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European Business Customs & Manners: A Country-by-Country Guide

Posted by Dreamer

A highly practical guide for Americans and others who do business in Europe (or with Europeans), European Business Customs & Manners: A Country-by-Country Guide shows you exactly what to do and what not to do, including acceptable and unacceptable topics of conversation and gifts. Tipping, manners, dining, body language, corporate culture, and tips for women are all covered for each of the thirty European countries profiled. The book includes a primer on the European Union and plenty of useful information and tips designed to make all your business interactions in Europe a success.

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As I began to read all the descriptions of Europeans’ supposed customs and manners, I wondered “Would Europeans agree with what Bosrock says about them?” So I decided to put the book to the test. I selected a decidedly unscientific sample of two Spanish businesspeople who frequently conduct business across Europe. Both of them were intrigued with the idea of the book, so I sat down with each of them to discuss a chapter.

I gave my first participant her choice of chapters and she settled on Germany, where she had an upcoming business trip. Putting aside the fact that the chapter was composed of a series of generalizations and tips, she declared that the text we read, in her opinion, was really good and “a true reflection of Germany.” The only disagreement she had was with the book’s assertion that German food is “wonderful, especially if you like pork.” But I wasn’t certain if that was a greater reflection on the state and quality of Spanish food or of German food. 

I didn’t give my second Spanish participant a choice; we examined the chapter on Spain together. Some passages he read with a smile and a knowing nod: “Yeah, we do that,” he’d say, while a couple of passages received a grudging acknowledgment that “It could be true.” The only challenge he made was to the following passage on the subject of siestas: “In December 2005” the Spanish “government abolished siestas in the workplace. Today workers’ lunch breaks are officially from noon to 1:00 PM, like the rest of Europe.”

While he admitted that no one takes siestas anymore, he highly doubted that siestas had actually been abolished. He scoffed, however, at the idea of a lunch break from noon to 1:00 pm. “Everyone eats lunch at 2:00 pm or later,” he said firmly. The fact that most restaurants in Madrid don’t open for lunch until 2:00 pm, and don’t fill up until after 3:00, seemed to underscore his point. 

A quick Google search later corroborated Bosrock’s affirmation; the Spanish government did in fact abolish siestas for civil servants and limit their lunches to one hour. But as my Spanish commentator said, who is a civil servant himself, he and his colleagues wouldn’t ever dream of going to lunch at noon. But that’s really irrelevant. European Business Customs & Manners: A Country-by-Country Guide is an informative read.

Addressing an audience of American business travelers, Bosrock’s thesis is that cultural sensitivity, being respectful, and learning to understand other cultures will “go straight to your bottom line.” “To compete effectively [in business], we [Americans] must understand other countries, cultures, and ways of doing business,” says Bosrock.

Indeed her book takes great pains to emphasize cultural sensitivity, being respectful, and learning to understand other cultures. Yet it’s based on inevitable generalizations, which, as far as generalizations can go, are spot on. It’s a thin line to walk, but Bosrock navigates it admirably, giving Americans (and others) an essential text for respectfully and successfully doing business in Europe with confidence.

European Business Customs & Manners: A Country-by-Country Guide by Mary Murray Bosrock. New York: Meadowbrook Press, 2006. 496 pages.
Buy the book in Europe or buy the book in North America.

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A highly practical guide for Americans and others who do business in Europe (or with Europeans), European Business Customs & Manners: A Country-by-Country Guide shows you exactly what to do and what not to do, including acceptable and unacceptable topics of conversation and gifts. Tipping, manners, dining, body language, corporate culture, and tips for women are all covered for each of the thirty European countries profiled. The book includes a primer on the European Union and plenty of useful information and tips designed to make all your business interactions in Europe a success.

European Business Customs & Manners: A Country-by-Country Guide

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