If everybody behaved the same way, so the saying goes, the world would be a pretty boring place. However, while it’s certainly true that the rich variety of the world’s cultures is one of the few things our species has to be proud of in these troubled times, finding likeminded souls is one of the great pleasures of travelling. The things we have in common can help us to forge a connection with those whom we might never otherwise have met. Understanding where and why the differences arise can be a great way to strengthen the bonds between disparate cultures.
Travelling for business is one particular example of how cultural co-operation can result in a great outcome for everybody – but again, business manners can vary greatly from place to place, even within the English-speaking world.
Take Australia, for example, where a certain informality and down-to-Earth attitude does not preclude a serious bottom line. You may find that Australians do not hold back from cursing in business meetings, and that making small talk at the start of the meeting is de rigueur. Hierarchies within offices are less noticeable, and socializing is encouraged. But if you turn up late or cause a meeting to drag on through unnecessary delays, you’re likely to be looked on as a timewaster. And European-style greeting with kisses is strictly for outside of the business context.
With their overlapping histories, you might expect English business culture to echo that of Australia. But in business as in other matters, you will find the British are more formal. Outside of the creative industries, business dress tends to be classic and conservative, while tardiness is considered not just a nuisance, but deeply rude.
Beyond business matters, though, if you have a sense of urgency about getting your party on then you’ll find a warm welcome in the UK. Guests tend to turn up punctually, and with an armful of booze that they’re happy to share. Elsewhere, in Poland you might want to leave a few minutes extra before arriving – just enough to give the host some breathing space, but not enough to ruin the food they will inevitably have prepared for even an apparently non-dining situation!
These are just a few examples of how travelling for business or for social reasons can be a complicated matter when it comes to the simple things. But with a bit of research and respectful humility, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t fit in just fine at your chosen destination. This flowchart from Expedia makes the process even easier: you can find the place your usual manners most fit in by tracing a route through the winding flowchart. It’s just the start of navigating your way to new friends and experiences.