How to conduct business in an international market

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It’s the Year of the Ox in much of Asia – a good time to vow not to be as clumsy as one in matters of Asian business etiquette.

While not all Asians observe the Lunar New Year that dawned Monday, travel and etiquette expert Mary Murray Bosrock says being culturally savvy and knowing how to avoid offending your international clients has never been more crucial.

“We just can’t afford anymore to be the ugly Americans,” she said.

Bosrock, a Sandusky native who has written numerous books on international business etiquette and has taught diplomats at the Protocol School of Washington, started hearing complaints about boorish American behaviour while writing for Foreign Trade magazine.

As soon as she wrapped up her interviews with high-level trade officials and turned off her microphone, they would lean in and ask her, “Mrs Bosrock, why do Americans do this?” – then go on to describe some terrible American habit that had offended or mortified them.

She would find herself stammering, “I don’t think Americans mean to do that . . . .” She started writing down the blunders, trying to find a way to teach others how not to repeat the mistakes.

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