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12 Tips for Women Doing Business Abroad ...

Evelyn Hannon

Are you a businesswoman working abroad for the very first time? While you might be used to a certain equality in the Western world you could be quite surprised at some of the attitudes you may encounter farther away from home.

Do's and taboos...

1. In many parts of the world, the main role of women is still in the home; the concept of a career woman is much less common. That being said, expectations of females in certain cultures may seem offensive or even shocking to you, but you definitely have a choice in how you choose to respond.architecht While you needn't ever conform to unacceptable norms of womanhood, it's very important for you, the visitor, to maintain cultural sensitivity.

2. Understanding the customs and business protocol in your destination country is imperative, especially in cultures where women do not generally hold key corporate positions. Journeywoman recommends two books that will offer you excellent guidance and information: (1) Do's and Taboos Around the World by Roger Axtell offering information on protocol, customs, and etiquette; hand gestures and body language; tipping; American jargon; and the international communications crisis (2) Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: The best selling guide to doing business around the world by Terri Morrison and Wayne Conaway.

3. Learn to greet your business host in his or her language. This show of respect and consideration is always appreciated. Your best tool for translations is Google Translate You'll be amazed at how well this application works.

4. Always meet your business contacts in the lobby of your hotel. For added safety, avoid giving out your room number.

5. Print your business cards in English on one side and in the language of the host country on the other. Doing it this way will eliminate any misunderstanding about the rank or position you hold.

6. Fnd out the correct way to give and receive business cards. In China and Japan, you are expected to use both hands. However, in parts of the Middle East, you must never use your left hand, as it is considered unclean.
7. Dress appropriately. If local women do not wear trousers to the office, neither should you. Wear sensible shoes that allow you to stand for long periods and to move quickly if necessary.

8. Dress down, not up. Wear light make-up. You want business contacts to concentrate on your message not on how attractive you are.

9. Learn how to decline food graciously during business dinners, so that no one will be insulted. For example, in Asia, leaving some food in your bowl implies that your hosts have fed you well and that you're no longer hungry.

10. Be gracious. Understand that, in some countries, even if you do business with men during the day, you may be seated separately with women for evening dining.

11. In certain cultures, businessmen may consider it acceptable to proposition or flirt with visiting businesswomen. Don't be offended. In this case, a firm ' no' is appropriate.

12. Before offering gifts to your hosts, make sure that the type of present, and even the colour of the wrapping paper, are culturally acceptable. For example: In Chinese Brunei handkerchiefs symbolize grief, in China clocks are associated with death, in Japan gifts with large corporate logos are frowned upon and when offering flowers in Taiwan be certain not to give an odd number as that is considered unlucky. When choosing wrapping paper in Vietnam red, purple, green and blue are fine, in Singapore red is most acceptable, however, black is to be avoided in all Asian countries as it signifies death.

Bonus! Women's words on doing business in Japan...

roundtableWhen I held my first meeting with the Japanese, I knew I had to establish my credibility immediately. I asked my team members to enter the room first, introduce themselves and be seated. I told them not to start the meeting until I joined them and to leave the center seat at the negotiating table open for me. Better than any verbal introduction or business card, these very visible actions clearly established my position and authority. Equally important, they showed the Japanese that our negotiating team was unified and organized.

A female executive, New York City, NY
(Source: Doing Business With Japanese Men, A Woman's Handbook, Christalyn Brannen and Tracey Wilen, ISBN 1-880656-04-3)

Bonus! She's Got Wheels...

architechtThe best investment I ever made is a rolling computer case with a telescoping handle. I don't care how light your laptop may be it gets very heavy when you're dashing through airports. My case has a place for my laptop, a portfolio and a compartment big enough to pack one outfit, undies, and makeup to get me through a one-day meeting. It�s heaven - no hassles - everything all in one piece of luggage. By the way, my rolling PC case is only 17 inches wide and fits under the seat on the airplane.
Jo Ann Allen,Tampa, Florida, USA.

Bonus! She sleeps well...

As the editor of, I often travel long distances by air to unfamiliar and wonderful places. This frequent flying has done nothing to help my body adjust to the sleep deprivation that comes with the territory. moon imageIt still rebels when crossing many time zones on what seems like endless international flights to the other side of the world. Strange beds, new bedtimes and different diets will definitely affect any travellin' woman's sleep patterns. That's why I've developed a bunch of strategies to help me from being sleepless in Seattle, Singapore or Seoul. More...

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