are more than fourteen major and three hundred minor languages spoken in India – so which would you choose?  English and Hindi are the official languages.
  10. Present the card with the other person’s language face up – and the correct way round for them to be able to read. (Handy tip: if printed in a script you cannot read ensure there is a symbol in a corner that signifies to you which is the right way up. This helps if you need to hand over many cards in a meeting – you can see it quickly without any effort).

Remember:: Your card is your Ambassador – it card represents you, so don’t use tatty or out-of-date ones. Your card leaves an impression of who you are. You don’t want to appear cheap and nasty – people will remember that of you.

Find more information about cross cultural differences in the exchange of business cards by clicking on the following links:

Top Ten Tips on passing business cards with cultural fluency

Japan: everything you need to know about business card ‘meishi’ etiquette

U.S.,  Britain, Australia: Business Card Etiquette

The art of business card giving: an East West perspective

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This entry was posted on Saturday, August 22nd, 2009 at 5:35 pm and is filed under cross-cultural communication, cross-cultural differences, General, working internationally . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses to “ Top Ten Tips on Passing Business Cards with Cultural Fluency ”

  1. ankit d. mittal says:

    that’s quite good & helpful, thanks a lot.

  2. Louie Holmes says:

    A very professional looking business card is really very important in promoting your business. It makes good impression among customers.,,~

  3. A very professional looking business card is really very important in promoting your business. It makes good impression among customers.”;: