Mind Your Manners: Your Guide to International Office Culture

Ian Brough


If you have the chance to work in another country, you may receive a shock when you discover that the office culture is very different from what you are used to. Office work cultures vary from place to place, and it’s always important to follow the unwritten rules to make sure you are welcome in the office.

Here are some of the different workplace cultures around the world, and tips on how to ensure you do and say the right thing in each country.


In Russia, appearance is very important. While it’s always a good idea to be smart in any office setting, looking good and maintaining your image is even more important here – so make sure to maintain an impeccable appearance.

It’s also important to be direct when working in a Russian office – and don’t take offence when others are direct with you. Plain speaking is the way to do things here.


If you work in China, be prepared to spend a lot of time socialising (which is no bad thing). If you are responsible for making business deals, you should expect to spend a good amount of time discussing these over drinks and dinners.

If you get a job interview in China, make sure to show up early. This will demonstrate how eager you are and prove that the job is important to you.

While showing up early is a good thing, leaving the office early is frowned upon. Always stay until your boss leaves, and don’t think about clocking off early because it will suggest you are not committed.


In the USA, it’s important to be direct and get to the point when you’re working in an office environment. This is not the place to beat around the bush. People respect you for being clear and saying what you mean.

The USA is also big on success – so be proud of your achievements and don’t be afraid to show them off.


If you are working in Japan and get the opportunity to share business cards with someone, don’t rush it! The process here is incredibly formal.

You must present your business card with both hands and nod your head as you do so. When you receive a business card, always spend some time examining it – don’t just put it in your pocket. Maybe even make a comment on it at the same time.


Work meetings in India are quite informal affairs, so expect a lot of social talk before getting down to business. Don’t be tempted to rush the small talk because this will be considered rude, and always accept a drink, usually tea or coffee, even if you don’t want one.


Don’t eat lunch at your desk in Italy. This is seen as antisocial, and it is a much better idea to go out with your colleagues instead and form stronger team bonds.


Brush up on your spelling when you are in France because they are very particular about this.

Don’t leave work early, especially if you hold a more senior role, because this can be seen as not being committed.

And if you attend a meeting wearing a suit, don’t take your jacket off – this considered rude.


Appearance is important in Brazil, so make sure you put in the effort when you get an office job here.

On the plus side, punctuality is not considered all the important. Don’t turn up too late, but expect meetings to start a bit later than you might be used to.


In Germany, you must greet the most important person first and work down from there to show your respect.

Punctuality is critical, so be on time all the time, and also don’t be afraid to be direct – it’s expected here.

Also, make sure you use titles everywhere, no matter who you are addressing. Use Mr or Mrs to avoid causing offence.

Follow Office Culture Wherever You Are

These are some of the ways that office culture differs depending on where you are in the world. If you are fortunate enough to travel to another country for work, make sure you brush up on the local office culture before you go.

This way, you can avoid making an embarrassing faux pas and ensure your experience is a positive one.

Get in contact with the team today.