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 Nikko Hotels Provides Business Etiquette Tips for the International Traveler;
Unraveling Cultures with Unfamiliar Social Etiquette

TOKYO, Sept. 29, 2009 - Business overseas can mean traveling to cultures with unfamiliar social etiquette. To help travelers prepare for overseas trips, Nikko Hotels International has gathered etiquette tips from its staff around the world. Below are some lesser-known formalities in various countries. 

United Arab Emirates
One rule to avoid embarrassment: "In the UAE it is considered rude to show the sole of your foot or shoe when sitting at a gathering," said Christian Rainalter, general manager at Hotel JAL Fujairah, a luxury beach resort about 90 minutes from Dubai.

Restaurant practices are different in Mexico: "Try not to leave your credit card or tip directly on the table, because this could be seen as rude," said Marcela Cuellar, marketing manager, Hotel Nikko Mexico. "Place the card or tip into a bill holder or tip tray and hand it to a server directly."

“Mexicans usually are very attentive to visitors and they like to treat their guests very well,” said Marcella Cuellar, Marketing Manager at Hotel Nikko Mexico. “So do not be surprised if they go out to meet you at the door or accompany you out of the office or meeting room.”

Hotel Nikko Mexico offers the following brief cultural guide to common, and lesser known, Mexican business customs.

Business Meetings

  • During conversations, expect polite touching and gesticulation to emphasize points.
  • The most widely used greeting in Mexico is a strong handshake.
  • Refrain from placing your hands on your hips or in pockets because this is seen as aggressive.
  • Set your business appointments a couple of weeks in advance and always confirm the appointments just beforehand.
  • People of lower status are introduced to people of higher status.
Dining Etiquette

At a restaurant, the person who extends the invitation pays.

  • If you are invited to a private home, you should bring a gift for the host, and if there are children in the household, you should bring a small gift for them, also.
  • Restaurant practices sometimes are different in Mexico: “Try not to leave your credit card or tip directly on the table, because this could be seen as rude,” said Cuellar. “Place the card or tip into the bill holder or the tip tray and hand it to the server directly.”
  • While dining, keep hands visible.
  • Do not sit down until you have been told where to sit.
Dress Code
  • Except for rare occasions, you will not need your tuxedo.
  • The most common business outfit is the traditional dark suit and tie.
  • Business dress for women consists of combinations of skirt and blouse or a suit jacket and pants
  • The less visible your accessories, the better.
Gift Giving

If you want to please your host, give a gift that is typical to your country:

  • At a first meeting it is not advisable to give a gift.
  • For future meetings, chocolates, flowers, candies or a bottle of wine are appropriate.
Buy local, drink local: "Germans prefer beer from their hometowns," said Tetsuo Oyama, assistant general manager at Hotel Nikko Dusseldorf.

Below are some useful tips that will aide any international traveler in making a good first impression on their German business partners.

Pleased to Meet You! 

Or, as they say in German, “Sehr erfreut!”  After putting aside the formalities of introductions, people from some parts of the world feel free to relax and address each other quite casually, by first name – in America, for example. But in Germany, only good friends and family members call each other by first name, and in business, it is common for people to address each other formally, on a last name basis. This rule is often ignored when Germans speak in English to colleagues from offices in other countries or to visitors from outside the country. But you should address senior German executives you haven’t met by their last names unless they ask you to use their first names.

Business Meetings

Germans do not have strict business meeting etiquette as the Asians do. However, you should know that:

  • Germans tend to speak very directly.
  • Communication is formal.
  • Punctuality is crucial.
Throw your own birthday party

There is one interesting German custom that will definitely impress your German business partners:

  • In Germany, you host your own birthday party. You are expected to treat your colleagues with cakes and champagnes at your office.
  • So if you happen to have your birthday while visiting Germany for business, you can really make a great impression if you host your own party and invite your business associates to celebrate it with you! 
Dining Etiquette: Buy Local, Drink Local

In order to avoid insult, here are some tips to follow while dining out:

  • Every little town has its own microbrewery beer in Germany—and Germans love to drink their hometown beers. Buy local: when you go to a restaurant or bar with your German business partners, you should order the beer from the town that you are in. (FYI, Alt Beer is native to Düsseldorf, whereas Kölsch Beer comes from Cologne.)
  • In Germany there is a dish called Mett, which is ground raw pork that Germans eat with bread. This might be served at business lunches, so if you are not accustomed to the idea of eating raw pork, do not be taken aback.
If you’re going to China for business and don’t know the first thing about Chinese business etiquette, Nikko Hotels International wants to help. Nikko Hotels, which has eight hotels in China, offers the following short cultural guide on how to conduct business in Asia’s largest nation.

In China, loyalty to a business partner is often measured by the size of a gift, but be warned: "Giving a clock is considered taboo because its pronunciation is the same as the word 'end' in Chinese," said Satoshi Inoue, director of sales, Japanese Market, Hotel Nikko New Century Beijing.

As is common throughout Asia, it is very important to never do or say anything to cause your Chinese associates to "lose face." "A simple comment such as 'you didn't know that?' can cause someone to sever all relations," said Emmy Lau, public relations manager at Hotel Nikko Hongkong.

Chinese hate to "lose face”

This term refers to the act of saying or doing something that may cause yourself or those around you a loss of respect. When conducting business in China you must be extremely careful not to say or do anything that may cause you or your colleagues to “lose face.”

Act Formally in Business Meetings

The Chinese represent a very traditional and formal culture, which is reflected not only in society but in the business world as well. Below are some pointers on polite behavior in meetings with Chinese business people:

  • Communication is formal: always use formal titles for introductions.
  • A handshake may be offered; however, a bow or nod for greeting is most common.
  • Avoid large hand gestures or pointing, this can be distracting and seen as disrespectful. Be patient: the decision process in business tends to be very slow in China, so if you expect to settle business in one day, think again!
  • Punctuality is key. However, “the Chinese tend to feel no guilt for canceling business appointments at the last minute, so you should not get too offended if this happens,” warns Tetsu Inoue, Deputy Director of Sales and Marketing at Hotel Nikko New Century Beijing.
  • Dress Code 

    With the Chinese, less is definitely not more:

  • Conservative clothing is considered proper.
  • Women should avoid wearing high heels.
  • Stick to neutral colors: beige, black, brown and grey—nothing too flashy.
  • Gift Giving

    Your loyalty is sometimes measured by the size and price of your gift--but beware of certain taboos. These gifts should not be given, because they are associated with funerals:

    Straw sandals
    Anything wrapped in white, blue or black
    “Giving a clock is taboo because its pronunciation is the same as the word ‘end’ in Chinese,” said Inoue. 

    “At Chinese New Year, it is customary to present a gift of money in a red envelope to children,” added Emmy Lau, Public Relations Manager at Hotel Nikko Hong Kong. “The gift is called a “Red Pocket.”

    Demonstrate that you know the proper way to eat Japanese cuisine: "When you eat sushi, don't dip the rice in soy sauce, only the fish portion," said Mizuho Sumida, senior manager of public relations at Hotel Nikko Tokyo.
    When we think of Japan, what comes to mind is very hard-working, industrious people, so when traveling to Japan on business, you may be under the impression that it will be ‘all work and no play.’ Although the Japanese have a very traditional culture and strict business protocols, socializing is a big part of their work lives. Below is a quick ‘Japanese Business 101’ guide featuring the most important, and lesser known, business formalities.

    Business Meetings

  • Handshakes are a western custom. In Japan, people bow to each other, and many will bow to you upon meeting you. You need not bow deeply in return, but a slight incline of the head to acknowledge this greeting is polite.
  • Exchanging business cards is a very important custom in Japan. Do so using both hands, at the start of a meeting.
  • Always study a business card carefully when it is given to you, and then place it on the table in front of you--never simply shove the business card in your wallet without looking at it.
  • Hierarchy is important in Japan, so always address the eldest on the Japanese team (who inevitably is the most senior person and has the most power) first.
  • It is traditional to address Japanese business colleagues by their last names; for example, Mr. Suzuki, or Suzuki-san.
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting. Japanese business people do not usually give immediate answers, they must first go home and discuss the meeting among their colleagues. A follow-up meeting will allow you to hear what the company position is after they have had the time for internal discussion.
  •  Socializing

    Plan on going out to dinner every night of your stay:

  • Always make time for socializing, whether at lunch, or dinner after a meeting.
  • After-hours socializing is a big part of how the Japanese build relationships: more often than not, no business is even discussed at such events.
  • Discuss topics such as hobbies, vacations, information about your country—but do not talk about politics!
  • Dining Etiquette

    Want to impress your Japanese guests?

  • When eating sushi, do not dip soy sauce on the rice. Instead turn the sushi over so only the fish is dipped.
  • Don’t mix wasabi in with your soy sauce. Put a little bit on top of the fish instead.
  • “Sushi was a kind of fast food hundreds of years ago, and it is OK to eat it with your hands,” said Mizuho Sumida, senior manager of public relations at Hotel Nikko Tokyo.

    Gift Giving

    One key to success in gift giving is to choose a gift that can be shared easily among your Japanese colleague and his or her co-workers:

  • A gift from your home area or country is preferred. For example, if you are from Switzerland, you could bring Swiss chocolate.
  • Chocolates, cookies and nuts are all acceptable gifts.
  • The more senior the rank of the executive, the higher the quality the gift should be. If you will meet with several people in the same department, it’s important to pay attention to this rule and not give everyone at every level the same thing.
  • Do not be surprised if your gift is not opened in front of you – this is not considered polite in Japan, although Japanese at international companies sometimes ignore this rule when they receive gifts from overseas visitors.
  • Vietnam
    Exchanging business cards follows a strict etiquette that is similar to other Asian countries. Your card must be presented with both hands. "Read the card immediately and place it in front of you during the meeting," said Do Hong Minh, public relations manager for Hotel Nikko Hanoi.
    If you are a business traveler planning a meeting for the first time in Hanoi, you are probably wondering about how business customs there compare to other countries you’ve visited. Nikko Hotels International offers the following brief business traveler’s guide, highlighting some of the most important, and lesser known, business etiquette.


    In the Vietnamese culture, recognizing a person’s seniority is very important. Therefore, when placed in a business situation, it is crucial that you first introduce the person with the highest position before others:

  • Introduce younger to older.
  • Introduce junior to senior.
  • Introduce the last person to arrive.
  • Only shake a woman’s hand when she offers her hand first.
  • Dining Etiquette

    Although dining etiquette depends on the cultures of the different regions within Vietnam, below are some hints on table manners that are most commonly used:

  • No chewing sounds!
  • Let the oldest person select food from the table first.
  • Continue to invite guests to have more food throughout the meal.
  • Most important: the host of the party always pays for the entire bill; sharing of the bill is not done in Vietnam.
  • Exchange of Business Cards

    In Vietnam, as in most Asian cultures, a business card must be presented to the receiving partner using both hands.

    “Read the business card right away before putting it into a pocket or wallet,” said Do Hong Minh, Public Relations Manager for Nikko Hanoi. “Also, after you have received the business card, put it in front of you during the meeting.”

    Gift Giving

    Everyone loves presents. However in Hanoi, it is seen as polite to refuse to receive the gift a few times.

    “The best choice of gifts varies depending on the recipient’s age level, job position and the occasion; however, gifts are always packed nicely and wrapped carefully and should not be opened until just before it’s time to leave,” said Hong Minh.

    It's important to be aware of certain Malaysian dress formalities: "The color yellow is reserved for royalty, so if one is attending a formal dinner with members of the royal family in attendance, it is best to avoid this color," said Kattie Hoo, director of communications at Hotel Nikko Kuala Lumpur.

    About Nikko Hotels International
    Nikko Hotels International is an international luxury hotel group operated by JAL Hotels Co., Ltd. (, a subsidiary of Japan Airlines, headquartered in Tokyo. In addition to Nikko Hotels, JAL Hotels also operates Hotel JAL City, a chain of 13 mid-priced hotels in Japan for business travelers. JAL Hotels Co., Ltd. currently has 58 hotels worldwide.

    Nikko Hotels International
    Web site:
    Also See: Road Rules for Women Business Travelers / Nikko Hotels / Feb 2002
    Nikko Hotels International Polls Experts for Tips When Visiting China / Mar 2000



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