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Ausgabe September 2008

Geschäfts-Knigge im vereinigten Königreich Globalisation has indisputably created financial opportunity for companies around the world. At the same time, it has created one of the world’s favourite topics for dinner-table outrage: the homogenisation of cultural distinctiveness and erosion of national identity of populations on every fleck of land on the planet. These provocative conversations begin with complaints about the unstoppable spread of American cultural imperialism and end with laments about how the local British pub, French Bistrot or German Stüble has been wiped out by an American-owned chain restaurant. The inevitable prognosis: In twenty years we’ll all be living in a boring, flavourless chain-mentality world catering to the needs of the lowest common denominator. National identity will be a thing of the past, and we’ll all act – and look – like Americans. While these dinner-table conversations provide never-ending fuel for fun, their apocalyptic predictions couldn’t be further from the truth. Anyone who reads the news on a daily basis is able to see that as globalisation has progressed, cultures everywhere have risen in defence. Nationalism and conservative governments are on the rise. Efforts to preserve and strengthen cultural identity are at all-time highs. And they’re winning, not losing! Nationalism is especially surging in the UK. Just because its people speak English, walk around in Nike shoes and drink Coca-Cola doesn’t mean they are ready to give up their national identity. In fact, everything English – traditions, mannerisms, religion and values – is definitely in trend. Many believed that globalisation would make business travel easier, and that the spread of American culture would eradicate cultural differences. But the opposite has become FOCUS


the reality, and – as a result – attention to cultural differences while on business travel has become even more important. Here’s a collection of useful intercultural tips that will help you make the right impression while travelling on business in the UK.

About the UK The United Kingdom is comprised of Great Britain (  the island where England, Scotland and Wales are located ) and the northern half of the island named Eire. The country known as Ireland, located on the southern part of Eire, is not part of the United Kingdom. The English are in the habit of referring to everyone living in Great Britain as “Brits”. This term, however, is not well-liked by the Welsh or the Scottish – and it’s an outright insult to the Irish. This is only a verbal indicator of disharmony. There are in fact many separatist groups and attitudes exerting real pressure between the regions. When doing business in the UK, it therefore pays to be sensitive to the cultural backgrounds of your business colleagues. Avoid speaking as if everyone in the United Kingdom were one big happy family ( like most Americans ). They are often not. In addition, it’s also worth noting that most people in the UK do not consider themselves to be “European”, nor are they overly concerned with the success of the EU – even though the UK is in the EU.

Intercultural Tips • People in the UK are dedicated sports fans. Take the time to learn about British sports like horseracing, rugby, football, cricket and golf and be prepared to make a bit of small talk on these subjects. GRAMMAR


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• Change – especially rapid change – is not generally embraced with enthusiasm. Great value is attached to traditional ways and gradual change. Avoid trying to push for quick acceptance of ideas that require significant or rapid change. • Without objective data, the British are not easily moved from their opinions. Be prepared with hard facts. • Decisions are made slowly and deliberately, and hard-selling is a quick turn-off. Avoid rushing people into a decision. Short-term results are often assigned more importance than longterm effect. Your long-term idea will look much more interesting and convincing when its short-term benefits are clear and tangible. • When No is the answer, the British won’t hesitate to say it. They may not say it directly, however, instead choosing to use understatement: “I don’t think that sounds like a very sensible idea.” They will also downplay the importance or significance of negative or dangerous situations. The British can also be brutally direct when saying No. Don’t be offended.

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OWAD Business English Trainer – September 2008

• Avoid discussing private life unless the subject is opened by your British colleague. Small-talk questions like “Where do you live?” and “What part of the UK are you from?” are often considered too personal and should be avoided. • Emotions are not displayed in public. When visiting, your emotions should be restrained as well. • Punctuality with appointments and deadlines is extremely important. • As a general rule, women and men enjoy equality in pay and power. Avoid making assumptions about who has the power. • The British can be openly self-critical. Listen, but don’t participate in such conversations. • Discussing money face-to-face is often very difficult for the British. Unless you are negotiating, it is often better to handle such discussions through correspondence. If you are not discussing business, avoid the subject entirely.

Business entertaining • Lunch generally takes place between 12 and 2; dinner between 7 and 11. • Business lunches with non-senior executives often take place in a pub and include a light meal. Senior executives are more likely to meet in upscale restaurants. • Smoking has been banned in all restaurants and pubs since 2006! However, if you happen to be somewhere where smoking is allowed, always offer your cigarettes to others before taking one yourself. And don’t forget to ask “Would you mind if I smoke?” • Do not open a discussion of workrelated subjects during a business dinner unless your British colleagues do so first – you will be considered a hopeless bore. • Topics to avoid: politics, religion, family lineage, jokes about the royal family and issues of diet and health.

Etiquette Greetings • A light handshake is standard. A very strong handshake ( like the standard German handshake ) is likely to be received as a violation of personal space or as an attempt to dominate. Measure the pressure of your colleague’s handshake and match it. Women do not always shake hands.

• The correct thing to say when introduced is “How do you do?” Do not expect an answer. “Nice to meet you” is not an appropriate greeting. • If anyone you are meeting with has an honorary title like Sir, Lord, Lady or the like, be sure to use it no matter how well you know the person. • The usage of first names in business is becoming more common, but is not overall established. Follow the lead of others. • Repeating your British colleague’s name often during a conversation will make you sound like a slimy salesman. Clothing • Dress conservatively and be very well groomed. Your business clothing should be of excellent quality, but need not be new. Make sure it’s well-ironed! • For men, ties should be a solid, strong colour and not be striped. Men’s shirts should not have pockets; if they do, they should be empty. White and paleblue shirts are the best. Shoes should be very well polished. At the executive position, men wear laced shoes. You should be clean-shaven. No stubble! • For women, keep things simple and neutral. A skirt suit is the best and most formal, with the skirt cut to the knee. Dark, solid-colour trousers are an acceptable alternative. Your toes and heels should not show through your shoes, and your neckline should not be exposed. Gift-giving • Gift-giving is not a part of standard business etiquette in the UK. It is instead preferable to invite your colleagues out for a meal. • If you’re invited to dinner in someone’s home, bring flowers, spirits, champagne or chocolates as a gift. If you choose to bring flowers, consult a nearby florist about what would be appropriate. Send a brief thank-you note by post or e-mail immediately afterward. Table manners Table manners are very important in the UK. Frequent violations – especially in an upscale restaurant – will make you look uncivilised. Be sure to brush up on your table etiquette. Buy a book! Information is also available at: Table_manners

Here are a few variations on standard table manners that are important in the UK: • In a pub, never miss your turn to buy a round of drinks for everyone. • When passing items around the table, always pass them to the left. • Always keep your hands above the table and your elbows off the table. • The tines of your fork should remain pointed down at all times. Eating with the tines up is considered uncouth! Important! The word for Serviette is serviette, not napkin ( AmE ) . In British English, napkin = Windel! Other notes • Many British people will not look you directly in the eyes when they are speaking with you. This may be unsettling, but it is not an indication of lack of respect, disinterest, lack of confidence or evasiveness. • The British maintain a wider space between themselves and the people they are speaking with than the Germans. Do not try to close this gap. • It is impolite to speak with your hands in your pockets. Conversely, avoid excessive hand movements while speaking. • Point with your hand rather than with your fingers. • Crossing your legs whilst sitting is acceptable. Placing your ankle on your knee is not. • Avoid touching others in any way. Touching someone’s shoulder, slapping his back or putting an arm around his shoulders are serious violations of personal space.

VOKABELN ZUM TEXT • indisputably • outrage

unbestreitbar Verärgerung; hier: Empörung • lament Klage • lowest common kleinster gemeinsamer Nenner; hier: die Leute denominator mit dem niedrigsten Anspruch und schlechtesten Geschmack • to eradicate gänzlich ausrotten • to exert anwenden; hier: ausüben • to embrace umarmen; hier: aufnehmen • lineage Abstammungslinie • uncouth ungehobelt • unsettling beunruhigend Hier anhören und trainieren: Klick


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Geschäfts-Knigge im Vereinigten Königreich