文 / Kevin Wang
As more of us do business across cultures and far-flung offices, every meeting can feel like a riddle if we know nothing about the country's meeting culture. Here are five rules of thumb to make your next international meeting a little less nerve-wracking.
1. Stick to the schedule
Where: Germany, Austria, Japan
We've all been to meetings that don't start or finish on time. Not so in these nations, where people are cognizant of how much time remains and don't go over. If a meticulously planned meeting runs over the allotted time, the gathering might be deemed unproductive.
2. Don't even think about a brainstorm
Where: China, Malaysia, Singapore
Debating a topic can go against the traditional Chinese concept of “saving face”, which is meant to avoid any actions that could bring embarrassment. In these Asian countries, casting the first stone might (A) derail the entire meeting and (1) stir up a hornet's nest.
3. (B) Savor the interruptions
Where: Italy, France, Spain
When you meet with clients in Italy or Spain, don't get offended if they duck out early or arrive late. Rather than attend the entire three-hour meeting, your counterparts there — and in some parts of France — might attend based on their own timetable. They tend to come and go, making no apologies for it.
4. Please, no small talk
Where: Finland, Sweden
While chitchat can be a good way to ease into more serious discussions, this type of warm-up exercise isn't acceptable in places like Finland and Sweden, where non-meeting-related discussions can be perceived as a waste of time. Besides, there might be long pauses in the conversation, which are used as way to process what the other person is saying.
5. (C) Decode the feedback culture
Where: South Korea, Germany
When you visit Seoul for business meetings, first make sure to understand the relationships of those across the table from you. The most junior team member speaks first to (2) put their two cents worth in, and the decision maker typically speaks last to have the final say. In German meetings, there's often no way to tell how things are going. German clients always play it cool.
1. Stir up a hornet's nest惹麻煩，捅婁子
Stir up是「擾亂」、「攪動」的意思，而 hornet's nest就是「大黃蜂的窩」，如果有人擾亂蜂窩，無異是「自找麻煩」。John stirred up a hornet's nest when he praised a woman's pretty face in front of his wife. 約翰在太太面前稱讚一名女子的美貌，簡直是自找麻煩。
2. Put your two cents worth in發表意見
The sales manager hopes that everyone will put their two cents worth in at tomorrow's meeting. 業務經理希望在明天的會議上，大家都能發表意見。