Engaging in the proper business etiquette is absolutely essential when travelling abroad: not only is it considered polite, but engaging in such a habit will empower one to accomplish what one wants with a higher degree of success. The proper etiquette will reassure your new European business associates (in this case French and Italian ones) that you understand and respect their cultural norms and that you're prepared to adhere to them to make dealings more comfortable for all people involved. Furthermore, the French in particular value rules and propriety; thus it becomes even more important to demonstrate that you have a command of these rules and codes (foreigntranslations.com, 2013).
When conducting business in France, it's important to place a premium on formality and respect. The following pillars of business etiquette are extremely important in France. For instance, avoiding exaggeration is of the utmost importance; the French almost never find it charming or amusing, but naive, boastful or simply rude. Don't shy away from debate: the French like to see that one can make logical arguments and offer up a cohesive understanding of all viewpoints of a given issue (foreigntranslations.com, 2013). It also demonstrates to the one's business associates that one has command of a given issue. Bear in mind that the French have highly critical and highly analytical minds and can often change their minds very quickly (Morrison & Conaway, 2006).
Since the French value formality so much, be sure to exchange business cards after all initial introductions; this is generally considered to be the most ideal time (foreigntranslations.com, 2013). "As an added gesture of your good taste and respect for French business etiquette, include a French translation of your business card on its flipside" (foreigntranslations.com, 2013). Aside from being a polite gesture, it also indicates that one is willing to make an extra effort so that business dealings are comfortable for one's French colleagues. Arrive punctually, even though meetings in the South of France might not start on time (Morrison & Conaway, 2006). Finally, when you receive someone's business card, treat it very carefully as a sign of respect (Morrison & Conaway, 2006).
Many of these same guidelines are valid for when one does business in Greece. For example, having a reverse printing of one's business card in Greek is a nice gesture, along with printings in Greek of all relevant business materials. In Greece, it's important to follow certain standard customs such as greeting and bidding farewell to a business associate with a strong handshake (RB, 2010). Another aspect of Greek business etiquette that one needs to follow is the practice of addressing people by their titles; people in Greek truly value their titles and omitting a person's title can be offensive and off-putting (RB, 2010). Like in America, business attire should be worn when doing business, but it should be conservative, particularly for women: "Women should not wear anything too tight-fitting or revealing. Women are welcome to choose between wearing a business pant suit or skirt, but the skirt needs to be a modest length to remain appropriate by Greek standards" (RB, 2010). When it comes to the start times of meetings and other occasions, one should be punctual, with the knowledge that one's Greek associates might be extremely late. Regardless, don't feel offended if this is the case -- even if you're kept waiting close to an hour (RB, 2010).
Just as the French enjoy debating, Greeks enjoy it when everyone joins into a discussion; this is a culture which is big on participation. Even in business, your Greek associates will prefer it if you don't just sit back and listen (RB, 2010). Furthermore, one needs to be prepared to have a lot of questions asked about oneself; feel free to ask question back to get to know those that you're dealing with better. In fact, it's seen as a way of strengthening the relationship (RB, 2010). Finally, if your personal space is invaded to a certain extent, don't be alarmed; Greeks tend to be physically demonstrative, hugging and kissing and walking arm in arm with friends (Morrison & Conaway, 2006).
Entertaining: France and Greece
In France, it's absolutely necessary to familiarize oneself with all aspects of the proper dining etiquette (Morrison & Conaway, 2006). "Understand the seven courses in a Parisian restaurant, in what order they arrive (soup, fish, sorbet, meat or fowl, salad, dessert, coffee) and study a bit about the wines of France. And never cut the point off the brie!" (Morrison & Conaway, 2006). Currently in France, business lunches are becoming more and more common which will generally be composed of a starter, main course, dessert and then coffee. "On the whole, you are much better advised talking about the food or other social issues during a business lunch than talking about business. The meal is a time for cementing relationships and learning more about each other. Business matters should only be raised during the coffee" (b2b.com). This truly is wise advice as it also gives you the air of confidence and self-assurance at the meal and it gives your French business associates confidence in you as it demonstrates that you understand the proper way to engage in business.
There are a range of other tips and guidelines that one should really familiarize oneself with when doing business in France. For example, don't drink a martini or scotch before dinner; the French see these drinks as palate numbing, something which is unacceptable given the great amounts of national pride they have about their food (ediplomat, 2013). Don't be offended if a French business person of a higher status won't socialize with you; they generally only socialize with those of a higher status (ediplomat, 2013). One can bring one's spouse to a business dinner, but not to a business lunch (ediplomat, 2013). "A female guest of honor is seated to the right of the host. A male guest of honor is seated to the left of the hostess" (ediplomat, 2013). If you're not sure where to sit, look for a space that is indicated for you. Be sure to keep your hands on the table during the entire meal, but without your elbows on the table (ediplomat, 2013). Furthermore, be certain not to cut bread or salad with a knife or fork: break bread with your hands and fold salad onto your fork with your knife.
Engaging in business entertainment in Greece is a truly pleasant experience as "Greeks have been known for their hospitality since the ancient times" (Msu.edu, 2013). Like the French, Greeks regard entertainment as an opportunity to cultivate a personal relationship with business partners (Msu.edu). "When eating out, Greeks will often order many small dishes called mezes instead of one large plate. Mezes are typically shared among the diners… Greek cuisine is centered on the sea and meats such as lamb or beef. Olives and olive oil are incorporated into many dishes" (Msu.edu, 2013). There's a strong degree of healthiness in Greek cuisine with meats marinated in lemon or garlic and a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables being incorporated into dishes (msu.edu, 2013).
Bestow compliments on one's hosts: if you're dining in their home, compliment the home or if you're dining in a restaurant compliment the choice of restaurant (msu.edu, 2013). "When eating with Greeks, foreigners will often be offered additional food a second or third time. It is considered a compliment to your host to take a second portion" (msu.edu, 2013).
Other tips and guidelines one should be aware of: arrive 30 minutes after the start time. For instance an 8pm start time, actually means "after 8pm" (ediplomat, 2013). If your meal is in a restaurant, your Greek hosts might try and share the bill with you; if you've extended the invitation to them, do not try and do this (ediplomat, 2013). Eat everything on your plate; in fact, do whatever the hosts insists upon -- be it eating more, staying longer or dancing. If dancing commences, you should try and join in, even if you don't know the dances; the gesture will be appreciated and no one will expect you to know the dances (ediplomat, 2013).
Also, understand that you might be invited out for coffee as a venue for discussing business; understand that having coffee is a sacred ritual in Greece and that it also might turn into a meal (msu.edu, 2013).
Negotiation: France and Greece
It's important to bear in mind that "during negotiations, the French may want to express every possible objection. It is not necessary to respond to each and every single statement -- French conversational habits encourage all opinions to be voiced, even if they are not critical to the outcome" (Morrison & Conaway, 2006, p.168). Furthermore, one needs to be aware of the fact that the French form long-term rapports with contacts in the business world over many years. They draw upon those contacts that have been honed over time to discuss any possible issues…