We all know that you should hand out business card to help you make connections and network, but did you know that there is specific business card etiquette in many countries that can impact whether forking over your card makes or breaks a future business relationship? In the United States, we throw our cards around, leaving them on chairs and countertops and pulling them out of our pockets and wallets with little regard for their presentation. However, in some countries, this “lack of respect” for ones accomplishments could be viewed as a preview to one’s approach to business in general, and may lead to a swift escort to the door if you do not handle your business cards with the proper etiquette and ceremony.
In Japan, for example, business cards should be given and received with both hands, a bow and an expression of gratitude for the meeting. The cards should not be shoved in a pocket, but rather placed on the table in front of you. Never right on a business card in Japan, and make sure that you have a special holder for the cards you collect.
In the United Kingdom, on the other hand, you can be relaxed with your business cards. While of course they should be clean and unfolded, you can simply hand them over in a regular exchange, then pocket them or put them in your wallet.
If you are in India, make sure to present the card so that the recipient would find it possible to read the text as the card is handed over. Always include your degrees and titles on your business card when networking in India and hand them over using the right hand, but it is not necessary to translate the cards into Hindi.
In China, always give your potential partner your card before requesting theirs. You may wish to translate your card into Chinese dialect. Like Japan, Chinese etiquette requires the card be presented with both hands and an expression of gratitude for the meeting and the cards should not be put away immediately or written on.
I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have racked up “bonus points” with my employer by knowing – and conveying in an email or in his travel itinerary – some basic business card etiquette for travel abroad. It can make or break a deal in many cases.