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The Importance of Business Card Etiquette

Business cards are an invaluable tool when it comes to promoting your company, but what are the rules when it comes to exchanging them? Far from being a universal system, the giving and receiving of business cards differs between cultures. So how can you be sure to follow the necessary protocol? 

 

While westernised societies (such as the UK and the United States) have very little ceremony or protocols surrounding the distribution of business cards, this is not the same across the world. In fact, a number of Middle Eastern and Eastern cultures place huge amounts of significance on how business cards are presented and accepted.

By not following the local practices of the culture, you could find that your business is disadvantaged. Westernised systems for business card exchange are likely to cause offence in some cultures, so it is vital that you research your destination thoroughly.

This research should be conducted before you have your business cards printed as certain stylistic elements can be considered important within some cultures. It is therefore of paramount importance that you begin your international business ventures having fullyprepared in advance.

Once you arrive at your destination it is important to remember the relevant customs when it comes to distributing your business cards. Here is a quick overview of the protocols relating to some cultures and business cards:


The Middle East
It is essential that you always present your business card to a potential contact with your right hand, never your left. Using your left hand will only cause offence and harm your chances of a successful partnership.


China
The Chinese have two distinct protocols for giving and receiving business cards. When presenting your card you should do so with both hands. When receiving the card you should study it carefully and comment on it. The Chinese respect business cards in the same was as they do the businesses, so failing to show due care and attention is likely to be considered insulting. You should also never write on a business card in the presence of the person who presented it to you.


Japan
When presenting your business card you can use either one or both hands. However, when accepting a business card it is crucial that you use both hands. During meetings you should always display the business cards you have been given on the desk in front of you – do not put them into your pocket. The Japanese place a large emphasis on status so it is important that your job title is printed boldly and clearly.


India
As with the Middle East, always present your business card with your right hand. Indian culture places a lot of focus on academic achievements so you should include details of yourqualifications alongside other information on your business cards.


General Advice
Take the time to invest in researching the language and dialect of the particular area you are visiting. Ensure that you then have the information on your business card translated into this language and printed on the reverse. For the Chinese culture this should beprinted in gold lettering as it is considered auspicious.