Although most business practices have become universal, there are still significant differences with each border you cross. Negotiating styles, greetings, giving and receiving business cards and levels of directness all vary. Protocol generally recommends that the visitor operate in accordance with local customs – or at least make a respectful effort to comply. Ignorance of local norms can be experienced as insensitive and rude. Not a good way to begin a relationship.
These norms are often linked directly to gender roles. Women from the western traditions occasionally face experiences in other cultures that feel limiting or even disrespectful. Finding the balance – finding a respectful and accommodating path – can be a challenge. An American woman executive was ‘awarded’ a customized apron at a business event in Japan. What to do? At the end of the day, these bumps simply highlight the importance of cultures. Good intentions come through.