The names we use to refer to places in the world can be a touchy subject. The island off the coast of mainland China that many know as Formosa became the Republic of China after World War II. Many today refer to it as Taiwan, but international recognition of the island as an independent nation-state is not universal.

Different names for a location often have drastically different political connotations. The English-speaking world often refers to The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire as the Ivory Coast. Many Ivorians have strong national ties to France and prefer that the country’s name emphasize these ties. In 1985 the government changed the country’s official name from the Republic of Ivory Coast to the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire to emphasize their francophone heritage.

Globalization has made issues of locations with different names much more apparent. Luckily, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has a solution to these issues. ISO publishes an international standard for country names in English and French.  Additionally, GeoNames,  a database of international geography, keeps an index of all the alternate names used for countries in different languages.

If you are doing business internationally, making sure you know what each country prefers to be called and getting the country code correct can get you much needed respect. It is much harder to engage in cross-cultural business and build relationships when you get something as simple as their country wrong. Taking a little time to make seemingly simple gestures can go a long, long way.

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