Etiquette of Overseas Business Cards
In the United States, business cards are a matter of simple design and casual distribution. They are an exchange of contact information, a forget-me-not. Most of us have quite a few random cards tucked away in our wallets. They contain mystical powers, like birthday cards– After the first few days you don’t really need (or want) them anymore, yet it’s still so hard to throw them away. There was effort and thought put into them. Keep this in mind if you will be traveling overseas, as the social gesture of handing over a business card will only be magnified in many foreign countries.
Here are a few examples of how foreign business card differ from American, and some etiquette on how they are exchanged:
RUSSIA The actual exchange of cards will be casual, But the card itself indicates your status. A Russian business card should clearly state the year your company was founded and your title. “Eastern Europeans are very into hierarchy,” says Neil Payne, founder of Kwintessential, a cross-cultural communications consultant in London.
CHINA In a show of deference, give and receive cards with both hands and a slight bow. Take time to comment on the card, and don’t write on it or shove it into a pocket—put it carefully into a card case. A typical Chinese card might display lucky colors such as red and gold. If you’re traveling to China it might be a good idea to have one side of your business card translated into Chinese using simplified Chinese characters. Make sure the translation is carried out into the appropriate Chinese dialect, i.e. Cantonese or Mandarin. Like Russia, it would be a good idea to include your title, and any fascinating facts about your company.
INDIA After shaking hands, business cards are always exchanged with the right hand. How do you exchange two cards if you are both holding them in your right hands? I do not know. Education is very important in India, so the card itself is likely to display a university degree or any educational honors earned. Unlike China, English is widely spoken within the business community. So if you will be traveling to India don’t worry about having your card translated into Hindi.
JAPAN Concerning business cards, Japan is perhaps the mirrored image of America. An exchange of cards might be more aptly called a ceremony. Similar to Russia, a Japanese business card will often display status and hierarchy such as title. When you receive a card, treat it as if you are handling the giver themselves. You may give a card with one hand, but always receive one with both hands. During a meeting, place the business cards on the table in front of you in the order people are seated. When the meeting is over, thoughtfully put the business cards in a business card case or a portfolio. If you are heading to Japan, it’s a good idea to invest in quality cards, and always keep them in pristine condition. Remember, when you are visiting another county, you are the foreigner, and everyone understands that. So don’t sweat it. According to Payne:
“Demonstrating good business etiquette is merely a means of presenting yourself as best you can. Failure to adhere to foreign business etiquette does not always have disastrous consequences.”