When your boss tells you that you’re being sent on an international business trip, your mind probably fills with excitement and anticipation for what lies ahead.
You research the company and the people whom you’ll be meeting. You prepare your business notes so you can arrive at each meeting ready to go. You even research the hotel where you’ll be staying and find out what fabulous restaurants are nearby. But what about the professional dress code, body language and general business etiquette of the country you’ll be visiting?
Below I want to share with you 5 practical tips for professional women that can help to prepare you for a successful international business trip.
1. Take clothing that is conservative and not too revealing
In some cultures the professional dress code is highly conservative, in others it’s more relaxed. If you’re travelling to Europe on business, make sure you pack into your suitcase a dark coloured suit (navy, black, or charcoal) with a crisp white shirt to wear to business meetings. Add elegance and contrast with unique buttons, cufflinks, or a scarf. You also need to take into consideration how much skin is acceptable to show. In some Asian cultures, it’s not professional to show your bare arms in a shift dress no matter how humid it is. As a rule of thumb, the more conservative your professional dress is, the better. And the less skin you show, the more professional you appear.
In Western business culture, you may be able to wear peep-toed heels and still be considered “professionally dressed”, but in Asian and European business cultures, it’s conservative, closed-toed heels that you should wear
2. Wear closed-toed shoes
In Western business culture, you may be able to wear peep-toed heels and still be considered “professionally dressed”, but in Asian and European business cultures, it’s conservative, closed-toed heels that you should wear. Pack a pair of heels that give you a little height, but make sure that you can still walk confidently in them. As much as a fabulous pair of heels can instantly make you feel more confident, the wrong pair of heels can immediately make you feel uncomfortable and insecure.
3. Always wear stockings
Imagine being invited to a business meal in Japan. You arrive at the restaurant and are asked to take off your shoes at the entrance. You then realise that you’re the only business women to not be wearing stockings! Avoid this potentially embarrassing situation and pack a couple of pairs of neutral or black stockings in your suitcase. And why not treat yourself to a professional pedicure before your trip?
4. Use a gentler handshake
We’re often taught that a firm handshake with direct eye contact is how you project confidence and power in the business world. As professional women, we take particular care to convey this exact image when we greet somebody for the first time. But how do you think somebody from China would interpret this type of handshake when they’re more accustomed to a gentler handshake with little eye contact? Soften the grip of your handshake and tone down your eye contact just a little.
5. Be aware of your personal space
Depending on the culture in which you grew up, you may need a large amount of space around you to feel comfortable when talking to others, or a small amount. In Australia, the UK, and the US, it’s usually an arm’s length. In Asia or Latin America, it’s often much smaller. If you travel to those regions on business and you stand an arm’s length away from the other person, you’ll probably be standing too far away. They may feel they can’t connect with you. Close the gap and stand a little closer to that person so they feel close enough to connect with you.
Read Leaders in Heels ultimate guide on how to choose the right management style for you.
Image credit: Sam Churchill
Kara Ronin is an international business etiquette expert and founder of Executive Impressions. She offers a wealth of practical advice and inspirational tips to move professional women toward an international mindset and an amazing corporate career. Kara is also the author of the eBook, The Ultimate Networking Roadmap: Rise above fear to network with confidence and class. Visit Kara’s blog Executive Impressions to claim your free 7 Step Networking Roadmap and to get fabulous tips on networking as well as international business etiquette. Connect with Kara on Twitter @execimpressions.
Visit Kara’s blog Executive Impressions to claim your free 7 Step Networking Roadmap.