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Many women travel between countries as expats working in the global business environment, and the etiquette for women in the boardroom can be very different as you move between countries. So here are some tips to ensure your business doesn’t suffer due to ignorance about the local cultural dos and don’ts.

Be careful of coloured clothing

In some cultures around the world like Latin America, it is perfectly acceptable for women to wear brightly coloured business attire. However in Asia and the Middle East, most women adopt neutral-coloured clothes. Not only is colour important, but the way you dress must also respect the local culture. Modest dressing with covered knees and elbows and buttoned shirts to the collar is recommended in China, Japan, India, Russia and the Middle East. Wearing trousers is also discouraged in the Middle East and Japan.

Look for a sponsor or network

In many countries, it’s essential for women to have a local business contact as an entry point to secure any business in that country. This applies particularly to countries like China, Russia and the Islamic Middle East (UAE. Qatar and Saudi Arabia). If a woman attends a business meeting without an intermediary, they are at a disadvantage and in the Islamic Middle-East, it is recommended that this intermediary be a male.

China is a country where business is built on networks known as guanxi. To earn the trust of the local Chinese and to facilitate business, it is essential you establish your network connections prior to arrival. Knowing the right people is your business currency in China. A good way to find an intermediary is via business networking sites like LinkedIn.

Take your time

In countries like Dubai, China, Russia and India, successful business deals are built on relationships and trust and it can take weeks before the deal is signed. Never rush to sign a contract or refuse coffee, water or food from your hosts. This is seen as a sign of great disrespect in most of Asia and the Middle East. When it comes to alcohol, it is advised that women only drink moderately.

Do your research

Before you do business in a particular country, whether you are a man or a woman, it’s essential you do your research in advance. Don’t be surprised if you are kept waiting for a meeting in the Islamic Middle East. If you are passed a business card in Japan and China, don’t simply put it in your pocket or bag. This would be considered a sign of great disrespect.

Instead, receive the card with both hands and always look at it as if you are studying it carefully. In these countries, business cards are considered a representation of one’s self and you should give the business card the same respect you give your host.

If you are living and doing business abroad or are thinking of doing so in 2018, contact us for expert, personalised advice concerning financial emigration, competitive foreign exchange rates and other financial aspects including retirement annuity transfers.