In this essay, I am going to talk about how to understand English business etiquette better, so as not to be embarrassed when you visit England and have a business meeting. This is why it is wise to learn about and show an understanding of the rich business culture that England has. It could help you out of a problem.
England has a rich history and heritage that is world-renowned. English people are very proud of their heritage.
One of the first things you will notice is that English people say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ a lot. Even when they are not wrong they may still say ‘sorry’ just to make the situation calmer. English people are known to be kinder to you if you behave politely. One important factor to remember though is a visitor may upset an English person by the things they say and do in your own culture which is not frowned upon.
Westerners are known in Asia for being a bit extravagant and flamboyant. Here in Asia, they might seem to have looser morals but the United Kingdom has a strong culture of how to behave properly not just in a business setting but in life. This culture although still ingrained in many people has changed since World War II in England after seeing an influx of immigrants. England is actually very multi-cultural nowadays.
Any business person should understand where England is. This may be hard for some because it is actually an island away from central Europe. It is in Europe but English people still do not think of themselves as Europeans although they are part of Europe. If a visitor is doing business in any other part of the United Kingdom or meets a British person they do not refer to those people as English they will be rather offended. For example, if the business person is from Scotland, Ireland or Wales they are Scottish, Irish or Welsh not English.
Appearance at a business meeting, although English people are generally conservative, is generally relaxed although a person should be polished and well-groomed. English weather always prevails not to be bright and sunny so this is generally shown in business attire. Dark suits, black or grey are usually accepted. Men wearing shirts should not have pockets in them. If they have pockets they should be kept empty. Ties are worn but be careful what pattern and colour you choose. Ties are used to show many clubs or groups in England usually with stripes. These should be avoided as they might look like copies of well-known member’s club ties. A solid or patterned this is a better choice. Men should wear laced up shoes and not loafers. Women are not so limited to colours but should still keep to a conservative dress.
So, the business visitor is ready for the meeting, it is now the case of how to behave when meeting. First of all English people are very punctual. If a person says the meeting is at 9am the visitor should be there on time. The usual view is to plan to get to the place 15 minutes before but if for a major reason the person should call and say they will be late. A visitor must also remember that English people can be very reserved and not friendly but with more meetings can form deep and lasting friendships. Visitors often get the wrong idea because in their cultures people smile more and ask more questions than an English person would. A business visitor must be careful not to mix their culture with English.
Remember the English are rather formal. When the visitor first meets an English business person, a simple handshake is enough. Eye contact should be kept while initiating handshakes. This is the same for men and women. It is also better to use Mr, Miss, Mrs plus surname when meeting. Business cards can be given but there is no formal ceremony. There is also no need for a present to be given. English people do not stand on ceremony. Any gift should be small if any.
With first conversations, any visitor must remember that privacy is important in England so informal talk should not include talk about salaries or marriage. English people also value their personal space so try not to come too close while conversing. It is also not normal to touch people in public. If the visitor is invited out for lunch it will normally be in a pub with light food and a pint of lager. It is not wise to talk about work in the pub.
Remember in a business meeting if everyone is of the same level the meeting can flow while if there is someone of superior ranking they will do most of the talking. Usually, a meeting will have an agenda so the meeting will have been planned beforehand. English people like to be told information through facts and figures rather than through emotion. This makes it easier for them to make a decision. If straight questions are asked an English business person may give an indirect or evasive answer. A visitor must not be aggressive or too persuasive actually English people like a bit of humour but not lewd or unfitting language. The final decision will be taken by the senior executives and may take some time.