Business Practices in the U.K.

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The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
Les principes fondamentaux de la culture d'entreprise au Royaume-Uni sont la courtoisie, la politesse, la discipline et la ponctualité.
First Contact
A firm handshake is the norm; there are no issues over gender in the UK. Maintain eye contact during the greeting but avoid anything prolonged. The British might seem a little stiff and formal at first.
Punctuality is important in business situations. In most cases, the people you are meeting will be on time. Scots are extremely punctual. Call if you will be even 5 minutes later than agreed.
There will be a brief amount of small talk before getting down to the business at hand.
There is still some protocol to follow when introducing people in a business or more formal social situation.
How to Present Yourself
Most people use the courtesy titles or Mr, Mrs or Miss and their surname. Wait until invited before moving to a first-name basis. People under the age of 35 may make this move more rapidly than older British.
Business Relations
The British can be quite formal and sometimes prefer to work with people and companies they know or who are known to their associates. The younger generation however is very different; they do not need long-standing personal relationships before they do business with people and do not require an intermediary to make business introductions.

Nonetheless, networking and relationship building is often key to long-term business success. Most British look for long-term relationships with people they do business with and will be cautious if you appear to be going after a quick deal.

Business Communication
The British have an interesting mix of communication styles encompassing both understatement and direct communication. Many older businesspeople or those from the 'upper class' rely heavily upon formal use of established protocol.

E-mail is now much more widespread, however the communication style remains more formal, at least initially, than in many other countries. Most British will not use slang or abbreviations and will think negatively if your communication appears overly familiar.

Dress Code
Conservative dress is the norm for both men and women in British business culture where darker colors predominate.
Some British firms have introduced the concept of ‘dress-down’ Friday with its code of ‘smart casual’ but it is not universal.
Visiting Cards
Business cards are exchanged at the initial introduction without formal ritual. The business card may be put away with only a cursory glance so don’t be offended if not much attention is paid to it.
For Further Information
Kwintessential Cross-cultural Solutions
Executive Planet

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  • Patrick Kim Cheng Low,...

    Training/Practitioner, Singapore