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What Not to Wear to Your Next International Business Meeting

Posted by G3 Translate on December 15, 2017

In today’s world of easy travel, we can jump on a plane and get to our destination in a jiffy, but do we ever take a minute to think about how we will be perceived when we arrive? In the U.S. you might be able to grace the stage for a TedTalk in Converse High Tops and an expensive blazer, but in other countries this simply won't do.

Different cultures have different norms about office attire. Don’t put the deal in peril, simply because you don’t know what to wear.  To help make a great first impression, here are a few tips to know how to dress for success at your next international business meeting:

Consider the industry
Some industries allow for more casual dress, even in other countries, but business attire is usually the norm in professional surroundings. Men should stick to the conservative suit and tie approach until they get to know their hosts. Women should favor more conservative suits or longer skirts with a blazer in classic colors like navy blue, red, white, beige, or brown. Minimize the gaudy accessories.

Tread softly on the footwear
Sneakers don’t go over well in foreign business meetings. Men lean towards wingtips or loafers, while women sport closed-toe shoes with a reasonable heel. Think about how your socks or stockings look if you’ll be removing your shoes in public.

Color me happy
Some countries place intense meaning on colors. In the heart of Ireland, keep away from wearing an overly orange or all-green outfit. White is the color of mourning in China, while Brazilian visitors should not wear the colors of the national flag, green and yellow, together.

Dress strategically for social gatherings
You might be meeting colleagues for a night on the town, but remember this is still a business situation. Men should err towards the side of smart casual, while women need clothing that is culturally appropriate.

Prior to traveling internationally, be sure to research the cultural customs and traditions of the area.

Be aware of individual country taboos
In some countries, especially in the Middle East, women have to be extremely careful of how they present themselves. When in doubt, check the modesty of the hemline and neckline. For men in those same cultures there is not a need for extra modesty. While our culture would see this as totally unfair, if you are looking to steer clear of controversy and conduct your business without distraction, the more modestly you can dress as a woman would be appropriate.

Get ready for food
Meals in some cultures involve sitting on the floor. Some of those same restaurants also require removing your shoes. We've already mentioned thinking in advance about your socks or stockings, but also consider how your clothing will work sitting down on the floor, a pillow, or mat for hours. Clothing that is too short or too tight will not only risk inappropriateness, but it will make you incredibly uncomfortable.

Maybe you're thinking these cultural nuances are not important to your business success. After all, Steve Jobs had a notoriously casual wardrobe, and Simon Cowell is famous for his laid-back appearance. Celebrity culture tends to trump most of the rules no matter where you go. But, unless you have the prestige and power of a celebrity, you might need to rethink your wardrobe for your next international business meeting.

Many of our clients travel for business and become cultural pros. That's what our team at G3 Translate has in common. Where language and cultural differences can divide, we bring people back together. When your brand needs to transcend its native culture, let G3 Translate bring your survey questions across your entire global footprint. We bring meaning to insight surveys in over 100 languages; delivering questions to the target audience in a linguistically correct and culturally appropriate way.


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