Business Etiquette and Cultural Differences

Being the heart of Europe, it comes to no surprise that Brussels is very culturally diverse. You can find people of many different nationalities speaking different languages. One of the reasons is because the open border policy within the EU helps foreigners come start businesses in Belgium. In addition, Belgium hosts the headquarters of both the European Commission and NATO.

It comes with a great advantage to be aware of different cultural norms to be able to efficiently deal with customers and clients of other countries. For example, one thing that can be noticed is the difference of “meeting ethics” in each country. Though it is not the same for all companies within the country, but rather a generalization. These generalizations are good to note, but it is important not to forget to treat people as individuals in practice.

  • In Germany, meetings tend to be rather formal, follow an agenda, and communicating through a senior of the company.
  • In France, they also use an agenda, but being punctual usually is not as strict. Starting 15-30 minutes late poses no problem.
  • In the Netherlands, meetings could be quite informal, but there are some basic protocols and agenda.
  • In the UK, meetings can be taken very seriously, diplomatic, and everything is said straight to the point.
  • In Japan, pre-meeting chit chat is important, as personal relations are greatly valued in Japan.

It essentially comes down to Low Context vs High Context Culture.

Low Context Culture High Context Culture
Get down to business Establish social trust first
Value expertise and performance Value personal relations and goodwill
Agreement by legal contract Agreement by general trust
Negotiate as efficiently as possible Negotiations slow and ritualistic
Personal/social space Intimate personal space

cultural differnces

Here is a nice infographic compiled by CT Business Travel that can give you some additional information about the country you are interested in. Hopefully, if you haven’t already, you will be equipped with some extra knowledge when having meetings in different countries.

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