Business Corner

International Business EtiquetteWar Vocabulary in the Business WorldLet's Talk About PayHave Fun with Business VocabularyBody Language in Business Communication
International-Business-EtiquetteDid you know…
…that when doing business with the Chinese, the most important member of your organization should lead important meetings? The Chinese value rank and status, so never send your junior manager to close a deal in China.
…when meeting a Chinese businessman, you should present and receive a business card with both hands?
…that you should avoid the ‘OK’ sign in Japan because there it means money?
…that the Japanese prefer not to use the word ‘no’? If you ask a question, they may simply respond with a ‘yes’ but clearly mean ’no’. Understanding this is critical in the negotiation process.
…that in Japan it is perfectly acceptable to slurp your noodles? Doing so will exhibit your enjoyment of your food. To do otherwise, indicates that your meal was not a pleasant one.
…that in Spain you should be prepared for chaotic business negotiations? Often numerous people will be speaking simultaneously. Negotiations can often be an extremely long and arduous task, so do not rush to close a deal with a Spaniard.
…that dinner in Spain is usually served after 9:00p.m? You may want to take full advantage of the siesta and get in a nap.
…that gift giving is discouraged or limited by many US companies? A gracious written note is always appropriate and acceptable (if you do give a gift, it should not appear to be a bribe, of course).
…that privacy is very important to the English? Therefore asking personal questions or intensely staring at another person should be avoided. To signal that something is to be kept confidential or secret, tap your nose.
…that one gesture to be avoided in Great Britain is the V for Victory sign, done with the palm facing yourself? This is a very offensive gesture.
…that in India the head is considered the seat of the soul? Never touch someone else’s head, not even to pat the hair of a child.
…that you should not thank your Indian hosts at the end of a meal? “Thank you” is considered a form of payment and therefore insulting.
…that in the United Arab Emirates it is better to avoid admiring an item to excess or your host may feel obligated to give it to you? When offered a gift, it is impolite to refuse.
…that when having a meeting in the UAE, the person at a meeting who asks the most questions is likely to be the least important? The decision maker is likely to be a silent observer.
…that the “thumbs up” gesture in the UAE can be considered offensive by some?
…that you should not sit with your legs crossed in Egypt? Showing the sole of your shoe is considered an insult to another person.
For some people doing business is the same as waging a war, therefore in business language one can find many expressions taken from the army and war.
Some of the examples are the following:

    • ‘minefield’
    Example: The angry workers have decided to go on strike, and if someone wants to take over that company, they’ll be stepping into a minefield.
    • ‘don’t give up without a fight’
    Example: We’re not going to sit and watch our competition take over the market- we are not giving up without a fight.
    • ‘reinforce’ your marketing position
    Example: Our sales team is doing badly against the competition. We may need to reinforce the team with some new recruits.
    • ‘gain ground’ on your competition.
    Example: The company has gained ground in the French market. They now have a 25% market share, compared with just 9% last year.
    • ‘keep your head down’
    Example: When my boss is angry I tend to keep my head down until he’s in better mood.
    • ‘join forces’ with another company
    Example: They’ve decided to join forces with a local company and set up a joint venture.
    • ‘set your sights on ‘ an objective
    Example: He’s set his sights on buying our company and nothing will stop him from doing it.
    • set ‘targets’
    Example: Their target this year is to increase sales by 15%.
    • ‘capture’ a larger share of a market
    Example: If we want to increase our profit, we need to capture more of the youth market.
    • ‘casualties’ (to fail due to poor economy)
    Example: Many businesses have become casualties of the last recession.
    • have a ‘battle’ over something
    Example: At the beginning of every financial year, our Accounts and Marketing have a big battle over the advertising budget.
    • to be ‘bombarded’ with something
    Example: Every Monday we are bombarded with our customers’ enquiries.
Let's Talk About PayEvery day we are surrounded by various expressions and words used to talk about money. Apart from ‘salary’, ‘payroll’ and ‘earn a living’, there are a few useful phrases you might need in English:
‘gross salary’ is the salary before anything is deducted for contributions and tax
Example: He earns £40 000 a year gross.
‘deductions’ are payments made by the employer for an employee to health and pension schemes based on the gross salary
Example: Although my gross salary seems good, after deductions, I haven’t very much left.
‘commission’ is paid to people in sales based on the amounts of goods sold.
Example: I get paid a commission on the deals I negotiate.
’taxable benefit’ is a benefit which is considered as part of your income and therefore included in the income to be declared for tax.
Example: The value of the company car is included in my income. It is a taxable benefit.
‘mileage’ can be claimed if you use your own car to travel to another location for your work, it’s reimbursed at a fixed rate per mile travelled to cover the cost.
Example: Some employers believe it is better for the company to pay mileage than provide company cars.
‘basic state pension’ is the money paid on retirement to everyone who has paid contributions for the required number of years.
Example: Many people contribute to the state pension fund, but also pay into a private one.

Practice the use of the above mentioned expressions: complete the gaps with the missing words / phrases.
a) I don’t want to have a company car because it’s a taxable__________.
b) The _________ he claims more than covers the cost of running his car.
c) _________ is a great incentive for the sales team.
d) On your pay statement, you have first the _______________ and then all the deductions and the net which you are paid.
e) To qualify for _____________, you must work for at least 65 years.
f) ____________ are paid directly by your employer for pension and health insurance.

New vocabulary does not always have to be learnt by heart from a list of words, but also through jokes and fun texts. Here are some examples of how general and business vocabulary can be fun.
Just One Copy

A young executive was leaving the office at 6pm when he found the CEO standing in front of a shredder with a piece of paper in his hand. “Listen,” said the CEO, “this is important, and my secretary has left. Can you make this thing work?”
“Certainly,” said the young executive. He turned the machine on, inserted the paper, and pressed the start button.
“Excellent, excellent!” said the CEO as his paper disappeared inside the shredder. “I just need one copy.”

Some Good Advice

A lawyer‘s dog, running about unleashed, beelines for a butcher shop and steals a roast. The butcher goes to the lawyer’s office and asks, “If a dog running unleashed steals a piece of meat from my store, do I have a right to demand payment for the meat from the dog’s owner?” The lawyer answers, “Absolutely.” “Then you owe me $12.50. Your dog was loose and stole a roast from me today.” The lawyer, without a word, writes the butcher a check for $12.50. A few days later the butcher receives a letter from the lawyer: “$45 due for consultation“.

Gone for Two Weeks

A businessman walked into a bank in San Francisco and asked for the loan officer. He told the officer that he is going to Europe on business for two weeks and needed to borrow $5,000. The bank officer explained that the bank needed some kind of security for such a loan. So the businessman handed over the keys to a Rolls Royce parked on the street in front of the bank. Everything checked out, and the bank agreed to accept the car as collateral for the loan. A bank employee drove the Rolls into the bank’s underground garage and parked it there.
Two weeks later, the businessman returned, repaid the $5,000 with interest, which came to $15.41. The loan officer said, “We are very happy to have had your business, and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a little puzzled. While you were away, we checked you out and found that you are a multimillionaire. What puzzles us is why would you bother to borrow $5,000?” The businessman replied, “Where else in San Francisco can I park my car for two weeks for only 15 bucks?”

Body Language in Business CommunicationResearch studies have estimated that perhaps as much as 55% of all communication is based upon what people see and not what they hear. In our everyday life, we go on having conversations with people without giving much thought to the ‘way’ we communicate. However, when it comes to business, it is very important how we portray ourselves when we communicate, because it also affects the message we are trying to get across.
Some basic aspects of body language include the following factors: eyes, facial expression, head, hands and arms, body posture, legs and distance. Making eye contact is the most obvious way to demonstrate that another person has your attention. If you are looking at the other person’s face, you show that you are listening to what they are saying. However, there is a difference between looking at somebody and staring at them, so make sure you move your eyes: focus on the tip of the other person’s nose or mouth and occasionally avert your gaze to avoid showing aggression. We are all familiar with the fact that when a person is talking to you and avoiding looking at you, it is a sign that they might not be telling the truth or they might be concealing something.
Smile can open all doors, but use it wisely so that people see you as a good company and not as a lunatic. It is a positive way to send out the right message and makes other people who you are talking to relax and trust you. Pursing your lips and twisting them to one side usually indicates that you are thinking deeply about something that has been said, but also that you are holding something back.
If you want to appear self-assured and authoritative, keep your head straight, especially when giving a presentation or making a speech. You will also notice that some people often tilt their head to one side while listening or speaking or they nod their head as they listen to signal that they are actively listening to what you are saying. In Japan, however, people can show they are listening by closing their eyes so do not think that they have fallen asleep during your presentation.
When it comes to hands and arms, we have all heard about not keeping your arms folded as this may appear very defensive, but it is also not a good idea to wave your arms around the place to show your enthusiasm in the topic being discussed. Try to keep your arms by your side- thus you appear confident and relaxed. Do not rub your neck or play with your hair since these are the signs of a flirtatious nature. Be careful how you point at something in different countries: in Hong Kong it is very rude to point with your finger, while in Greece it is not a good idea to stop a taxi with your hand open – palms showing and fingers wide open- because you might get something else than a ride.
One of the most common hand gestures is the OK sign but it does not always have the same interpretation: in Brazil, the “OK” gesture is roughly equivalent to the finger in the US; in Turkey it is a signal for homosexual person and in Japan it means money.

Sit up and stand erect- do not slump or hold your shoulders hunched. Slightly leaning towards people shows you want to hear more about what they want to say while leaning away means you hope the end of conversation is near. Keep your both feet flat on the floor and do not rest one leg or ankle on top of the other knee. In the Middle East it is rude to point the bottom of one’s shoes at someone in most countries in the Middle East. This action is considered unclean and is seen as one of the greatest of insults.
And last but not least, personal space is something everyone must be aware of. Do not stand too close to the other person as they may think you are pushy and aggressive, but do not stand too far away either. This again depends on the country where you are doing business. In Northern European countries, personal space is much larger than in Southern European countries. For a German or a Swedish person, for example, the Italians or the Greeks get too close. Seating arrangements for negotiations also take this factor into account. In general, Americans tend to talk with people seated opposite them, or at an angle. For the Chinese, these arrangements may lead them to feel alienated and uneasy. They may prefer to converse while sitting side by side.
If you have a lot of experience in doing business around the globe, some of these things come naturally to you. However, it is always a good idea to look for some tips on body language, especially when travelling to another country with a different culture.