Traveling for business often takes you places you otherwise might never visit. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom, the Caribbean and Asia—all for work. But although it can be exciting, it’s important to follow some specific rules of business etiquette to avoid offending your international counterparts.

As you plan your business travel for 2018, consider these important tips from former marketing executive and travel journalist, Laura Longwell.

1. Take introductions seriously. In many cultures, relationships and face-to-face interactions are much more important than they are to North American business professionals. Relationships can be even more important than the actual business issue being discussed. Learning everyone’s name and title before meetings can go a long way to show you understand what’s important to those with whom you’re doing business.

2. Respect business cards. In Asian countries, for instance, business cards are an extremely important symbol. They are representative of the person and should be treated with similar respect. In Asia (particularly Japan), business cards are always presented to someone with both hands. When you receive a business card, always read it to yourself while you are still standing in front of the person as a sign of respect—it also helps you memorize their name and title.

3. Be on time. Every culture has a different standard for punctuality. For instance, in Central Europe, meetings generally begin on time. Conversely, it’s often said that in Latin American cultures, meetings frequently run late. But it’s hard to know how late is acceptable without accidentally offending someone. Regardless of where you do business, you won’t go wrong by being on time. Arriving at the appointed time shows respect to your hosts, and you can always check email or complete another task if you find yourself waiting. It’s also a good idea to clarify specific times. Dinner time in Germany might be 7 pm; in Spain, it is commonly 10 pm.

4. Stay awhile. Leaving an event early (perhaps due to jet lag or needing to complete work) can also be an unintentional sign of disrespect to the hosts, particularly in Asian cultures. A premature departure could be the death of a deal or a relationship. You don’t have to stay until the very end of an event, but it is best not to be the first person to leave.

5. Bring a gift. Bringing a gift is an important way to show respect to your host. Even if gifts are not expected, bringing one will show courtesy and earn respect from your business associates. While gifts are more common in Asian cultures, they can be a great way to begin a relationship anywhere—Europeans and people in the Middle East are also particularly fond of receiving gifts.

6. Expect to socialize. In Asia and Latin America, socializing outside of the office environment is critically important to building camaraderie and developing trust. At a minimum, you’ll be expected to have dinner with colleagues or customers. But social expectations often go far beyond just having dinner. You may be expected to go out to bars or nightclubs, play golf or attend other social activities. Your participation in those activities is an important factor as colleagues assess your trustworthiness for business matters.

If you are uncertain about cultural norms in certain settings, carefully observe your hosts and co-workers while following their lead.

Do your homework before your next overseas business adventure. Ask questions from colleagues who have previously been to your destination. Make sure you know the expectations and norms before you arrive. This attention to detail could help support your business and your bottom line.

Source: Laura Longwell is a former marketing executive who now travels the world as a journalist and photographer. As co-founder of, she focuses on the luxury travel segment and how travelers can maximize their travel experience with a minimal number of vacation days.