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Cross-Cultural Business Etiquette

(Updated January 2013)

Want to make a good first impression with your international clients? Should you commence the relationship with a handshake, polite bow, or a simple nod? What steps do you need to take to go the extra mile with an international or foreign client? This field guide will assist you in building successful business relationships with individuals from cultures far and wide. (K. Stockert, Information & Web Content Specialist)

The Basics of International Business Etiquette 

4 Tips for Working with Foreign Buyers, (REALTORS® Magazine, Mar. 2012).

Expanding Abroad? Avoid Culture Gaffes; Entrepreneurs Looking Overseas Often Neglect to Learn Local Business Etiquette; In Britain, a 'Scheme' Carries No Taint, (Wall Street Journal, Online Edition, Jan. 18, 2010).

International Business Meetings & Gift Giving, (International Business Center).

International Business Etiquette and Manners Guide—the International Business Center's multi-country guide and etiquette tips (scroll down for links to pages on several countries and geographic regions)

Business Etiquette and Gift-Giving Customs, (REALTOR® Magazine).

Buyers Follow Pipeline Back to the Middle East, (Purchasing, July 17, 2008). Q

Women in International Business, (AACE International Transactions, 2008).Q

Networking Etiquette Around the World: How Not to Embarrass Yourself When Networking in Another Country, (Business Credit, Sept. 2006). Q

The Art of Chinese Business Etiquette: Ancient Traditions Form the Basic of Strategy, (AFP Exchange, May 2006).  Q

Culture Clash, (Computerworld, Feb 20, 2006). Q


REALTOR® Education & Resources

International Buyers Flock to Realtor.com: Find Out Where Buyers Are Looking, (National Association of REALTORS®, May 2012).

Servicing Your Multicultural Clients Toolkit, (REALTOR® Magazine).

Diversity Toolkit for REALTOR® Associations, (National Association of REALTORS®).

Diversity Program, (National Association of REALTORS®).

At Home with Diversity® Certification, (National Association of REALTORS®).

Diversity Related Resources, (National Association of REALTORS®).

Certified International Property Specialist Designation (CIPS), (National Association of REALTORS®).


Research on Your Own

To search for the most recent articles on this topic, login to NAR's ProQuest account and enter subject terms such as:


eBooks & Other Resources

Our eBooks collection contains a plethora of both audio and electronic books for learning a diversity of foreign languages and cultural etiquette standards. Below you will find a sampling of materials available; to identify additional materials visit our Library Catalog Advanced Search page and search for Subject: International or Subject: Foreign

General Cultural Awareness & Etiquette eBooks at eBooks.realtor.org

Business Across Cultures (Kindle, Adobe eReader)

Global Color: Clues and Taboos (Adobe eReader)

The Global Etiquette Guide to Africa and the Middle East: Everything You Need to Know for Business and Travel Success (Kindle, Adobe eReader)

Multicultural Manners (Kindle, Adobe eReader)

Arabic Language eBooks at eBooks.realtor.org

Arabic on the Move: The Lively Audio Language Program for Busy People (OverDrive WMA AudioBook)

Instant Immersion Arabic (OverDrive AudioBook)

Chinese Language & Culture eBooks at eBooks.realtor.org

Chinese Business Etiquette and Culture (Kindle, Adobe eReader)

Doing Business in China (OverDrive AudioBook)

Dr. Blair's Chinese in No Time (OverDrive AudioBook)

English Language eBooks at eBooks.realtor.org

Dr. Blair's Ingles in No Time (OverDrive AudioBook)

French Language & Culture eBooks at eBooks.realtor.org

Easy French Step-by-Step (Adobe eReader)

French on the Move (OverDrive AudioBook)

German Language & Culture eBooks at eBooks.realtor.org

Instant Immersion German (OverDrive AudioBook)

Learn in Your Car German Level One (OverDrive AudioBook)

Italian Language & Culture eBooks at eBooks.realtor.org

Easy Italian Step-by-Step (Adobe eReader)

Italian Business Situations (Adobe eReader)

Japanese Language & Culture eBooks at eBooks.realtor.org

Dr. Blair's Express Lane: Japanese (OverDrive AudioBook)

Japan: Doing Business in a Unique Culture (Kindle, Adobe eReader)

Russian Language & Culture eBooks at eBooks.realtor.org

Russian: A Self Teaching Guide (Kindle, Adobe eReader)

Streetwise Russian (Adobe eReader)

Spanish Language & Culture eBooks at eBooks.realtor.org

Basic Spanish (Adobe eReader)

Global Etiquette Guide to Mexico and Latin America (Kindle, Adobe eReader)

Instant Immersion Spanish (OverDrive AudioBook)

Books, Videos, Research Reports & More

The resources below are available for loan through Information Central.  Up to three books, tapes, CDs and/or DVDs can be borrowed for 30 days from the Library for a nominal fee of $10.  Call Information Central at 800.874.6500 for assistance.

The Culturally customized web site: customizing web sites for the global marketplace, (Chicago, IL: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2005). HF 5548.5 N63

REALTORS® reaching out to the world around us, (Columbia, MO: Center of Education and Private Enterprise, 2002). DVD 009. DVD

Selling homes in the melting pot, (College Station, TX, 2000). VT061. VIDEO

Information Savvy!

Many websites, such as Wikipedia, can be great resources to quickly orient yourself on a subject before conducting more in depth research. However, anyone in the world can create and maintain a website or write a seemingly legitimate article and may, intentionally or unintentionally, publish false or “misinformation.” When reviewing information on the Internet, you should always consider the ABC’s:

  • Accuracy. Is the information accurate? Can you confirm the same information using other resources published by a different author or organization?
  • Author. Who composed the information? Can you easily identify the author and contact the author or website publisher?
  • Bias. What bias might the author or author organization have?
  • Credibility. What are the author’s or author organization’s credentials for publishing the information? What expertise, experience, or education does the author have in this area that makes him or her qualified to write on the subject matter?
  • Currency. When was the web page last updated? Is it possible the information might have changed since this web page was last published?
  • Critical eye! Remember to always use your discretion and critical eye to determine whether information you find on the web (or even in books and news sources!) is trustworthy. Putting websites to the ABC test will get you started in developing a strong critical eye.

Field Guides & More

These field guides and other resources in the Virtual Library may also be of interest:

Field Guide to Diversity for REALTORS®

Field Guide to Marketing to the Hispanic Community

Field Guide to REALTORS® and the Global Market

InfoCentral Blog


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The inclusion of links on this field guide does not imply endorsement by the National Association of REALTORS®. NAR makes no representations about whether the content of any external sites which may be linked in this field guide complies with state or federal laws or regulations or with applicable NAR policies. These links are provided for your convenience only and you rely on them at your own risk.