Did you know that the phrase “part two” carries a sexual connotation in France? Neither did Roger Gussiaas, which is why some people left in the middle of a conversation he was having while he was in France. His cultural gaffe encouraged him to attend an international business workshop in Fargo, N.D. The event, coordinated by the Northern Crops Institute, sought to educate business owners such as Gussiaas on the ins-and-outs of etiquette when conducting business overseas.

As populations grow rapidly in developing countries, it is important that farm owners such as Gussiaas learn the cultures of foreign countries they may be dealing with in order to expand their business operations and subsequent profits. Pat Berglund, a corporate etiquette and international protocol consultant, says: “You can have a good business, but if you don’t know the culture that you are working with and you don’t have the proper etiquette skills, it puts you at a disadvantage.”

AT&T and other companies have made commercials poking fun at American ignorance of international business practices, but it really is no joke. Not acting respectfully due to ignorance or unintentionally offending a possible foreign business partner has its consequences, and can cost companies business deals. Some preliminary advice would be to learn dining etiquette, as many business deals are often done over a meal.

For more advice on how to get in-the-know on cultural conduct in your international business dealings, check out globalEDGE’s Cultural Resources page, as well as our Culture Course Modules!

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