Business Abroad: Know Your Business Card Etiquette

The humble Business Card has been around for over 300 years and is a recognised communication tool throughout the World. However not every Country or culture treats them exactly the same.
When doing business abroad it is important to understand the local culture. Culture includes areas such as a country's norms, values, behaviours, food, architecture, fashion and art. However, one area of culture that is important for the international business person is etiquette. Understanding business etiquette allows you to feel comfortable in your dealings with foreign friends, colleagues, customers or clients.

Knowing what to do and say in the right places will help build trust and open lines of communication.

Unlike in North America or Europe where the business card has little meaning other than a convenient form of capturing essential personal details, in other parts of the world the business card has very different meanings.

Below we have provided you with a few examples of international business card exchange etiquette that may help you on your business trips abroad. 

General Business Card Etiquette Tips

 Business Cards are an internationally recognised means of presenting personal contact details, so ensure you have a plentiful supply. 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.

 When travelling abroad for business it is advisable to have one side of your business card translated into the appropriate language. 

 Business cards are generally exchanged at the beginning of or at the end of an initial meeting. Good business etiquette requires you present the card so the recipient's language is face up. Make a point of studying any business card, commenting on it and clarifying information before putting it away. 

Business Card Etiquette in China

 Have one side of your business card translated into Chinese using simplified Chinese characters that are printed in gold ink since gold is an auspicious colour. 
•    Ensure the translation is carried out into the appropriate Chinese dialect, i.e. Cantonese or Mandarin. 
•    Your business card should include your title. If your company is the oldest or largest in your country, that fact should be highlighted on your card. 
•    Hold the card in both hands when offering it. 
•    Never write on someone's card unless so directed. 

Business Card Etiquette in India

•    If you have a university degree or any honour, put it on your business card.
•    Always use the right hand to give and receive business cards.
•    Business cards need not be translated into Hindi as English is widely spoken within the business community.

Business Card Etiquette in Japan

•    Business cards are exchanged with great ceremony.
•    Treat the business card you receive as you would the person.
•    Make sure your business card includes your title. The Japanese place emphasis on status and hierarchy.
•    Business cards are always received with two hands but can be given with only one.
•    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, put the business cards in a business card case or a portfolio.

Business Card Etiquette in the UK

•    Business card etiquette is relaxed in the UK and involves little ceremony.
•    It is not considered bad etiquette to keep cards in a pocket.
•   Keep clean and presentable.
•    Do not feel obliged to hand out a business card to everyone you meet as it is not expected.

What Should you look for when buying quality Business Cards?

•    Quality - This will directly reflect on how your cards and you are perceived, only buy 400gsm thick Business Cards.
•    To keep your Business Cards in pristine condition buy a Business Card Holder.
•    Always use the reverse of the card to print a message on - it could be your website or your products and services.
•    The very best results will come from 400gsm smooth silk art board that it then over Laminated in either Matt or Gloss.
•    You could add that extra look by having them Round Cornered.


•    Don't go for the FREE ones - they will be cheap and flimsy and may come with the printers name and advert on the reverse.
•    Don't sign up for any incentive schemes that have a monthly subscription - be careful as on some sites you have to opt out!
•    Anything less than 400gsm will give you a clue to how good the supplier really is - no one wants a flimsy Business Card.
•    Ensure the organisation you choose to buy from offers a telephone number and displays their UK address.

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Good Luck