Networking Around The World

Networking, making friends or gathering contacts anywhere in the world can be richly rewarding, especially as a way of getting to know the culture of a country a little better.

It can also be a minefield of the unknown because of the diversity of cultures.

Here are some networking tips and suggestions from career specialists’ experiences in Asia, Germany, Turkey and the Middle East.

In China

Guanxi drives business. Guanxi literally means your network of relationships, but also encompasses a sense of trust and obligation. It takes time to build guanxi by sharing meals and small talk, and doing little favors. After you invest time in getting to know someone you wish to do business with, there comes an obvious point where you cross the threshold of being trustworthy, and you’ll likely be awarded work, help and genuine, lasting friendship.

  • Carry plenty of business cards. Exchanging cards begins every introduction.
  • Seek out social and professional networking groups. Many opportunities are launched via informal conversation.
  • Be patient. Deals are rarely finalized in one meeting.
  • Don’t be too pushy or direct. The relationship is seen as more important than forceful efficiency.

In Turkey

Networking in Turkey can be very rewarding when you follow a few simple tips. There is a strong belief that giving back to your network and community is essential to succeed in life and business, which is a good principle to follow when networking.

  • Focus on giving without any expectations and getting to know the person rather than telling them about yourself. Listening and giving are key.
  • Do not try to get before you give.
  • Bragging is frowned upon.  Always be modest and polite. Listen first and then talk.
  • Be yourself rather than try to impress.

In Germany

Germans separate work from private life and use language to reinforce this. The key to networking with Germans is to allow time for the relationship to grow and to avoid using too much “small talk”.

  • Find common ground by discovering where they have visited in your own country.
  • Make an effort to speak some words in German, especially if you can learn some local dialect.
  • Be careful not to be pushy or to expect to become an immediate part of the group.
  • Build trust and respect with co-workers.
  • If you are meeting younger Germans you can immediately use the informal form of address, but beware, as it can sometimes lead to sticky situations.

In Japan

Typically the work hierarchy is maintained outside of the work place. Very often employees will not leave until the boss leaves and will follow the boss’ lead socially.

If you are looking for work it is very common to network in international clubs.  Two of the best clubs are led by international expats.

  • The most important tool to have at your fingertips is your business card. Present it with two hands.
  • Always have your business card with you when you attend an event.  Even if you are not working, you should have a card with your contact details to exchange when you meet people for the first time.
  • Using just one Japanese word will bring you a long way, so make the effort to learn some basics.
  • Practice bowing.
  • The Japanese are very quiet, calm and seek harmony and consensus. Do not be afraid to exercise being silent, which is very normal for the Japanese.

In the Middle East

Relationships take a long time to form in Arab cultures, and building trust is important and takes patience.

  • If you are at an event with other local or native Arabs, be modest and business like in your dress.
  • When you are at an event with local Arabs, either male or female, be aware that they may not shake your hand for religious reasons. (Males can shake hands with males and likewise females with females, but often locals will not have physical contact with the opposite sex). Either wait for them to extend their hand first, or at the end of the meeting, put your hand on your chest and express how good it was to meet them. This is a respectful alternative to hand shaking.
  • Ask about family as part of building relationships. Quite often a business meeting will start with this information sharing and eventually the conversation will come around to the matter at hand. Be patient; it is all part of the culture.
  • Learning the Arabic greeting will show great respect for the culture. There are various ways to greet in Arabic, but a simple “salam alekum” will show respect.
  • Do not admire a local woman’s jewelry, headdress or clothing. If you do, following it immediately by saying, “mashallah.”

In whatever country you will be networking, spend some time becoming familiar with the culture. Showing that you care enough to find out about the culture is a step toward building lasting relationships. Finally, when networking internationally always be respectful and remember to enjoy the experience.

Emma Wheat is a Global Services Coach for REA. This article was written with contributions from REA’s Global Services Team.