Business Etiquette in the UK

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When doing business internationally, you'll benefit by knowing the etiquette and communication styles of foreign colleagues. When doing business in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, successful business outcomes often stem from respect for regional and cultural differences. Applying your knowledge of British etiquette during your business trip shows that you are a professional who can be taken seriously.

Geography

  • The United Kingdom is comprised of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. You shouldn't make the mistake of referring to all of the people in the UK as English or British. "English" is only used for people from England, and "British" refers to anyone from England, Scotland or Wales. In addition, you can refer to people from Scotland as Scottish or as Scots, people from Wales as Welsh, and people from Ireland as Irish.

Communication

  • The British, particularly the English, are known for politeness and courtesy. The British often use diplomatic language in lieu of directness. In business situations, they're non-confrontational because they don't want to offend you. To you, this may seem that they are being evasive, but they are really looking for a way to say something negative positively. In addition, the British are known for their sense of humor, which is often used as a defence mechanism, especially during tense and difficult situations.

Business Meetings

  • Having a "stiff upper lip" describes the traditionally British trait of reserve and restraint during difficult situations. The British don't usually display their emotions, whether positive or negative. Meetings are rather formal, and the British will seem detached from the situation.

    In a meeting, introduce yourself by shaking hands and use the courtesy titles Mr., Mrs. or Miss and a surname when addressing others. Not until you have been asked to do so should you call someone by their first name. Meetings are conducted depending on the people attending. If all the attendees are of the same level, ideas and opinions flow freely. However, if a senior ranking person is present, most of the speaking will be done by that person.

    Usually, there's some small talk before the actual meeting starts, but in general, meetings are formal with an agenda and a clearly defined purpose. Avoid making exaggerated claims as the British rely on facts and figures to make their decisions. Always act professionally by making eye contact and make sure that the materials you provide are presented in a professional manner.

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