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Business etiquette

Business etiquette

For the globe trotting business traveller, doing business in foreign countries brings with it intercultural communication challenges. Understanding and appreciating a country's business culture, protocol and etiquette is important in nurturing good business relationships.

This guide to doing business in Belarus offers some basic pointers to some of the above mentioned areas such as business culture and etiquette. It is not intended to summarise all 'doing business tips' nor meant to stereotype. It simply highlights some key areas for consideration when doing business in Belarus.

Doing Business - Making Appointments

Bureaucracy is till cumbersome in Belarus so it is important to plan ahead. Make appointments in good time ideally through a third party who can act as a guarantor for you. This third party should be someone with a good reputation and a reasonable network of associates within the business community.

Prior to any meeting, the top executive of the company you are meeting should be made aware of who you are, your business interests, your proposal and what kind of support you have from within Belarus. Your third party contact should ensure this information is passed on.

Remember: in Belarus dates are written as the day first, then the month and then the year.

Doing Business - Meeting & Greeting

In public Belarussians are relatively restrained. So, when doing business there a brief handshake will suffice. If you are met rather enthusiastically and with a hug and/or kiss then you know a good relationship has been established.

Address people with their surnames. Names are written in the same order as in Europe or the US. The only real title in common usage is that of Professor used when addressing a doctor, scientist or teacher.

Doing Business - Meetings & Negotiating

Meetings are quite formal but with relatively little fanfare. If unsure about anything, just observe and follow. Business meetings and/or negotiations can be trying affairs. Patience and the ability to stand ones ground are key.

Legal regulations in Belarus are complex. If planning on doing business there it is important you hire the services of a local lawyer who can act as an independent consultant, offering you advice on legal issues.

Belarussian negotiators aim for one thing - concessions. Be prepared to concede on some things to ensure they feel they have accomplished something. If you see your counterparts walk out of negotiations, remain calm. This is merely part and parcel of the whole experience and is designed to ruffle your feathers. Bear in mind that decisions are made on levels, so if you manage to gain agreement with one level of a company is does not automatically mean the rest will agree. Generally speaking, the higher up the echelons you go, the easier it is to get a 'yes'.

Doing Business - Cultural Notes

There are a few major no-no's for those visiting Belarus. The 'OK' sign (the circle using the thumb and forefinger) and the shaking of the fist should be avoided. Don't sit with your legs spread apart or put your feet on seats/tables. Whistling inside a building is considered bad luck. Spitting in public is considered normal, but do not let be a license to do so.