Watch your etiquette when trading abroad


The importance of etiquette has been highlighted when trading with foreign companies.

Charlie Osborne, morning editor at SmartPlanet, described how gestures and other behaviour that might be innocuous in the UK can be mis-interpreted because of differences in culture overseas.

She noted that a key arena for politeness is at the dinner table; for example, when eating with a Japanese person, it might be considered rude to leave chopsticks within bowls.

In her opinion, a lot of embarrassment can be saved if managers' do a little research on the local culture; a part of an executive's leadership development that may improve relations with other companies.

Ms Osborne said: "A gesture that is harmless in the West , such as the 'OK' sign (using your index finger and thumb to make an 'O' shape while the three remaining fingers point up) is not necessarily acceptable in other countries. Gesture use may be universally used - but the cultural meaning attributed to them is not."

For many firms battling through a difficult economic landscape, trading overseas can be an effective way of boosting their income and the government has been keen to support the export market, often arguing that it is the best way of rebalancing the economy.

Writing for The Telegraph, economics correspondent Angela Monaghan cited Office for National Statistics figures for December to highlight how Britain's goods deficit has narrowed.

The statistics showed that exports increased by 0.9 per cent while imports fell by 4.6 per cent, allowing the country to achieve a near two-year low for its trade deficit of £7.1 billion.

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